Borneo Dispatches #78: Cobra Rasslin', Ozzie Style

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Borneo Dispatches #78: Cobra Rasslin', Ozzie Style

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » April 15th, 2014, 5:03 am

I recently had the pleasure of taking Australian herpers Jason Luke and his buddy Mick Austen roadcruising here in Sarawak. It was the second time for Jason, but during our first trip in 2012, it rained like crazy and we saw so few snakes (less than none, it seemed at the time), that in the end he and his friends resorted to taking pictures of frogs (frogs!), just to take something home.

This time, luck had better things in store for the antipodean visitors. Granted, we found only one snake in two hours, and only a rather common Equatorial Spitting Cobra (Naja sumatrana), but according to Luke and Mick, finding a cobra - any cobra! - is the Holy Grail for Ozzie herpers, who have tons of large and nasty elapids to play with back home, but none that flip up their collars and do the famous Cobra Dance :-)

It was a joy and a privilege to watch these guys work their magic. Cobras, even the usually sluggish N. sumatrana, often put on a dynamic show, and this one was no exception. But Luke and Mick brought years of herpetographical experience to the set, plus a great deal of creativity, and I relished my role of "making-of" documenter. As a result, these pix have more atmospheric than artistic value, but I hope Jason and Luke will swing by here and add some shots of their own - they're really good! :-)

By the way, if I recall correctly, that black trashcan lid for snake control is part of the AHSFK (Australian Herper's Standard Field Kit). They all have it strapped to their backpacks ...
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I really wish I had filmed this scene. This was the moment when the snake got so irritated by the constant shoe-waggling that he actually retreated backwards, in a straight line, head and hood up! Ten seconds later, he was still in the same pose, but four feet to the left. First time I've ever seen this mode of locomotion in a snake!!
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chrish
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Re: Borneo Dispatches #78: Cobra Rasslin', Ozzie Style

Post by chrish » April 15th, 2014, 6:06 am

Neat series of pics. I always like seeing other herpers taking photos of their catches.

However, there seems to be something amiss in these photos.....Equatorial SPITTING Cobra?
Did they not have any concern for their eyes? Or do these Sarawak Spitters not spit?

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #78: Cobra Rasslin', Ozzie Style

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » April 15th, 2014, 6:21 am

There's an ongoing petition in this year's Herpetological Review aiming at having N. sumatrana reclassified as a Drooling Cobra. While its African cobra cousins aim at your eyes and blind you with perfect shots from five feet away, this species also aims at your eyes, but hits your shins. Let's just say evolution still has a ways to go here. For the record, this individual spat four times during the shoot, and AFAIR, none of those shots even hit the cameras. (DISCLAIMER: In spite of all the above, it is still advisable not to run around South-East Asia and mess with every spitter you meet. Some (if not many) are actually quite good at spitting. Remember, there's always the odd overachiever.)

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #78: Cobra Rasslin', Ozzie Style

Post by Zimmerman » April 15th, 2014, 2:50 pm

Nice cobra! Lightning is hard during nighttimes :(

I will go to Borneo this summer. It is interesting to read your posts :)

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #78: Cobra Rasslin', Ozzie Style

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » April 15th, 2014, 6:00 pm

Thank you! I find lighting much easier at night, because you control all the light sources. The dark, blairwitchy pix of the cobra above were created by forgetting to turn on my headlamp :-)

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #78: Cobra Rasslin', Ozzie Style

Post by simus343 » April 15th, 2014, 7:46 pm

I'm going to have to try the trash-can lid idea. A lot of snakes that I find won't stop moving and it seems that the cobra coiled up once under the lid? Might help to get better photos instead of being forced to focus on just the head while I have the tail side pinned down with my other hand haha. Very nice cobra photos as well, I really would like to get over to southern Asia to search for Cobras when I am done with college, for now I must suffice myself with Heterodons, not that this is an issue of course!

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #78: Cobra Rasslin', Ozzie Style

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » April 15th, 2014, 7:50 pm

simus343 wrote:I'm going to have to try the trash-can lid idea. A lot of snakes that I find won't stop moving and it seems that the cobra coiled up once under the lid?

Yes. A floppy bush hat usually suffices, though, as long as it's not see-through.
Might help to get better photos instead of being forced to focus on just the head while I have the tail side pinned down with my other hand haha.

Bad idea for hots anyway :)
Very nice cobra photos as well
Thank you, but you really should see Mick and Luke's photos. They were actually on the frontlines :-)

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #78: Cobra Rasslin', Ozzie Style

Post by ClosetHerper » April 15th, 2014, 10:35 pm

Very cool to see how the pros do it! I'm anxious to see their results.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #78: Cobra Rasslin', Ozzie Style

Post by simus343 » April 16th, 2014, 5:28 am

Bad idea for hots anyway :)
Yeah native hots sit still here in Florida :P .

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #78: Cobra Rasslin', Ozzie Style

Post by speedy » April 16th, 2014, 6:50 pm

Nice work Hans. I have recently had the pleasure of showing around a few Americans, some French and a Pom. They all asked what the bin lid was for before heading out. By the end of the trips they realised how valuable they are when photographing aussie elapids.

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #78: Cobra Rasslin', Ozzie Style

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » April 16th, 2014, 7:02 pm

speedy wrote:Nice work Hans. I have recently had the pleasure of showing around a few Americans, some French and a Pom. They all asked what the bin lid was for before heading out. By the end of the trips they realised how valuable they are when photographing aussie elapids.
Thank you! Yeah, the floppy bush hat cover concept goes out the window real quick when you're dealing with snakes that possess the temper of a ratsnake and the toxic power of a krait - which seems to cover the majority of Oz snakes. A solid shield is indeed called for in such cases :-) Thankfully, Bornean elapids are mostly on the semi-catatonic side ...


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Re: Borneo Dispatches #78: Cobra Rasslin', Ozzie Style

Post by Jason Luke » May 15th, 2014, 2:12 am

Great Pics Hans, and great to catch up again! We ended up finding four spitters on this trip, and catching three. As for their spitting capabilities they are quite good, in the daylight they are a totally different animal when they are not as confused and have your measure, but at night they seem very reluctant to do much other then bite and huff and puff. As for the title, well I think it would suit the last one I caught better, minutes after walking out of a pub/restaurant at Poring whilst carrying two backpacks, but that another story for another day lol

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Re: Borneo Dispatches #78: Cobra Rasslin', Ozzie Style

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » May 15th, 2014, 2:16 am

Jason Luke wrote:As for the title, well I think it would suit the last one I caught better, minutes after walking out of a pub/restaurant at Poring whilst carrying two backpacks, but that another story for another day lol
In the Poring rain, no less? :-) Looking forward to your post on that story!

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