Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

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Ruxs
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Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Ruxs » December 2nd, 2014, 4:54 pm

Part 1 (Peninsular Malaysia):http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... +1#p231768

Sleepless, but overwhelmed with excitement, I still tried to shut my eyes on the plane, but neither of the other lads had been to Borneo before, so they stayed wide awake to try and capture photos of Peninsular Malaysia under the dawn sunrise with my camera. The result was a cloud enveloped, crimson overview of the central mountain range which we'd very recently been herping, although it all seemed quite surreal at that point. Even with the wing of the plain in view, it's simply magnificent. Image

Upon arrival, we considered taking a bus into town and resting up, visit the National Parks office, book a room at Bako NP and get on our way tomorrow, but that really isn't our style. Instead, we jumped in the nearest Taxi, and told him to head straight to Kampung Bako Pier!
(Rich's Photo - if you can't tell by him holding the GoPro)Image

After bidding our driver farewell, we got a boat together with some other tourists and got well on our way. Bako National Park is on a peninsular cut off by the mangrove forests of the Kuching estuary, which means the HQ and accommodation can only be reached by boat. This never fails to fill you with excitement as it passes the strange rocky outcrops and mudflat shores of the far reaches of the park.Image
The downside of Bako? It's constantly being roasted on the fires of hell. By that I mean its just unbearably hot! None of us had really adjusted to the hot weather yet, but the result of it being bone dry in the area for over a week prior to our arrival is what made it simply ridiculous. Upon sorting out a lodge for ourselves, we tried to get a few hours sleep, but I don't think one of us could manage two hours without having to take a shower. This became routine during our time at Bako, I think the daily routine went something like this; shower, laze around, shower, sleep, shower, shower, shower, herp, shower, sleep, repeat.

Anyway, we awoke in time for dinner, waiting for the sun to relinquish us of the hellfire, and set out. Image

The last time I visited, in April 2013, the boardwalk trail was literally some flimsy wood above a watery swamp, this time, it was some flimsy wood lying above some dirt and leaf litter. Image

Hence, I recalled the idea from Kuala Nerang which we also relied on for the rest of our time in Borneo. Leave the trail, find water, and stay with it. There wasn't much water in lowland Bako, so when we did encounter the small pools which remained, there was a lot of activity. For example, in the first pool we encountered, there wasn't one, but two Spiny Hill Turtles (Heosemys spinosa) lurking in the leaves! Turtles, Tortoises and Terrapins are a luxury encounter, so sighting four of these IUCN 'Vulnerable' categorised fellows in one evening was simply fantastic, and all thanks to the lack of rain. Unfortunately, we found no actually spiny juveniles, so this smaller adult is the closest I can provide.
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Cnmaspis kendalli:Image

I think this water skink is Tropidophorus brookei:Image

These were cool encounters, but by far our highlight of the evening was when Rich spotted a small snake half concealed in some leaf litter. Moritz quickly identified it as some kind of Calamaria and made a swift grab before it could slip away into the dense forest floor. Since Evan and University Science Malaysia had been kind enough to give us some equipment to take DNA samples, finding fossorials had become even more of a result. We weren't quite sure of the species, so we took some comprehensive photos and held it until the following morning, where we found it out to be the Bicolored Reed Snake (Calamaria Bicolor):Image

At about 30cm, this specimen was large for the genus, and a species I had never seen before. Furthermore, it was a species that had never had its DNA sequenced, so we were very happy that we took a scale clipping.

We had wrapped up our night after encountering the Calamaria, and I wanted to be well rested for a morning walk. However, not long after I set out, the heat began to beat me up and it wasn't long at all before I tapped out and returned for breakfast. After my recollection of the hardships of sweat drenched clothes and dire need of several showers, we decided to take it easy. We sat around discussing ideas about my project mentioned in part 1, ate the cheap, good canteen food, and waited until it got dark.

Moritz's photo of Bako' shore:
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Moritz spotted a second Calamaria not long into our walk, but it quickly slipped away and no amount of frantic or calm searching could turn it up again. Those guys swim through leaf litter and I was up to my ankles in it, so no luck there. Later on, however, Rich and I encountered this hefty beast of a viper perched upon a branch, which more than made up for the earlier mishap!

Bornean Keeled Pit-Viper (Tripidolaemus subannulatus):Image

This was and still is the only adult male of this species I'd ever encountered, so this furious chap was memorable for more than just his strikes!

One more cool find, Cyrtodactylus consobrinus. We saw quite a few of these magnificent and massive geckos during our duration in Borneo, yet this was the only one I managed to get a photo of. I'll blame that on it simply being too hot to make gecko grabs.Image

We were pretty content with our yield of finds at Bako, plus we had proof we'd been to the iconic park, so we got the hell out of there.
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Moritz had the card of the Taxi driver who'd taken us to the park, so we gave him a quick bell and he took us back to the airport to hire a car. Remember though, this was our crew, so not without drama, as when Rich put his credit card into a random ATM at the airport, it blinks up with 'Error' and swallows his card. At first we weren't really sure what to make of this, and I might have laughed. However, when the card didn't come back and the bank staff said there was no way of getting it back, I wasn't so happy. Oh, I almost forgot, my own credit card didn't seem to be working at that time either, so we had hit some serious financial difficulties and it looked like we'd be relying on Moritz to bail us out. Furthermore, the licensed maintenance guy for the ATM apparently couldn't get to the airport until 5pm, so it also appeared that we'd be sitting around for a while for nothing, because apparently if he got the card out he wouldn't be allowed to give it back. We were on the verge of saying 'forget it' and moving on, but Rich had some kind of hope in the maintenance guy, and as it turned out, this hope was not misplaced. In fact, this was one of the prime examples of the fantastic Asiatic attitudes to everything! When the guy dismantled the machine and got the card out, he put his finger to his lips, and slipped the card into Rich's pocket. Next thing we knew, we were in our cheap little car and well on the way to Gunung Gading National Park!
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Due to the previous technicalities at the airport, we weren't on track for an early arrival and ended up arriving at 7pm to the National Park which closes at 5pm, but we all knew the drill in Asia so encountered no problems whatsoever when trying to negotiate a room, the guy even remembered me from when I was there over a year ago. Funnily enough, this man showed me the same picture of a Dendrelaphis kopsteini (as he proudly announced) which I'd identified for him the back then. He also showed us a plant right by the park entrance where there sat a tiny Tropidolaemus subannulatus they had found prior to our arrival - talk bout a warm welcome!
(in-situ)Image
Now, Gading was an interesting part of the trip. The park is wonderful, with waterfalls, wifi(!!!!!), and a massive biodiversity of reptiles and amphibians, however, its very difficult to find snakes. I already knew this, and that's why the focus of coming here was to tick off some of the iconic lizards and frogs, with the likelihood of finding snake or two along the way. This time though, another attraction made it brilliant... football! It had just been world cup season, so everyone had the fever and we spotted, while getting dinner in the evening, a large group of malays having a game of football over in a nearby field. Rich urged us into going over and asking to play, which they more than happily allowed and we spent the next couple hours making a name for ourselves amongst a bunch of players aged from about 8 to 40 years old - it was a blast to say the least! And so it became routine, every late afternoon we'd head down to the town of Lundu and indulge in some exhausting yet wonderful football under the shadow of the mountain, I even bought myself a Sarawak State football shirt for the memories.

(Moritz's photo)
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So, when the football wrapped up as it got dark, the herping got underway. We found a lot of cool stuff but since I'm not planning on making this post incredibly long I'll just showcase the most significant finds.

We saw a lot of frogs although not as many as I had last time due to the lack of rain. One of the prettiest to encounter were these Hylarana picturata: Image

When Rich and I were walking a dried stream bed by night, I heard movement in some leaf litter and a short while of scrutiny later I rustled up this beauty - one of the target frogs for the trip. Nyctixalus pictus:
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We encountered a few species of Gonocephalus but none beat this fantastic species I'd never seen before, Gonocephalus doriae:Image

We were also lucky enough to encounter one of these fantastic Cat Geckos, our target reptile for our stay at Gunung Gading! Aeluroscalabotes felinus:Image

Snakes were hard to come by as expected, although Moritz sighted this juvie female Tropidolaemus subannutus that quite hilariously had a weaver ant attached to it. The weaver had bitten onto the snake and died, proof that these things never let go once they bite, a prior suspicion of mine. This was our third Tropidolaemus in a row, at least it kept our trend of one snake per day up.
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Our conclusive find for Gunung Gading was not rare, either, although I was surprised by how much of an impact this snake had on the guys. In hindsight, this is possibly because it bit Moritz on the neck. I know what you're thinking, 'how did it possibly bite him on the neck?', well, I'm not entirely sure either, but it did and it was hilarious. Malayan Racer (Coelognathus flavolineata):Image
At first glance this large adult doesn't look particularly remarkable, but on closer inspection...
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Rich and I looking extremely proud to have found a snake which wasn't Tropidolaemus subannulatus...Image

Anyway, that concluded our time at the spa-like area known as Gunung Gading/Lundu, so off we went to Kubah National Park. This involved more driving without a map or SatNav. Actually, we did have a map, but since there is so much discreet military activity in Sarawak, the maps are terrible on purpose and pretty much useless. However, there are hardly any actual roads in Borneo, and the predominantly flat land makes mountains like that of Kubah highly visible from anywhere, so we just drove on any road which seemed to head in the direction of the hill which meant we would always arrive there with ease.Image

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Kubah National Park is considerably different to the others in the region because it has a road leading from the bottom almost to the summit, which is out of bounds due to it being a communications building. Guests can access this road with cars, although the first time we took the car up we seriously underestimated how steep it would be on the way down and once we reached the bottom, we were shocked to find that our brakes had stopped working completely. Hence, we decided to spend the rest of the evening walking.

This didn't turn out to be a bad idea. Moritz had retired for the evening since he'd stubbed his toe playing football, but Rich and I trekked up the summit road until we encountered streams at which point we would follow the trend of the trip and diverge onto the banks and hunt around.

Along one particular stream (well, I say stream but it was more like a rocky bed with small pools of water every now and again) Rich and I were walking about 5 meters apart from each other, me being up ahead. After a short while, Rich unenthusiastically called me back to 'check out this frog.' which I even less enthusiastically obliged to. After we both crouched down for a good look and declared that this amphibian was in fact not a frog but a toad, Rich and I simultaneously looked upwards while standing up and to our upmost surprise we were greeted by the sight of the venter of a huge viper! I guessed since we'd seen so many already that it would be a large female Tropidolaemus subannulatus, but as we took a few steps back to get a proper look, I honestly couldn't believe my eyes. I'd been babbling about the enigmatic rarity and intense beauty of this particular species for the most part of the trip already, and I hailed it as the 'holy grail' of Thai-Malay Pit-Viper species, so you can imagine what effects seeing such a massive and vibrant specimen sitting before my eyes in all its glory had on us. We literally started jumping about, shouting obscenities, hugging each other but at a complete loss for actual words. I think I managed "D-do you f*cking realise what we just found!?" and Rich got out "is that a f*cking sumatranus!?"... it was.

Sumatran Pit Viper (Trimeresurus sumatranus) - in situ:Image

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Now, personally, I would have been far more happy taking several photos of the snake in-situ and then moving on to leave it alone because this snake just seemed far too regal to disturb - almost sacred. Rich and I both felt that to catch it would be somewhat disrespectful the snake that blessed us with its presence. However, I was the only person packing a zoom lens so Rich was unable to get any good shots whatsoever, and so we discussed that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see this species, especially such an impressive specimen. Plus, we were sure our meddling won't scar the snake for life, at most it will be like a bad dream. So we opted to get it down from the branches for a better photo op.

Now, I've been banging on about how impressive this snake was, so let me give you an idea of what I'm talking about...Image
It was well over a meter in length, and for an arboreal viper and this species that is absolutely massive. On top of this, the snake was as, if not more, pissed off at being disturbed that we thought it would be. And I'm saying this from the bottom of my heart that I don't think I've ever been so intimidated by a snake. Once we sat it down on an elevated root, it took up defensive posture and would shoot out a far reaching, lightning fast strike if either Rich or I moved in the slightest. Furthermore, every time it shot out at one of us we got an all to clear look at the fangs this monster was packing. Apparently the Malayan Pit-Viper has the largest fangs of any Asian viper, but I'm sure this sumatranus could have given most Calloselasma specimens a run for their money in that department. One shot Rich and I coordinated together captured what I'm talking about perfectly: Image
Once I took the above photo I was done - I literally did not take another picture of the snake and so we released the snake back into the trees with very mixed emotions, although the predominant one was certainly raw excitement. Thus, we swaggered back to our humble forest abode thinking that this trip could not get any better, little did we know what the following day would bring,

Our first full day at Kubah started like any other would have. We slept in late, indulged in several bowls each of cornflakes, and headed out for an afternoon stroll through the forest. Image

Kubah forest varies significantly, one area we walked through was predominantly made up of these thinner trees.Image

We took photos of insects and each other, but other than gliding lizards herps weren't particularly present on this outing.Image

However, come that evening, all three of us set off up the road on foot. This time, we didn't get as far as the T. sumatranus stream since I proudly discovered a discreet little stream tucked away down a gully in the forest. This is a shot I took of it the next day and, when reviewing how good it looks, I think would have been absolutely ridiculous not to have found a snake there. Image

Anyway, this is how it went down: There was no direct route to the stream, so we had to find a way through the dense vegetation to reach it. Moritz still had a plastic bag wrapped around his bad foot, so he opted to stay up on the road and hunt around there while Rich and I ventured off into the unknown. Once we reached the bank, we knew we were onto something, and it wasn't more than a minute before my ears pricked up at the telltale sound of something without legs sliding through the leaf litter. I stopped and whirled around just in time to see a small snake slip into the leaf litter, at which point our honed snake catching skills came into play. After a seamless and very brief communication between the two of us, Rich dropped down and used his arms to create a circular artificial barrier around the patch which the snake went under, at which point I carefully but swiftly turned up one leaf at a time until I uncovered the snake. I couldn't identify this juvenile precisely in the moment, but I recognised it as a keelback too small to inflict any damage despite what species it may be so I held it in my palm for us to admire. Moritz wasn't far away, so Rich gave him a shout that we'd got a snake and he returned with "Really?". It was moments after this when a sound behind me almost made me jump out of my skin. It was certainly a snake, but it was definitely a lot larger than the keel back I had heard a minute before. Again, I spun around and to my utter disbelief it was to see an absolutely massive Bornean Blue Coral Snake (Black Coral Snake) hauling tail up the bank of the stream. Again, Rich and I subliminally communicated with each other resulting in me chucking my handheld torch to Rich and lunging out to grab the swiftly moving snake. However, I also had the keel back in my other palm. And so I found myself juggling two snakes at once, one being an extra active and extremely venomous elapid, but after moving into a better position I swapped the little natricine for a snake hook and began to properly detain the furious snake at my feet. I honestly could not wrap my head around what we had just accomplished, but Rich managed to shout up the bank to Moritz that we had "two snakes!!!", at which point the forest floor began to tremble, the leaves began falling rapidly from the trees, then a light appeared, followed soon by a panting noise, and finally Wallitz himself burst from the bushes onto the scene, the bad foot no longer a problem! With Moritz's help, we bagged up both snakes and returned to the road to take in what we had accomplished, at which point I decided to take this photo which I think sums up the mood pretty well.Image

Anyway, after some debate between the three of us I was outvoted on the matter so we decided to keep the snakes until the morning to photograph. Thus, we all eagerly went to bed in hopes of getting an early start. Well, I wish it had gone like that. In reality, we got back to the residence only to find that the key for our dorm had completely disappeared, and no amount of searching could turn it back up again. No worries, at least we had the snakes! Well, I wish it had been like that too. Shortly after catching the two snakes, we had returned to our room and put them somewhere safe to keep until the morning before heading back out again, so the snakes were locked inside the room and we were locked out... perfect. Luckily, the place we were staying had chairs, benches, and pillows in the communal area, and they even had curtains which I ingeniously dismantled and used as covers. Plus, we had a bottle of whiskey in the fridge... Things could have been a lot worse, I'll say that!

Rich and I are both clearly showing our appreciation for Moritz's key keeping skills:Image

It was all just banter though, and it didn't matter that we all got minimal sleep because when we got another key from the staff we found two amazing snakes waiting for us in our room, and so we set out to the exact spot where we found them for some serious photography sessions!

Saving the best for last, we took the Keelback out first, which I ID'd that morning as a Rhabdophis conspicillata, a nice species which I'd never seen before.Image

At first, we tried photographing it on the bank of the stream but the snake would simply not sit still for a second, however, once we let it slip into one of the shallow pools of the stream, it instantly became relaxed and tranquil, allowing us a nice photo opportunity amongst the brilliantly coloured leaves, strewn in and on the stream.Image

After a few photos, we let the Keelback swim off and geared up for the real deal. Once it was out of the snake bag (pillowcase), contrary to the C. b. flaviceps from Bkt Fraser, it went on a madness, biting literally everything its face touched. However, once it touched the water, it seemed to completely forget about us and started pleasantly drinking, but soon enough it stopped and went back to the frenzy it was on before. In the end, perseverance payed off and we got it to sit perfectly amongst the exact leaves in which we had found it. Amazing experience.

Bornean Blue Coral Snake (Calliophis bivirgata tetrataenia):Image

Since I'd only seen flash photography of this snake by night online, I had nicknamed it the Black Coral Snake. On seeing the snake in person though, I was surprised by how blue it actually is, especially in the daylight. This picture captures it as decent as I could manage:Image

Moritz admiring the beast as it takes a sip from the shallow water where we photographed the Keelback. Mesmerising serpent...Image

After taking glory shots of each other, we let the snake slip underneath a fallen tree and attempted to emerge back onto the road. In the process of doing so, Moritz managed to find our lodge keys amongst the leaves, so we didn't even have to pay the lost key cost when leaving! Image

A couple months prior to the trip, I'd spoken to Hans about staying at his place for the remaining days of our time in Borneo, but when I contacted him it turned out that his work was so hectic that he simply had no time for visitors. This was unfortunate, but we understood his situation so we re-hired the car and decide to stay in Kuching and take driving trips out in the evening to some spots I'd picked up from Hans the year before. The days weren't particularly distinct from each other so I'll just provide a selection of photos and stories from the 4 nights we had in the area.

View from our Kuching accommodation, those are some very loud club/bars you see in the foreground which Rich and I indulged in after herping one evening. Image

Our first find was possibly our finest of the few nights we had around Kuching, and definitely the largest snake of the trip. We had been on the road for hours and seen nothing, and Rich was already asleep in the back of the car. I'd whacked on some Jose Gonzalez not long ago and was beginning to drop off myself, so much so that I even let Moritz take the car down a side road which seemed too habited to yield any special snakes, yet when we saw this snake emerge from the grass directly in front of a house, I knew we'd made the right decision.

Melanistic morph of the Dog-Toothed Cat Snake (Boiga cynodon): Image

Like the usual B. cynodon, it was intimidating but actually quite adorable in nature - cooperating well for our photos. This one was especially intimidating though, as it was an absolute monster (still not as large as the one I found in Bako NP, Borneo, on my last visit). We released it away from human habitations. ca. 2.5m+
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Banded Wolf Snake (Lycodon subcintus):Image

One afternoon we payed a visit to the Borneo Heights Golf and Country Club at the top of Gunung Penrissen; it was decorated exactly how you'd expect a colonial revival style golfing retreat would be, live horses and all.Image

However, there were jungle waterfalls and trails in the area, and that was what we were there for. So, after mucking about on around the resort and eating lavishly at the restaurant for dinner, we set out.

(View from Malaysia over Kalimantan, Indonesia)
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We encountered some cool creatures on the higher elevation trails, one being this Cat Gecko (Aleuroscalabotes felinus) - in-situ:Image

In-situ Quad:Image

Now this was personally my favourite (definitely the most fascinating) invertebrate of the entire trip. We first came across it hanging upside down above the trail, but when we got it down it completely changed its form and I was honestly mind blown at the defensive mechanism.

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Nobody would think for a second that I'm not holding a stick in my hand, and I even began to doubt myself after a minute of close scrutiny, let alone if it was on the soil or some bark.
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Since I was convinced this was the stick insect I'd caught moments ago, I decided to place it down and wait it out, but it seemed like no time spent sitting around, attracting annoying flies to my personal space, would see this twig unveil its true identity. In the end, I gave up, but upon walking back the same way later in the night, I checked the same area and located it on a nearby plant!Image

Gliding Gecko (Ptychozoon sp.):Image

We weren't lucky enough to find any snakes on the hilltop trails, but when the party investigated a waterfall further down the mountain we had a bit more luck.

When I was checking out the large pool at the base of the waterfall, I climbed up a large boulder and looked down upon the pool from about 3 meters up. I was pleasantly surprised when I spotted a snake resting on some fallen branches protruding from the water.
(in-situ)Image
Once I called the guys over, we set about trying the get the snake which I knew could, at any time, leap into the water and be gone. Moritz offered to swim in from the deep side of the pool, while Rich decided he would wade in towards the snake from the shallow side, while I took the torches and filmed the sequence from above. This worked pretty well because although the boys got soaked, we did catch the snake seamlessly.

Triangle Keelback (Xenochrophis trianguliguerus) - pretty snake, also the first snake to bite me on the entire trip:Image

There were quite a few other cool herps around this waterfall, like this Green Crested Lizard (Bronchocela cristatella) - sleeping in-situ:Image

These astonishingly large File-Eared Treefrogs (Polypedates otilophus) - in-situ:Image

Philautus/Polypedates/Rhacorphorus species? (in-situ):Image

Ingerophrynus sp. I think (in-situ):Image

Cyrtodactylus consobrinus, turns out I'd forgotten that we'd photographed this one when I spoke of them earlier. Image

Unknown skink, Spenomorphus sp. perhaps? Although it was a bit large for the genus.Image

And our conclusive find for Borneo, Ahaetulla prasina (in-situ). Image

This snake had different ventral stripes to any A. prasina I'd checked before, so we took a DNA sample of this one. Also the markings on the body were a little more like A. mycterizans, although that species doesn't occur in Borneo - maybe they're due to it being a younger specimen?Image

And that just about wraps up our time in Borneo, which included long nights of driving to little avail and in turn lots of bickering. On the other hand, long nights of walking in the forest allowed us to bond properly and in Borneo you are never far from a fantastic creature, be it a snake or not. It was a fantastic experience and we certainly saw some amazing animals, which I guess is the key point of the trip so... success!

(Eerie blue neon cross over a small, mist eneveloped village in the Bornean outback, something we dreamily passed by several times in the course of dreary road cruising hours)Image

Soon, a little more Pen' M'sia and incredible Thailand!

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The Real Snake Man
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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by The Real Snake Man » December 2nd, 2014, 5:20 pm

Wow, fantastic finds and looked like a fun trip too! That coralsnake is a show-stopper, and with the Asian turtle eradication going on, it was a real treat to see the Heosemys, even if it wasn't a juvenile. Thanks for sharing.

-Gene

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Kelly Mc » December 2nd, 2014, 5:49 pm

This was so glorious oh thank you for existing, Borneo!

Thank you Rupert for sharing - the sumatranus shot was incredible !!

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krisbell
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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by krisbell » December 3rd, 2014, 2:19 am

Cracking post Rupert - love the cat gecko and that stick insect is unreal!

dendrelaphis
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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by dendrelaphis » December 3rd, 2014, 4:27 am

Wow, the T. sumatranus and Blue Coral snake are awsome. Both species I have never seen on Borneo )-: The B. cynodon is also pretty amazing by the way. And I love the anecdotes.

Apparently, Kubah is a pit viper paradise. I have spent one day there several years ago and found a wonderful juvenile T. borneensis on the wooden stairs:

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It's a shame you did not visit Santubong, I would have loved to see what you would have found there.

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Martti Niskanen
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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Martti Niskanen » December 3rd, 2014, 7:00 am

Great stuff, Rupert. Calliophis is a great find, but the sumatranus takes the cake.

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Jeroen Speybroeck
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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck » December 3rd, 2014, 11:39 am

As to be expected, this was well worth the wait! G r e a t once more.

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Ruxs
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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Ruxs » December 3rd, 2014, 2:05 pm

Thanks for the lovely feedback, people!
dendrelaphis wrote:Wow, the T. sumatranus and Blue Coral snake are awsome. Both species I have never seen on Borneo )-: The B. cynodon is also pretty amazing by the way. And I love the anecdotes.

Apparently, Kubah is a pit viper paradise. I have spent one day there several years ago and found a wonderful juvenile T. borneensis on the wooden stairs:

It's a shame you did not visit Santubong, I would have loved to see what you would have found there.
Thanks! Yes I agree with that, apparently you get T. sabahi around the higher elevations too. I hunted around Gunung Penrissen a fair bit for that species as well but no luck this time, the only Sarawak viper species I haven't seen. Lovely T. borneensis by the way, I was lucky enough to find that species at Gunung Gading in 2013.

We actually did consider staying at Santubong but we weren't all travelling on the same budget so some of us weren't down for the expenditure. I went for a single morning walk there is 2013 and found a Dendrelaphis caudolineatus though haha
Martti Niskanen wrote:Great stuff, Rupert. Calliophis is a great find, but the sumatranus takes the cake.
I hope you find a sumatranus someday, Martti.

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LouB747
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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by LouB747 » December 3rd, 2014, 2:44 pm

Cool looking blue coral. Very different than the ones in Singapore. I can't believe you guys just free handle these as well as other hots. Seems like an accident waiting to happen. Not judging by any means, but if someday you post that you've been bit, I wouldn't be surprised. Anyways. great story and great pictures. That viper is a beast! Very cool!! Is there a part 3 coming?

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walk-about
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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by walk-about » December 3rd, 2014, 3:27 pm

Rupert - SENSORY OVERLOAD! That Dogtoothed Snake beastie is absolutely insane...among others! WoW! Thanks for sharing this amazing place and time with FHF. Rock ON!

Dave

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Kelly Mc
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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Kelly Mc » December 3rd, 2014, 3:29 pm

Rupert, I really enjoyed the photos and only now took the time to read all of the text.

Is there any chance that you might change the practice of keeping animals bagged up for hours or a day/s etc, before you photograph them?

It was stated that you and the others took a vote on whether to wait or not, which means there was an option to photograph them expediently.

The actual snakes were not included in consideration of what was best for them.

There is absolutely no doubt that less time spent in duress is better than more time, so speculations on how little harm it causes are moot.

I am not PMing you on this topic because I feel it is not a matter of human etiquette. It is more important than that.

It is a such a privilege to be able to travel the world with awesome equipment and good friends, and follow ones dreams.

What an act of generousity it would be to extend deserved good will to the wild serpents that are the objects of your quests.

Everything concerning the living snakes should be a priority.

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by The Real Snake Man » December 3rd, 2014, 3:39 pm

Kelly Mc wrote:Is there any chance that you might change the practice of keeping animals bagged up for hours or a day/s etc, before you photograph them?
...
There is absolutely no doubt that less time spent in duress is better than more time, so speculations on how little harm it causes are moot.
...
Everything concerning the living snakes should be a priority.
I too have noticed that this tends to be somewhat common on trips in the tropics; bags upon bags (maybe not the case here) of snakes accumulated over a week or so, to be photographed at a later date prior to release. I tend to be too anxious to take pictures to wait that long, but then again, the eagerness to get back in the field can be pretty strong. Still, photographing upon capture is advantageous because you can release the snake right back to where it was found without having to return there. Curious to hear more about this from people with more knowledge.

I'd also imagine that after a snake calms down in a bag, it isn't under much stress any more. Trapped, but not frightened (it's not like snakes are brilliant animals). So perhaps waiting a few days in a pillowcase wouldn't be too bad for the snake. It might miss some feeding opportunities, but real harm done would be hard to quantify. Again, I could be very, very wrong.

-Gene

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Kelly Mc » December 3rd, 2014, 4:35 pm

All other animal work, zoo work, wildlife rehab, tagging, in restraint and containment expedience is always practiced, so in aligning ourselves with established tenets helps keep us looking clean. An animals "I.Q" isnt criteria of its handling.

Because it is so easy to keep them bagged or boxed for convenient durations, herpers making a public point of not doing it is a very wise move.

Speculating on how calm all snakes are when bagged is specious. If it only requires more effort to put the snakes status back into its wild life again sooner, it is an astute choice to do so. Especially since it is seen as a recreational activity, and there is no accountable reason for holding them longer than necessary.

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by The Real Snake Man » December 3rd, 2014, 4:46 pm

All valid points, and I would definitely tend to agree with you on this. My only reservation is the relative importance of holding them for a time. I mean, obviously the best option is to simply observe snakes in nature. The next-best (for the snake) is to capture, photograph, and release on the spot. But once you bag the snake and hold it for say, half a day, is it 14 times worse for the snake to continue holding it for a week, or are the cons not quite so severe as time goes on (provided we aren't talking unreasonable lengths of time)? Again, there's no question as to what is best; but then, if capture is the moment of highest stress, then how much worse for the snake are those extra hours of confinement? I'm not trying to condone, I just have little idea of what it's like to be a snake (which was an interesting thought about the limits of field biology brought up in Harry Greene's book Snakes: The Evolution of Mystery in Nature).

-Gene

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Kelly Mc » December 3rd, 2014, 4:59 pm

My point is, that it doesnt matter since those kinds of arguments arent going to fly in in the wake of critical review.

Our best move is to not consider ourselves exempt from other animal work practices, and to try to regard snakes in the same light as other animals, instead of unique monotypic exceptions that no one else understands but us, because it actually isnt true. Snakes have more in common biologically with other chordates than differences.

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by The Real Snake Man » December 3rd, 2014, 5:35 pm

Kelly Mc wrote:My point is, that it doesnt matter
But it is interesting :)

But overall, I do agree. Why put the snake through more than "necessary", and why treat snakes as different from a work perspective. Although, not to open another can of worms, but can't snakes be seen as different? Let me think:
-fish: they die quickly if they're out of water or even out of the right kind of water (pH, flow rate, depth, etc.); can't be detained long
-amphibians: they dry out if detained in standard containment for too long
-birds: too hard to catch in the first place, they'd make a ruckus in a box, and most have such a high metabolism that they would be at a huge disadvantage not to be foraging
-mammals: pretty similar to birds in this regard
Now reptiles:
-crocodilians: yeah, right!
-lizards: can have fairly high metabolisms, usually need to be foraging pretty often
-tuataras: really?
-turtles: a lot of them are water-affiliated, and most all shouldn't go long periods without eating during the normal "herping season"
-snakes: can clearly tolerate a bag or aquarium for a week if necessary in the vast majority of cases

So maybe snakes are unique. Again, I'm not arguing with you (although at this point I'm beginning to wonder exactly what I am doing), and the above analyses were conjured in seconds and are full of holes and exceptions, I'm just saying that I'm not sure that saying "snake science is the same as all other field science" is the right argument to decry this practice because really, to me at least, snakes are incredibly divergent from other chordates in at least as far as the single attribute we are discussing here.

But like I said, I take pictures as I go, too. There, I'm done with this subject. Thanks for the ethics/science talk Kelly, and sorry Rupert for hi-jacking.

-Gene

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Kelly Mc » December 3rd, 2014, 6:07 pm

There is a concept and the mechanism behind it is The Prudent Side To Err

This wasnt a science/ethic talk and I asked Rupert a direct question with included my reasons for asking.


There is no high jacking as I am referring to the same snakes I am looking at in the post.

I am not going refrain from comment about something I think is important on many levels.

Actually once I realize a snake has been bagged for hours or tailed into exhaustion it ruins the photo for me. Its like a Milli Vanilli thing.

I am not the only person with this view. I think "Shutting Up" just to be polite would be eerie and wrong.

There are many people who disagree and so be it. But there are people who question the appropriateness of it and commentary comes with the territory.

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by The Real Snake Man » December 3rd, 2014, 6:30 pm

Kelly Mc wrote:This wasnt a science/ethic talk
Had me fooled, then. :)
Kelly Mc wrote:I asked Rupert a direct question with included my reasons for asking.
And as yet he has not responded, and I'm interested to hear what he has to say.
Kelly Mc wrote:There is no high jacking as I am referring to the same snakes I am looking at in the post.
I know, I was the one who went off on a sort of tangent, and I merely apologized for myself.
Kelly Mc wrote:I am not going refrain from comment about something I think is important on many levels... I think "Shutting Up" just to be polite would be eerie and wrong.
I don't think anyone wants you to shut up. Heck, I say too much on this forum, and the overall purpose here is to learn from others and share your experiences (which are best in the form of reptile photos).

Also, don't think I'm critical of you. I think the problem with the internet is that you can read things in almost any tone you want to, so it's easy to misconstrue someone as being rude or offensive (not that you did that, I just want to make sure).

-Gene

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Kelly Mc » December 3rd, 2014, 6:46 pm

I dont see you as an individual right now, (as far as subject, and yes i agree about the tone subtext you note) and Im not arguing or trying to be a troll. I am not even speaking as an individual myself for the most part.

I see you and Rupert as having incredible power and talent. And most precious - Time.

I think the future and the face of herping and involvement with herps, and the way they are presented to the rest of the world, is in your hands.

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by dendrelaphis » December 3rd, 2014, 10:14 pm

In fact, best would be not to travel to Asia at all: the pollution resulting from burning kerosine..... And even simply walking through the jungle would slightly decrease the fitness of specimens noticing you. And capturing, fotographing, also in situ (without capturing the specimen) surely has an impact. In the end, our fascination with snakes is a selfish one (as is everything we do). I mean, where to draw the line? Finally, I guess a bio-industry chicken suffers a great deal more than the blue Coral snake in the above anecdote

At least, this kind of fascination is accociated with a desire to conserve natural habitats and we can only hope that others will become fascinated as well. That would be wonderful.

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Kelly Mc » December 3rd, 2014, 10:26 pm

Its simple, topical and non abstract.

But a horse to water doesn't always work.

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Kelly Mc » December 3rd, 2014, 11:43 pm

dendrelaphis wrote:In fact, best would be not to travel to Asia at all: the pollution resulting from burning kerosine..... And even simply walking through the jungle would slightly decrease the fitness of specimens noticing you. And capturing, fotographing, also in situ (without capturing the specimen) surely has an impact. In the end, our fascination with snakes is a selfish one (as is everything we do). I mean, where to draw the line? Finally, I guess a bio-industry chicken suffers a great deal more than the blue Coral snake in the above anecdote

At least, this kind of fascination is accociated with a desire to conserve natural habitats and we can only hope that others will become fascinated as well. That would be wonderful.

Intelligent people dont need a few more trophy photographs to become interested in conservation. Restraint and courtesy toward the living and conservation are not mutually exclusive. Saying everything done within the perimeters of our own whims is justified for the sake of conservation coats the word conservation in cheap plastic. It becomes an over used token.

My second post was a reserved and rational query. No exaggerated scenarios, no motive beyond a consideration to self examine in these times of growing scrutiny, to perhaps include interdisciplinary approaches in our pursuits for our own benefit as well as the snakes we are "saving the habitats of" by photographing, or, just photographing because we want to post pictures of them.



Editd typo

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck » December 4th, 2014, 1:06 am

After having a few snakes and other herps dying in bags and containers, I became all for shoot-and-release in nearly all cases. It's a welfare issue, as the death of a single snake is hardly a conservation threat, but if you can keep the stress level to a minimum, why wouldn't you? Saving herping time and being able to get better shots, sure. Just not worth it for me (hence my at best mediocre photography ;) ). It also doesn't feel right to me to release animals outside their home range and having to take the animal back to the same spot may be a hassle. Like stress tolerance, the latter is of course species-specific, but still...

Like Lou, I'm also amazed about how Rupert et al. handle hots. It kinda scares as well as makes me slightly jealous, because if(!) you know what you're doing, photographing a coral snake becomes probably less challenging than when you're as careful/afraid as I tend to be.

On both issues - judging people usually makes for nasty forum threads, so I just intend to express views, not point any fingers at all.

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Ruxs » December 4th, 2014, 2:54 am

I'm honestly surprised that you gauged that we handle hots in an overzealous manor. Moritz can be a little risky from time to time, but I like to think that Rich and I are as cautious as we need to be. I've never been in a situation where I thought 'holy shit I couldn't been bit there'. I have a very refined respect for snakes and as I said earlier in the series I try to get as many in-situ shots as possible, however, when you're working as a team and everyone has different wishes it's not as easy as that. Furthermore, I'm creating a website on the snakes of South-East Asia so need profile shots of most interesting snakes I find, and sometimes that isn't possible when a snake is 5m up a tree. I think a total of 4 or 5 snakes were bagged overnight, even though the total found over the trip was like 140 or something. This is not like living in the USA, the biodiversity is way higher and some snakes I have little chance of ever seeing again, so getting a very good picture is quite important to me. Anyway, interesting discussion but I'd prefer if it wasn't happening here, if you think your opinion is extremely important and want to hear my feedback don't hesitate to PM me. Cheers.

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Kelly Mc » December 4th, 2014, 4:16 am

If enlightening the public to the importance of conservation is a goal it is important to understand the audience that is being appealed to largely is also concerned with the welfare of individual animals, as well.

This may as well be faced regardless of the internalized sentiment that such thinking is naive. It is the way it is.

My opinion is not important. What actually may be important to accept is that in any case with any one, the welfare of snakes themselves, even just one, may be called into question, publicly, by someone viewing. That's all.

Cheers

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Jeroen Speybroeck » December 4th, 2014, 4:36 am

Ruxs wrote:if you think your opinion is extremely important
:shock:

Looking forward to see that website, Ruxs, even if you had to torture snakes to collect its content :twisted:

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Kelly Mc » December 4th, 2014, 5:09 am

Jeroen Speybroeck wrote:
Ruxs wrote:if you think your opinion is extremely important
:shock:

Looking forward to see that website, Ruxs, even if you had to torture snakes to collect its content :twisted:

There was no inflammatory languaging in any of my posts - and I say this gently so as to indicate tone - that is exactly the rhetoric that keeps people afraid to post about welfare of snakes in this genre.

I know there are many many others who are thinking the same things I posted.

The internet is forever. Research could clarify what welfare is for snakes, in more exacting neuroethological and ecological terms.

So trivialization may be potentially a dumb thing, in the big picture.

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by yuesam » December 4th, 2014, 6:12 am

Wonderful pics Rupert. That sumatranus is rad.

Can those of you who bag snakes for several days tell me why you do it? I've never done it and really can't think of why.... I've gotten stellar photos by just spending a few minutes posing the snakes.

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by krismunk » December 4th, 2014, 10:20 am

The discussion about bagging snakes is important - so much so that it deserves it's own thread - http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... =2&t=21025

At this point it really is derailing this one.

I fully understand Rupert's plea to take the discussion as it relates to him personally to PM. What is shown in this thread is nowhere near the extreme end of the spectrum and as such Rupert is hardly the best candidate to be singled out as an offender.

... oh, and btw, Rupert, nice report, wonderful critters, green with envy ;)

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Kelly Mc » December 4th, 2014, 11:16 am

krismunk wrote: green with envy ;)
Nice touch - attempting to imply cattily that there was some personal impetus in asking a question, and not staying in some kind of holy hands off form at someones post of photographs.

As adults we learn that not every one is going to clap their hands in big grinned wonderment at every single thing we do, even if we might be used to it since our first excited kicks in a bouncy chair. It can be a shock.

Where there is a live snake involved there may be someone who will do what you are doing with this post. Publicly in the open.

I agree that the OP doesnt epitomize creepy treatment of wild snakes. Which is why he was approached with respect and even an earnest compliment.

The post you made is insincere.

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by hellihooks » December 4th, 2014, 11:22 am

I too very much enjoyed this post, and so will hop de rails (get it :crazyeyes: ) to the other track, for any further comments on 'field ettiquett' 8-) jim

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by krismunk » December 4th, 2014, 12:30 pm

Kelly Mc wrote:
krismunk wrote: green with envy ;)
Nice touch - attempting to imply cattily that there was some personal impetus in asking a question, and not staying in some kind of holy hands off form at someones post of photographs.

As adults we learn that not every one is going to clap their hands in big grinned wonderment at every single thing we do, even if we might be used to it since our first excited kicks in a bouncy chair. It can be a shock.

Where there is a live snake involved there may be someone who will do what you are doing with this post. Publicly in the open.
Sorry, Kelly, but I simply don't entirely understand what you're saying here. I'm sure there is a point and it might be valid, please try to rephrase it. I'd think such an explanation would be better suited for a PM but if you think it of public interest you may of course keep it in this thread.

I do however, fear I might have been misunderstood so I'll rephrase / explain myself.

I do not feel this thread is the appropriate place for a discussion of bagging snakes. Therefore I started another thread and linked to it. In that thread I stated my point of view on the subject. Not explicitly doing so here was a conscious choice as the whole point was moving the discussion.
Kelly Mc wrote:Which is why he was approached with respect and even an earnest compliment.

The post you made is insincere.
As I was writing a comment anyway, I thought I might as well congratulate Rupert on his finds and thank him for a well written and interesting report with nice pictures. This is a sincere sentiment.

I meant nothing else. If this is somehow insincere, again, please explain it to me. If you read something else into those last couple of words with a smiley on top, I'm sorry I didn't hit a clean note :oops:

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Kelly Mc » December 4th, 2014, 12:44 pm

Ok there was a little smeary feel with the wink and all.

it is not easy actually to be willing to accept alienation and unpopularity among like minded people, for the sake of one snake here and there. Which i have done.

I too enjoyed Ruperts post very much.

I think it was a very good idea to start a seperate thread.

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by krismunk » December 4th, 2014, 1:23 pm

Note to self: Careful with the winks :)

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by FloridaSerpent » December 5th, 2014, 12:28 am

I've shared how I feel on the bagging issue in the thread about it. I really enjoyed the story-telling and the herps involved. You're a lucky son of a gun to be able to travel to such a beautiful place and get to know the culture and animals there. Even if it was only for a few days.

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by orionmystery » December 5th, 2014, 12:54 am

Great post, Rupert. Thanks for sharing. Love the last shot of the Sumatran Pit Viper!

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » December 5th, 2014, 3:43 am

Thanks for the great post, Rupert. Narration, animals, suspense, all there in spades. Funny I never took a picture of the blue cross that marks the beginning of that roadcruising stretch I've driven at least a hundred times...I comment on it on almost every pass, but always fail to record it!
Intelligent people dont need a few more trophy photographs to become interested in conservation.
How about the less intelligent, and, more importantly, the intelligent but undereducated ones that make up the majority of the world's population?

Never one to know when to keep my mouth shut, here's my take on the discussion: I know Rupert, and I met his two friends, and they're young humans with an extra helping of that youthful enthusiasm people should have at that age. If it weren't there in the first place, nothing good would ever come from young people. Nobody is perfect at any age. Their age bracket is burdened with a mix of bubbling lust for life and naivety that will eventually, in a later age bracket, replaced with an equally unsatisfying mix of cynicism and wisdom. Whatever faux pas they might or might not have committed by leaving bagged snakes in the guest house for too long is balanced by the love for their quests and quarries.. I know Kubah very well, and stepping off the main trails to go river whacking is no mean feat. So they went overboard. The main thing is they didn't do it in cold blood, but out of ignorance. Cut them some slack already. I'm sure they're getting it by now. They're smart kids :-)

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Azemiops » December 5th, 2014, 6:23 am

Another great post, Rupert! Love the narrative - I can very much relate to many of your highs and lows of the trip.

As for bagging snakes, people can agree or disagree about this practice until they're blue in the face. We will occasionally bag snakes overnight night to photograph the following day, when the situation of finding the animal doesn't allow for a photography session. We always GPS locations to ensure the animals get released exactly where they were caught. I feel the education, awareness and interest towards snakes brought about by the photos we bring back from our herp photography trips - photos which have been published in various field guides, natural history publications, magazine articles, research papers etc - far outway the incoveniece to the snake for what is often much less than 12 hours of being bagged.

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Lloyd Heilbrunn » December 5th, 2014, 2:33 pm

Very nice Rupert!!


And the thread derail is why a number of very good herpers don't bother with posting here any more. :(

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Kelly Mc » December 5th, 2014, 2:41 pm

Why is that? That sounds like there should be no questioning or examination of a developing discipline.

A stifled spiral of silence to keep egos intact and progress thwarted.

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Lloyd Heilbrunn » December 5th, 2014, 2:48 pm

This is a thread of nice photos of interesting animals on a great trip.

It is not the place to express personal opinions on bagging or other herping "ethics" issues. The tendency to do so here annoys many.

And with that I'm done, to avoid further irrelevant derailing.

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Kelly Mc » December 5th, 2014, 3:09 pm

I celebrated the photos, and the trip myself.

I was within topic and courteous at all times. I noticed a repetition of herp handling method that I addressed on behalf of snakes involved in this post and in general.

Threads here have been truly derailed for far more petty reasons than what you are calling a derailment here.

My simple focus was Snakes.

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » December 5th, 2014, 4:34 pm

Kelly Mc wrote:Why is that? That sounds like there should be no questioning or examination of a developing discipline.

A stifled spiral of silence to keep egos intact and progress thwarted.
Yes indeed. I've learned a great world of wisdom through criticism of my own posts and the actions depicted therein, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by JEDDLV » December 7th, 2014, 3:27 pm

Always just great stuff Rupert. Can't wait for your next post.

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by Ruxs » December 9th, 2014, 4:14 pm

Thanks for the nice feedback on the post, lads!

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Re: Asia Adventure Part 2: Borneo!

Post by VinceAdam2015 » January 24th, 2017, 5:07 pm

dendrelaphis wrote:Wow, the T. sumatranus and Blue Coral snake are awsome. Both species I have never seen on Borneo )-: The B. cynodon is also pretty amazing by the way. And I love the anecdotes.

Apparently, Kubah is a pit viper paradise. I have spent one day there several years ago and found a wonderful juvenile T. borneensis on the wooden stairs:

Image

It's a shame you did not visit Santubong, I would have loved to see what you would have found there.

You are so lucky

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