Donald, the Chinese Pearl Snake

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Donald, the Chinese Pearl Snake

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » September 18th, 2010, 4:44 am

Ptyas dhumnades is known in German as "Chinesische Perlnatter", or "Chinese Pearl Snake". Looking at a fully grown adult, the etymology isn't immediately obvious. Within one year after birth, these snakes turn mostly black with dull, dark yellowish-grey stripes that become less and less visible with age, and many seven-footers tend to be completely black. But for the first few months of their life, these snakes are among the prettiest little things imaginable, and their body pattern explains the German name - the snake seems to be covered in a mosaic of lustrous little pearls.

In Taiwan, the diurnal "Big-Eyed Ratsnake", as the animal is prosaically known in English, is very common and due to its penchant for frogs found mostly along creeks, ponds and ditches in forested areas. Being common doesn't mean one actually gets to see it a lot, let alone catch it - this is reportedly the fastest snake in Asia, and due to its large eyes probably among the ones with the best reaction; a combination that makes it hard to observe and even harder to snatch. I go herping every day, so I've still managed to see and even bag quite a few of these elegant racer-like snakes this year, but the Big Prize still kept eluding me, namely one of those gorgeous hatchlings.

Last Monday, Naga the Snake God finally had mercy on me, and guided my eyes onto a foot-long, brilliantly colored neonate I almost tripped over in the narrow ditch I was walking in. Many animals, especially snakes, show typical behavioral traits even as youngsters, and so does Ptyas dhumnades. Straight out of the egg, the hatchlings do their parents proud by acting like tiny evil lindwyrms that lustily bite the living crap out of anyone foolish enough to get too close. Getting too close is difficult, though, because these snakes are as fast as they're mean, and thanks to my array of physical handicaps (middle age, obesity, severe butter fingers), the little &^%$#@ escaped out of the ditch and into the dirt embankment, and no amount of digging short of triggering a landslide would turn the little &^%$#@ up again. Fuming and cussing, I continued my way through the ditch, had lunch at the terminal point, and walked back the same way, when - miracle of miracles!! - the little &^%$#@ reappeared at almost the same place in the ditch where I had spotted it the first time around. This time I managed to grab'n'bag the snake, although not without getting nailed a good dozen times. While the bites didn't pierce the skin, they did itch for about fifteen minutes. Guess Bryan Fry is onto something with his Ptyas venom research...

I took the snake home, placed it into one of my overnight guest tanks, but various things kept me from photographing it for the rest of the week. Usually I don't feed guest snakes, because most of them are too nervous/confused/angry to eat anyway, but I felt guilty about the little squirt. P. dhumnades are notoriously difficult to keep, as they're immensely high-strung and will attack anything they see moving outside their tanks. To keep them from busting their noses (or even necks and skulls, as the case may be), you need to keep the tank covered with a dark cloth for months, and some individuals will still never calm down even after the initial break-in phase. This specimen was no exception, and after five days "undercover", there were no signs of forthcoming peace offers. But I needed to keep it a little longer until I had time for a proper photo session, so I decided to try and feed it. Last night I caught two small Mientien tree frogs (Chirixalus idiootocus) and a little Indian rice frog (Rana/Feyervarya limnocharis) and popped them into the snake tank. This morning I found two of the frogs gone, and a quick glance at the pair of bulges in the snake's body confirmed their whereabouts.

The big meal considerably pacified the reptile, and the subsequent photo shoot went without a hitch - only three escape attempts from the "studio", and maybe one or two half-assed attacks on the camera and my fingers, none of which caused any damage to lens or limb.....

PS: Why "Donald", you ask? The huge eyes that dominate the entire face, the irascible-looking supraocular scales, the silly snout....it's the serpentine reincarnation of Donald Duck, as Carl Barks used to portray him!

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Love me some greasy German bratwurst!

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kkchome
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Re: Donald, the Chinese Pearl Snake

Post by kkchome » September 18th, 2010, 6:41 am

Outstanding photos, Hans. That's a magnificent animal. :thumb: :thumb: :thumb:

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Re: Donald, the Chinese Pearl Snake

Post by monklet » September 18th, 2010, 8:07 am

Beautiful snakes and photos to match. Your "bowl o' leaves" works really well! Be sure to post when you find a big adult.

Biolog_Guy TN
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Re: Donald, the Chinese Pearl Snake

Post by Biolog_Guy TN » September 18th, 2010, 8:22 am

Great photos of a gorgeous snake, Hans! Thanks for sharing.





John Maxwell

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justinm
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Re: Donald, the Chinese Pearl Snake

Post by justinm » September 18th, 2010, 4:15 pm

Grandma my what big eyes you have. I like sighthunting snakes, this was a new one for me.

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Re: Donald, the Chinese Pearl Snake

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » September 18th, 2010, 5:54 pm

Thanks, everyone!
monklet wrote:Be sure to post when you find a big adult.
Here are two I posted before: one, two.

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crocdoc
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Re: Donald, the Chinese Pearl Snake

Post by crocdoc » September 19th, 2010, 4:37 am

Beautiful photos of a stunning snake!

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Tim Borski
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Re: Donald, the Chinese Pearl Snake

Post by Tim Borski » September 19th, 2010, 6:36 am

Hans, that's a gorgeous little critter. Maybe I missed it, but how big is top end?
Please keep us posted when you turn up an adult. :beer:
Tim

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Re: Donald, the Chinese Pearl Snake

Post by monklet » September 19th, 2010, 9:28 am

Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote:
monklet wrote:Be sure to post when you find a big adult.
Here are two I posted before
Oh yeah, love this pic! Sure looks a lot like the juvenile, darn near as nice!
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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Re: Donald, the Chinese Pearl Snake

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » September 19th, 2010, 5:10 pm

Tim, top end is 220 cm (7.21784777 feet)

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klawnskale
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Re: Donald, the Chinese Pearl Snake

Post by klawnskale » September 19th, 2010, 5:36 pm

Die Schlange sagte, die bratwurst Schmecht sehr gut..

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Re: Donald, the Chinese Pearl Snake

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » September 19th, 2010, 5:54 pm

klawnskale wrote:Die Schlange sagte, die bratwurst Schmecht sehr gut..
ROTFL! Yeah, I guess he did like it. BTW, it seems he's gotten used to me now...peeks out of his little house all the time and observes me at work (just now, as I'm typing this). Whether he's just pretending to be nice in order to eventually ambush me for more of that bratwurst, or whether I'm just lucky with this species, I don't know. But I think I'll keep him. Around here, finding frogs for him in winter is as easy as finding skeeters in summer.

Or is that a bad idea? What about him maybe becoming (or already being) "ecologically dead" once he's been in captivity for a while?

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dezertwerx
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Re: Donald, the Chinese Pearl Snake

Post by dezertwerx » September 19th, 2010, 6:18 pm

Beautiful snake!

Paul White
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Re: Donald, the Chinese Pearl Snake

Post by Paul White » September 19th, 2010, 9:55 pm

is it endangered or protected? can you care for it?
If the first answerss no and the second's yes then go for it.
Those are pretty! Sorta like to keep one myself...very neat. but then It hink that about most old world stuff you post.

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Re: Donald, the Chinese Pearl Snake

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » September 19th, 2010, 10:06 pm

Thanks, Paul.
Paul White wrote:is it endangered or protected?
Neither
can you care for it?
Looks like it. I've been keeping ten other snakes of various families, diet and demeanor for the past year and all of them have been doing quite well. And this one eats like a feral pig, so I guess I'm golden :-)

The thing that worries me most, though, is he will be able to fend for himself when I release him back into the wild next summer when I move to Borneo? Or must he stay in captivity for the rest of his (up to ten year long) life? That's what I meant with "ecologically dead".

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klawnskale
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Re: Donald, the Chinese Pearl Snake

Post by klawnskale » September 20th, 2010, 7:17 am

But I think I'll keep him. Around here, finding frogs for him in winter is as easy as finding skeeters in summer.

Or is that a bad idea? What about him maybe becoming (or already being) "ecologically dead" once he's been in captivity for a while?[/quote]

Hans: I dont know what the captive wildlife laws for herps are in Taiwan, I can only speak for California, USA. It is technically illegal to release a herp back into the wild that has been a captive for any length of time. The main reason for this law are the concerns of introducing parasites, diseases that the captive may have been exposed to and possibly carry back into the wild populations of herps. This law was primarily the result of the impact from released desert tortoises that eventually spread RTI to tortoises out into the wild.
Unless you keep the snake isolated from the rest of your captive collection and practice diligent biosecurity, I wouldn't recommend releasing the animal if you intend to keep it. And if you do release it, be sure it is at the EXACT same spot you found it (GPS coordinates are helpful for this).

Paul White
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Re: Donald, the Chinese Pearl Snake

Post by Paul White » September 20th, 2010, 2:30 pm

letting LTC's go is frowned on here, so make sure you can take him with ya to Borneo. Make sure you take your cameras too or we'll....hmm....be sad?

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Hans Breuer (twoton)
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Re: Donald, the Chinese Pearl Snake

Post by Hans Breuer (twoton) » September 20th, 2010, 4:46 pm

Thanks, klawnskale and Paul! I'll keep him through the winter then, show him to the kids in my snake classes, and then next year give him to some other snake keeper. There are already a bunch of people scratching at my door to take over my collection :-)

PS: Not to be a snobby old fart, but GPS? Sheesh. I rarely ever forget where I've caught or seen a snake....then again, I've been doing all this only for two years - let's see how things are a decade from now.

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