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 Post subject: Taiwan 2017 roundup
PostPosted: January 22nd, 2018, 7:18 pm 
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Joined: September 26th, 2012, 5:45 am
Posts: 79
Location: Taiwan
Hello all. Just thought I should post this hodgepodge of 2017 Taiwan herp photos before we get any further into 2018.

I was pretty happy with last year's haul. I didn't feel like my herping technique was really up to snuff in 2016 and while I can't honestly say that practice made perfect in 2017, perhaps I'd agree that practice made slightly better. Mind you, 2016 yielded somewhat more in the way of rarer species, so maybe beginner's luck trumps practice making perfect. I still have doubts about my herping skills, unfortunately, since several common species continue to elude me: I can count on the fingers of no hands the number of times I've spotted Sauter's grass snake or the checkered keelback, for instance.

But enough rambling. Snakes first. I'll list the pictures according to the frequency of species seen (hint: meaning the rarest is right at the end). There's a slight discrepancy between snakes spotted and number of individuals counted, since I probably saw individuals multiple times in slightly different locations or in the same locations but weeks apart, but I don't think this uncertainty affects the overall rankings too much.

The most common species I saw in terms of confirmed individuals was the red-banded snake. Despite their abundance, I like them. Chunky bruisers, they're generally pretty active and come in a variety of flavours. I see them all over the place, in contrast to some others with much more localised sightings. I definitely saw less of these as the year progressed though, and I was worried that green tree vipers might overtake them on my list. Happily that awful state of affairs didn't come to pass.

Dinodon rufozonatum
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The Chinese green tree viper came second, but maybe first, on my list. I saw more of these in total than the red-banded snake, but I have to be honest ... they all look the same to me! So my gross total probably included a number of repeat sightings. I don't see these in the gargantuan numbers that some herpers do - some allegedly managing 50 or so in a single night, if you can believe that. Which I'm not sure I can. Well anyway, I'm not "some people", and that's more like the number I see over the course of an entire year. Cool, rainy weather is definitely when I saw these with the most frequency.

Trimeresurus stejnegeri
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Eating a frog!
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Next, the Taiwan habu. Is this one still in Protobothrops? I don't know ... I don't follow these raging taxonomy debates any more. It seems like that genus should have been renamed by now, or else this species should have been plopped into another one.

Protobothrops mucrosquamatus
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Eating a frog! A very small juvenile eating quite a big frog. And with a leech to contend with too.
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The many-banded krait sneaks into the coveted fourth place in the list. They're fun to watch as they don't usually seem too perturbed by spectators, and even when they do decide to beat a retreat it's seldom a hasty one ... they often just twist lazily into miniscule cracks you didn't even know were there. Sometimes I can't find the cracks afterwards, even though I'm staring right at the place where the snake just vanished. Krait magic!

Bungarus multicinctus
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Eating a skink! Or trying to anyway. The skink was still there and the snake nowhere to be seen when I returned an hour later. I hope I didn't scare it off. Maybe forget all that stuff about kraits not being perturbed by onlookers. Anyway, I've seen kraits eating three times, and it's always been skinks they've been working on.
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The greater green snake. These are mostly diurnal, though like a few other diurnal species they'll hunt at night (for worms, in this case) if conditions are right. I've only seen them asleep in the trees or on their way to their sleeping berths though. No complaints there; they're gorgeous snakes and easy to photograph when their chosen bunks are at eye level, which they often are.

Cyclophiops major
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The square-headed cat-eyed snake. A lovely, long, wiggly species, which comes in a few different colour patterns.

Boiga kraepelini
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Another one steadily encountered, at least in cool rainy weather, was the local slug-eating snake. This species is only mildly different from the other two Pareas species on the island - eye-colour, jaw length, etc - but it's the only one I've seen due to my inability to get my backside far enough away from Taipei.

Pareas atayal
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Eating a slug!
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RAARH!
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The Taiwan wolf snake, a.k.a. Ruhstrat's wolf snake, known locally as the plum blossom snake. I struggled to see this one for the first few months, despite seeing them relatively frequently in 2016, but numbers picked up as the year wore on.

Lycodon ruhstrati
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For the Taiwan kukri snake, as for the wolf snake, it was a similar case of drought followed by deluge, or at least drizzle. After months of not seeing any I was pretty chuffed about spotting my first of the year worming its way out of a crack in the paving at - for me - the relatively far-flung destination of Taoyuan's Hutou Mountain.

Oligodon formosanus
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Then on my way back home later that night I decided to walk across the croquet lawns at the end of my street. And of course there was a kukri snake poking around the wall.
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And the next day, in the little dog-walking park at the other end of my street, there was another one. And so on ... I got a couple more before the end of the year.
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The cross-looking mock viper next. (That's not an actual name ... I added the "cross-looking" part as a descriptive. It's cross-looking because of the supra-ocular scales.) I don't know how well I'd say they mimic vipers ... actually I'd say that in my opinion they don't do a very good job at all, but give them a million or so years and maybe they'll get there. Mind you, what might the vipers look like in a million or so years?

Psammodynastes pulverulentus papenfussi
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As in 2016, this was one of the rare snakes I saw during the day. (My seeing a snake during the day was rare, that is, not the species. It's actually quite common.)
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By happy coincidence, following the mock viper in the rankings is the false viper, a.k.a. the false habu. Compare and contrast. I'd say they do a somewhat better job of mimicking vipers than the previous species, to my eye at least, and of course they do that thing where they puff up their heads to look more habu-ish. That's very cool, I think you'll agree. They look a little bit cross, but not as cross as the mock vipers, and certainly nowhere near as cross as the actual pitvipers. We're getting down to pretty low numbers here, and I didn't think I was going to get a decent picture of this one, especially after blowing a brief encounter mid-year. But all's well, etc, as I came across a nice big specimen in the middle of a stream at the end of June, and then a beautiful juvenile in September.

Macropisthodon rudis
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And down to a species of which I managed only a couple of sightings in Taiwan in 2017, plus one on a very quick non-herping trip to Okinawa: the Brahminy blind snake, which I see has moved to a new genus since I last looked it up. I love this snake, and I don't care what anybody says about it.

On a side note: in common with most herpers I have a mysterious sixth sense which tells me when conditions are perfect for snake-spotting success. Unfortunately, my sixth sense seems to be very finicky, and generally won't work if conditions are wet, dry, windy, still, cool or warm. But anyway, these pictures were taken on one of the rare occasions when my instincts actually held true. I had a feeling I was going to see a blind snake, and so I did. Nothing to do with coincidence.

Indotyphlops braminus
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Now, rat snakes. I have a thorny relationship with these. The bulk of 2017 followed the same pattern as 2016, i.e. a pattern of not seeing any at all, but then towards the end of the year I managed a few frustrating encounters. I do almost all my prowling at night, but occasionally diurnal species such as rat snakes will put in an appearance after dark. Most nocturnal snakes I see are quite easy to follow and photograph, either because they're motionless, slow-moving, brazen, sleeping in trees or just so small that you can easily manouevre around them. Diurnal snakes are just completely alien beasts to me, with their rapid motion and squirrely behaviour. When I see one of these, my reaction is generally just to stand there with my mouth hanging open, not chasing and not taking pictures. As a strategy for getting good photos it works about as well as you'd expect.

The rat snake I saw most (ha ha ... three times) was the Oriental rat snake / Dhaman rat snake, which is apparently less common in the north than in the tropical south. As described above, a couple of these encounters involved me either standing there immobile or lumbering ineffectually after a disappearing tail, and I was starting to think I'd have to make do with a couple of fuzzy snaps I'd managed to grab on one such dispiriting encounter. Luckily on my last day of herping in 2017 I finally stumbled across an obedient juvenile in a ditch.

Ptyas mucosa
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The first rat snake of the year I encountered was actually the King rat snake. It was a frustrating event that left me with a stinking hand and a single photo of the tail. (I shouldn't be so prejudiced against tail pictures, I suppose ... who says photos have to be of heads?) Luckily I was able to get a couple of grainy pictures of another one skulking at the back of a drainage pipe in the Baling area a month or so later. Still not great stuff, but I'll take what I can get. And at least these are head shots.

Elaphe carinata
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Next, the Taiwan beauty snake, which I'd previously only seen dead in ditches or on roads. Under pressure for traditional medicine because - the thinking goes - beautiful snake skin obviously corresponds with beautiful human skin. Again, this one was skulking in a drainage pipe. Presumably the only reason it was so agreeable to being photographed was it that it couldn't see me. I saw another in a drain a little later and it skedaddled into a crevice as soon as I shone my light in.

Orthriophis taeniurus friesei
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And down to single sightings now. This one's a water snake, which I assume is a Sinonatrix percarinata, but if anybody wants to convince me it's the rarer Sinonatrix annularis I'll be very easy to talk to. Bad photos, I know, but better than I thought I'd get as I fought a losing battle with the camera's autofocus. Happily for me, the snake popped up ten minutes later, periscope-style, and then went about its business as I took marginally less-crummy shots at my leisure.

Sinonatrix percarinata
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One of the last snakes of the year, and by far the rarest I managed in 2017, the Alishan habu. This would have had me jumping for joy on the backwoods track where I saw it, except I'd just taken a phone call with some bad news and felt a bit unmotivated about stopping to take pictures. It was even striking at passing bats, though I didn't manage to capture that. I feel better about the pictures now, but this encounter will always trigger slightly less happy memories for me. A gobsmackingly beautiful snake though.

Ovophis monticola makazayazaya ... or Ovophis makazayazaya, depending on your taxonomic preferences
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And I will leave on that high point for now. Thanks for looking. Anurans and sundry other lifeforms later, when I can find the time.


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan 2017 roundup
PostPosted: January 24th, 2018, 9:55 am 

Joined: November 4th, 2010, 7:02 pm
Posts: 95
Great post, thanks for putting in the time to share your pictures. One of these days I'll have to stop visiting Latin America and make it over that way, lots of cool stuff.

Dan


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan 2017 roundup
PostPosted: January 24th, 2018, 7:42 pm 
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Joined: September 26th, 2012, 5:45 am
Posts: 79
Location: Taiwan
Thanks for the comment Dan. Nothing wrong with Latin America either, in my opinion.

A couple more pics I could have uploaded at the time, but which failed quality control standards of the day.

A freshly killed Sauter's grass snake found by the side of the road ... probably by the wheel of a scooter, possibly by the tip of a walking stick.

Amphiesma sauteri
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And where's Waldo? There's Waldo! And he's probably a buff-striped keelback, Amphiesma stolatum (I can't cross this one off the list, not on the basis of this glimpse.)


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan 2017 roundup
PostPosted: January 24th, 2018, 7:48 pm 
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Joined: September 26th, 2012, 5:45 am
Posts: 79
Location: Taiwan
A few more pics. Sundry reptiles, in no particular order.

The first turtle - or terrapin, as I was brought up to call them - lives in the little pond at the end of my street, along wih a small Ocadia sinensis. I can't imagine they came to be there naturally, in a little park surrounded by residential buildings, but who knows.

The yellow pond turtle, Mauremys mutica
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The Chinese stripe-necked turtle, Ocadia sinensis
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Five-striped blue-tailed skinks, Plestiodon elegans. Always a good time, especially when they have their blue tails, which they don't always.

Blue-tailed five-striped blue-tailed skink
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Non-blue-tailed five-striped blue-tailed skink
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Japaluras. I had kind of a plan to make one of those little lizard-catching noose contraptions last year, so I could have a closer look at these guys, but it never happened.

The endemic Swinhoe's japalura, Japalura swinhonis.
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The yellow-mouthed japalura, Japalura polygonata xanthostoma, the subspecies endemic to Taiwan.
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And some kind of gecko or other. I see geckos everywhere, but to my discredit I just tend to keep on walking. I'm hopeless with gecko identification ... one of the many things in my life of which I feel deeply ashamed.
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Thanks for looking. Still working on those frog pics.


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan 2017 roundup
PostPosted: January 24th, 2018, 9:09 pm 
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Joined: June 9th, 2010, 9:57 pm
Posts: 513
Location: North end of Lake Okeechobee, Florida
Great stuff numpty! That was a supersized helping of eye candy for sure. I was especially captivated by the exquisite "paint job" on the face of the Ovophis, which you captured beautifully in the last two close ups. :thumb: :beer: :thumb:


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan 2017 roundup
PostPosted: January 26th, 2018, 6:34 pm 
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Joined: September 26th, 2012, 5:45 am
Posts: 79
Location: Taiwan
Thanks John. Couldn't agree more about the Ovophis, though I really can't take any credit for the photography. Strictly point and shoot stuff.

Anyway, to finish off, some amphibians. I didn't manage to make it up to the high hills to look for salamanders last year, but I've been finding it an increasingly depressing experience to go up to the mountains to find Hynobius habitat in worse and worse shape, so maybe I'm happy I spared myself that mental stress.

Frogs though ... plenty of them. In no particular order. Apologies if the names are out of date ... I just can't keep up with taxonomy.

Bufo bankorensis. This one's quite a nifty climber, as seen on the following vertical surface. I don't seem to have taken many photos of this species last year, which is a shame.
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The common Asian toad / spectacled toad, Duttaphrynus melanostictus.
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LaTouche's frog, Hylarana latouchii. I always assumed that La Touche must have been some French naturalist, but now I find out he was an Irish ornithologist.
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A rice field frog / Asian grass frog ... part of the complicated Fejervarya complex, but for now we'll go with Fejervarya limnocharis. I can't believe this is the only pic of this species I bothered to upload from last year. Oh well, familiarity breeds contempt, I guess.
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The Chinese edible frog / East Asian bullfrog, Hoplobatrachus rugulosus, spotted just up the road from my apartment after an unseasonal mid-year deluge that seemed to encourage a few individuals to explore new territories.
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Gunther's frog, Hylarana guentheri.
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The Fujian large-headed frog, Limnonectes fujianensis, looking particularly large-headed here, I think.
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The gorgeous Odorrana swinhoana, in a few different patterns.
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There are a few narrow-mouthed frogs in Taiwan, but the one up here in the north is Microhyla fissipes.
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Here's an allegedly different Microhyla snapped in Okinawa, Japan. I don't know ... it looks the same as M. fissipes to me ...

Microhyla okinavensis
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A new one for me, an American bullfrog, Lithobates catesbeianus, I think. Invasive obviously ... booo!
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And on the topic of invasives, I imagine you're all as worked up as I am about the ever-growing population of spot-legged tree frogs in Taiwan, right? Every year I see more and more of these, either in places where I never saw any tree frogs before, or in places where I previously only saw indigenous species such as the white-lipped tree frog. I even see the invasive Polypedates in the little park at the end of my street now, and that's completely surrounded by buildings and tarmac. Quite impressive for a stowaway that's apparently only been on the island for ten years or so. Much as I resent it, I seem to take a lot of photos of it ...

Polypedates megacephalus
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And the indigenous counterpart, Polypedates braueri.
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Some more tree frogs.

Our sole representative of the Hyla mob, Hyla chinensis.
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Kurixalus idiootocus, endemic but very common.
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The not-really-but-almost-endemic Kurixalus eiffingeri (it also appears on a few nearby Japanese islands). Known for the parental care practiced in the tree holes or crevices in which it lays its eggs (male egg guarding, female trophic egg feeding). There are a couple of newly described sister species scattered around the island, but I haven't made it far enough to see them yet.
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The robust Buerger's frog, Buergeria robusta. (Is there a fragile Buerger's frog?) This one comes in a variety of pretty colours.
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The emerald green tree frog, Rhacophorus prasinatus. Endemic.
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Moltrecht's green tree frog, Rhacophorus moltrechti. Endemic. Probably my favourite of the local green tree frogs on account of the spectacular red legs, which through expert positioning I managed not to capture here.
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The Taipei green tree frog. Another endemic. This is a species I usually have to travel a little way to see, but this first one appeared not far from my apartment after a week-long deluge that drenched the island at the start of June, and which seemed to encourage some frogs to move to hitherto uncharted territory. Or something.

Rhacophorus taipeianus
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And a couple of others up in Yangmingshan National Park.
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And some other random stuff that probably has no right being on a herping Website. Nonetheless, I'm especially proud of the first pic, which I'm pretty sure will prove to be one of the first photos of a mythical beast previously known only from Latin America. If confirmed, this will be an exciting East Asian extension of its presumed hypothetical distribution in the Americas.

Chupacabra ...
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A grimy shot of a lounging masked palm civet, Paguma larvata, watching me at its leisure.
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Not a great picture, but a giant flying squirrel, Petaurista philippensis.
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Chinese ferret-badger, Melogale moschata.
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An owl, owl.
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And some stuff I'm not even going to bother putting names to, but which might be of passing interest nonetheless.

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Thanks for making it this far. Hope you found something worthwhile!


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan 2017 roundup
PostPosted: August 8th, 2018, 9:40 pm 
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Joined: February 15th, 2015, 8:13 pm
Posts: 31
Location: Malaysia
The Ovophis monticola and Blue-tailed five-striped blue-tailed skink are my favourite. I havent seen them yet in Taiwan or anywhere else


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan 2017 roundup
PostPosted: September 18th, 2018, 8:16 pm 
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Joined: May 25th, 2011, 10:13 pm
Posts: 118
Location: OKlahoma
Nice post with amazing photos! Thanks for sharing!

That Sinonatrix is definatly S. annularis, given the clear ventral bands and reddish coloration on the venter. I heard they are very rare in Taiwan now, you are very lucky!

Kai


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 Post subject: Re: Taiwan 2017 roundup
PostPosted: September 26th, 2018, 10:24 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
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Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
What a haul! Love the ferret-badger ... great shots! How did he allow you to get this close, and why did he hold still this long?


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