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Horrible Habu, Heroically Hooked!

Posted: October 12th, 2010, 3:10 am
by Hans Breuer (twoton)
Yesterday an old German classmate from my Chinese-cramming days at Fu Ren University in Taipei visited me. Till lives in the southern city of Tainan and came up north for a job interview in town and an overnight stay at my house. I neither drink booze (quit eleven years ago) nor do I have TV reception (quit seven years ago), and to provide some after-dinner entertainment, I took my friend herping. Among other things, Till is a film academy graduate and a diving instructor, so he had some prior knowledge about two very important elements of our noble sport: cameras and elapids, the latter mostly in the form of sea snakes.

Arriving on my favorite cruising road, we immediately spotted a forty-inch Many-banded krait (Bungarus m. multicinctus) crossing the pavement. I left the car to secure the beast and show it off to my guest, only to find out that I had left the hook in the car, and was also sans headlamp. After a bit of frantic communication, Till managed to find the two required life-saving utensils somewhere in the colossal mess that is the inside of my van, and, holding the krait on the hook (which is like trying to keep snot on a needle - it just never stays up there),I commenced to give an ad hoc show-and-tell about the animal's main traits. In my opinion, these are the toxicity that is in stark contrast to the snake's ├╝ber-timid personality, as well as the species' relationship to the sea kraits (Laticauda sp.). Till complained that I had left him in the dark about our snake hunting trip - had he known, he would have brought a proper video camera. But he valiantly made do with the gear at hand, namely an iPhone (didn't know you could film with those things!).

I didn't take any pictures of the krait (seen one, seen them all, unless they're over four feet), and soon we were heading further down the road, searching for more serpents to show to the visitor, and little frogs to feed Donald. After a couple of common snakes - a Dinodon rufozonatum yearling and a Bamboo viper - we were treated to the beautiful sight of a very muscular, 50-inch Taiwan habu (Protobothrops mucrosquamatus). During my morning walk in the same area I had seen two DOR habus of the same size, and had hoped to find a similarly large one during our night outing. For once, my wish was granted.

The habu was sitting in a very narrow section of the road. To facilitate traffic flow, I needed to pull over further up the road, which meant Till had to control the snake until I got back from parking the van. I gave Till a crash-course in hooking snakes in general and large pitvipers in particular, pointing out the importance of keeping the hook as far away from the ground as possible to keep the snake from getting any ideas about jumping off. Till followed my instructions well - too well, actually. The space on the road between the dense vegetation and the car was too narrow to leave much room for a human plus a snake-loaded hook, and when I drove past my hook-holding friend, for a second the snake's large, intimidating mug was looking me in the eye through the open car window from just a few inches distance. Gullllp...

When I got back to the scene, Till had already mastered the tricky art of snake hooking, and we took turns photographing and rasslin' the beast. I was a bit miffed at myself for not bringing my ring flash, since that would have afforded me f/ stops above eight and ISO numbers below eight hundred. The first picture, by the way, is not the result of Twoton, World-Class Danger Freak, stuffing a short lens up the long maw of Taiwan's largest pitviper. Rather, it's what I call a "Coward's Close-up" - cropped from the last picture in the series. I would hereby like to formally thank the inventors of the RAW format for allowing me to create hot-dawgin' stunt photos without actually risking my sweet patootie....

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Re: Horrible Habu, Heroically Hooked!

Posted: October 12th, 2010, 3:45 am
by stlouisdude
As I read this post I could just imagine you saying, "Hey buddy, hold this venomous snake. I'll be right back!".

Re: Horrible Habu, Heroically Hooked!

Posted: October 12th, 2010, 5:52 am
by Dr. Dark
Wow, what a beautiful animal! That elongated head is amazing. Nice pics!

Re: Horrible Habu, Heroically Hooked!

Posted: October 12th, 2010, 6:00 am
by dezertwerx
cool looking snake

Re: Horrible Habu, Heroically Hooked!

Posted: October 12th, 2010, 7:18 am
by klawnskale
Hah! I wasn't aware Habus have elongated heads very much like Fea's Viper. Thanks for sharing.

Re: Horrible Habu, Heroically Hooked!

Posted: October 12th, 2010, 8:22 am
by Jimmy_77
Nice pics, the "flanges" around the heatpits are very visible. Very characteristic for Protobothrops. :)

Re: Horrible Habu, Heroically Hooked!

Posted: October 12th, 2010, 9:06 am
by RenoBart
That snake is really pretty. I like how long the head is.

Bart

Re: Horrible Habu, Heroically Hooked!

Posted: October 12th, 2010, 11:28 pm
by Hans Breuer (twoton)
Thanks for the comments!
stlouisdude wrote:As I read this post I could just imagine you saying, "Hey buddy, hold this venomous snake. I'll be right back!".
That was pretty much how it happened :-)

Re: Horrible Habu, Heroically Hooked!

Posted: October 15th, 2010, 8:17 am
by Viridovipera
Awesome post! :thumb:

I've only ever seen these snakes pickled in museum jars, but whenever I did see them I always wondered about 1) the dramatic head shape and 2) their drastically skinny neck compared to their body. This one posted here is quite the fatty, but usually their necks are much skinnier than the rest of their body. Any idea why this would be? I know they do eat birds occasionally, but mostly chow down on rodents. Have you ever found them in trees or above the ground, Hans? I'd love to hear your theories on the use of such a skinny neck.

-Alex

Re: Horrible Habu, Heroically Hooked!

Posted: October 15th, 2010, 2:34 pm
by The Real Snake Man
Awesome Alliteration, Albeit Annoying!

Very cool snake, the close-ups are impressive.

Re: Horrible Habu, Heroically Hooked!

Posted: October 15th, 2010, 3:56 pm
by Hans Breuer (twoton)
The Real Snake Man wrote:Awesome Alliteration, Albeit Annoying!
1 Original Poster Likes This :thumb:

As to the skinny neck, I can only assume that Protobothrops mucrosquamatus never managed to gain access to local gyms. Probably because of its awkward name that they kept misspelling on the application form.

Or, the neck affords them quick side-to-side reflexes efficient for hunting quick prey?

This snake is 100% terrestrial. The only times you find it above-ground is when it's basking on top of thick roots, rocks, or little Earth God shrines in the woods (no joke, that's where I found my first live one). And to think that this snake used to belong to the Trimeresurus, aka Little Green Tree Viper complex! Unbelievable how lazy scientists can be.

Re: Horrible Habu, Heroically Hooked!

Posted: October 16th, 2010, 11:39 am
by DaveR
Nice animal. Is that the road you found it on...with the center stripe in the middle? If so, those are some narrow roads. More like a bike path. Those are some of the nicest pictures of a Habu I've ever seen.

Re: Horrible Habu, Heroically Hooked!

Posted: October 16th, 2010, 6:13 pm
by Hans Breuer (twoton)
Thanks! Yes, that's the road. But there is no center stripe in the middle. The white stripes to the left and right are the margins of the road.

Re: Horrible Habu, Heroically Hooked!

Posted: October 18th, 2010, 4:07 am
by Viridovipera
Hans Breuer (twoton) wrote: And to think that this snake used to belong to the Trimeresurus, aka Little Green Tree Viper complex! Unbelievable how lazy scientists can be.
And to think some Trimeresurus used to be in Agkistrodon.....

Re: Horrible Habu, Heroically Hooked!

Posted: October 18th, 2010, 4:11 am
by Hans Breuer (twoton)
Really? Which ones?