Herping in Nepal (really, actual herping!) - part 2

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Paul Freed
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Herping in Nepal (really, actual herping!) - part 2

Post by Paul Freed » December 27th, 2019, 11:28 am

Continuing on my adventure in Nepal, I'm currently in Chitwan National Park...
Colorful grasshoppers mating on the ground of the national park
Colorful grasshoppers mating on the ground of the national park
Since entry into the park at night was prohibited, we walked around the outskirts of town in search of frogs, lizards, and snakes. Numerous frogs were observed both in roadside ditches and in the surrounding rice fields. The most common ones were Skittering Frogs (Euphlyctis cyanophlyctis), the Terai Cricket Frog (Minervarya teraiensis), Chitwan and Roland’s Burrowing Frogs (Sphaerotheca maskeyi and S. rolandae) and the Indian Bullfrog (Hoplobatrachus tigerinus). But the occasional Painted Globular Frog (Uperodon taprobanicus) and the Asian Common Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) could also be seen. The ubiquitous, Common Garden Lizards (Calotes versicolor) were easily spotted sleeping on the thinnest of twigs overhanging the road.
One of the more common frog species in the park, the Terai Cricket Frog, Minervarya teraiensis
One of the more common frog species in the park, the Terai Cricket Frog, Minervarya teraiensis
Chitwan Burrowing Frog, a species similar to the North American, Spadefoot Toads in that they also have small 'spades' on their hind feet
Chitwan Burrowing Frog, a species similar to the North American, Spadefoot Toads in that they also have small 'spades' on their hind feet
Rolanda's Burrowing Frog, another common frog species in the park
Rolanda's Burrowing Frog, another common frog species in the park
A Painted Globular Frog rests on foliage by a roadside ditch
A Painted Globular Frog rests on foliage by a roadside ditch
Scanning roadside ditches has proven rather productive in terms of finding herps as these channels make excellent traps for smaller species of amphibians and reptiles. I was however, rather surprised to find a three-meter-long Burmese Python (Python bivittatus) crawling slowly along the bottom of one. Not wanting to chance a possible vehicular encounter with this snake, I removed it and carried it into the nearby woods.
A Burmese Python found in a roadside ditch
A Burmese Python found in a roadside ditch
Within seconds of spotting the snake, dozens of the local people swarmed around me, some curious but many of them frightened. As I set the snake deep into the woods, a man, who was apparently drunk, was screaming at me in his native language and wielding a large stick with which he attempted to repeatedly hit the snake. I tried to calmly explain that the snake was not dangerous and that it should be left alone. My words apparently had no impact and I left him still screaming at the snake in the dark. I was later assured by the local authorities that he would not kill the snake as that would guarantee him going to jail.

Another large snake found in one of the roadside ditches was an adult Banded Krait (Bungarus fasciatus) apparently hit by a vehicle and made its way into the ditch before succumbing to its injuries.
Roadside ditch with an adult dead Banded Krait
Roadside ditch with an adult dead Banded Krait
DOR Banded Krait
DOR Banded Krait
The Tarai Narrow-mouthed Frog (Microhyla taraiensis) found on the road near the Burmese Python
The Tarai Narrow-mouthed Frog (Microhyla taraiensis) found on the road near the Burmese Python
Due to the high temperatures we were experiencing at Chitwan, the daytime average was in the mid-30s C, (mid 90s F), and due to our relatively poor herping success we decided to venture into areas at higher altitudes. Just prior to our departure from the park we took one last look at the banks of the Narayani River hoping to get one more look at the Gavials, but the only reptile out was a Ganges Soft-shelled Turtle, Nilssonia gangetica.
A Ganges Soft-shelled Turtle, Nilssonia gangetica basking on the bank of the Narayani River
A Ganges Soft-shelled Turtle, Nilssonia gangetica basking on the bank of the Narayani River
We teamed up with the Director of the Turtle Conservation Center, (Tapil Prakash Rai) who accompanied us for several days to the region around Ilam. Here the elevation was between 1500-1700 meters (ca. 5000-5500 feet) and the temperatures were much milder, 22-25 C (low to mid 70s F).

The drive north towards Ilam yielded a number of diverse wildlife species including a large colony of Flying Foxes (Pteropus sp.), Tarai Gray Langurs (Semnopithecus hector), and a handsome Jungle Owlet (Glaucidium radiatum).
A large colony of Flying Foxes (fruit bats) en route to higher elevations
A large colony of Flying Foxes (fruit bats) en route to higher elevations
Flying Fox in flight
Flying Fox in flight
A Tarai Gray Langur watches nervously as we stop to photograph it
A Tarai Gray Langur watches nervously as we stop to photograph it
Jungle Owlet in roadside forest
Jungle Owlet in roadside forest
With Tapil’s help, we found several interesting amphibian species, notably, Nepal’s only salamander, the Himalayan Crocodile Newt, Tylototriton himalayanus (previously considered to be T. verrucosus), the country’s smallest frog, the Himalayan Foam-nest Frog, Raorchestes annandalii (recently, Philautus annandalii), Himalayan Toads (Duttaphrynus himalayanus), Tiger Frogs, (Hoplobatrachus tigerinus), and diminutive Terai Cricket Frogs, Minervarya (recently in the genus Fejervarya) teraiensis were also seen.
Habitat of the Himalayan Crocodile Newt
Habitat of the Himalayan Crocodile Newt
Himalayan Crocodile Newt, in situ in shallow pond
Himalayan Crocodile Newt, in situ in shallow pond
Larval of Himalayan Crocodile Newt, Tylototriton himalayanus
Larval of Himalayan Crocodile Newt, Tylototriton himalayanus
Himalayan Foam-nest Frog, Nepal's smallest frog
Himalayan Foam-nest Frog, Nepal's smallest frog
At less than 3/4 of an inch long, an adult Himalayan Foam-nest Frog is vulnerable to predation by many creatures
At less than 3/4 of an inch long, an adult Himalayan Foam-nest Frog is vulnerable to predation by many creatures
A Himalayan Toad, one of the largest species of amphibians in Nepal
A Himalayan Toad, one of the largest species of amphibians in Nepal
A number of reptiles were also encountered, including an endemic Bent-toed Gecko (Cyrtodactylus cf. martinstollii), a Three Keeled Mountain Lizard (Japalura tricarinata), Sikkim Ground Skink (Asymblepharus sikkimensis), Common Garden Lizards (Calotes versicolor), and even the cosmopolitan and parthenogenic, Brahminy Blindsnake (Indotyphlops braminus).
An endemic Bent-toed Gecko
An endemic Bent-toed Gecko
Habitat where the Bent-toed Gecko (Cyrtodactylus  martinstollii) was found at night
Habitat where the Bent-toed Gecko (Cyrtodactylus martinstollii) was found at night
Female Three Keeled Mountain Lizard seen at night on low-hanging vegetation
Female Three Keeled Mountain Lizard seen at night on low-hanging vegetation
Sikkim Ground Skink
Sikkim Ground Skink
This Brahminy Blindsnake was found crawling up a wall at night near the main raod
This Brahminy Blindsnake was found crawling up a wall at night near the main raod
And while Nepal is not often thought of as a ‘must see’ herpetological destination, its incredible natural beauty, exotic cuisine and extremely helpful and friendly local people certainly make it worth exploring.

Enjoy!

Paul

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Carl Brune
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Re: Herping in Nepal (really, actual herping!) - part 2

Post by Carl Brune » December 27th, 2019, 8:52 pm

Cool post. I work with a bunch of Nepalese physics graduate students. I'd like to visit there someday1

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Chaitanya
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Re: Herping in Nepal (really, actual herping!) - part 2

Post by Chaitanya » December 28th, 2019, 6:02 am

Nice finds. Indian states neighbouring Nepal offer similar herp fauna so we dont have to venture across the border.

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Sky Islander
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Re: Herping in Nepal (really, actual herping!) - part 2

Post by Sky Islander » December 28th, 2019, 10:07 am

I like your short descriptions that give a hint at least to what is was like to herp in Nepal. It must be frustrating and heartening for the forested areas to be protected so vigilantly. The notion of night hiking a python and then having dozens of locals descend immediately upon you is difficult to fathom.
Thank you,
Goose

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Paul Freed
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Re: Herping in Nepal (really, actual herping!) - part 2

Post by Paul Freed » December 28th, 2019, 3:51 pm

You touched on it perfectly, Goose, all the local herpetologists we spoke to have lamented the fact that even they cannot enter any of the parks at night to conduct badly needed research. The exact words they used were, "extremely frustrating".

And, not only were we swarmed by so many of the local people upon encountering the python, but in his excitement, a young boy jumped up and landed on my camera that my wife had on the ground between her feet whereupon he broke my very expensive flash unit. I didn't find this out immediately since I was in the forest releasing the python at the time. My wife and I both felt bad for the boy because his parents were standing nearby and were horrified at his actions. We tried to assure them that it was okay and that we would be able to repair the damage and that it wasn't the child's fault. As visiting guests in their country we certainly didn't want them to feel bad for a mistake that we actually had made. (I shouldn't have put the camera on the ground in the first place.)

Thanks for your comments, Goose.

Paul

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jonathan
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Re: Herping in Nepal (really, actual herping!) - part 2

Post by jonathan » January 1st, 2020, 11:51 pm

I would very much love to find a crocodile newt one day. Even seeing a picture of a salamander larvae in Asia was a bit of a shock to the system. I really miss them.

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