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 Post subject: Borneo Dispatches #20: Huge Mangrove Snake on New Year's Eve
PostPosted: January 1st, 2012, 7:53 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
Posts: 3179
Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
One of our best finds in Borneo so far not only helped us bid farewell to the old year in proper style, but also rang in the new with just as much class. I'd been cooped up in the house with work for the better part of the past three weeks, and was jonesing for a wildlife encounter other than the transvestite cashiers at the local supermarket. Since there were no private New Year's parties we wanted to attend, and public ones never having been my thing (beery expats at the Victoria Arms Pub, crying into each other's drinks and manhandling complete strangers with booze-enhanced affection...shudder), my son and I decided to go roadcruising in a mangrove swamp behind Kampong Bako (Bako Village, the boat terminal to the National Park) until the New Year galloped around. Who knew - maybe we would even find a snake!

The first hour of driving around the swamp and its tiny settlements didn't yield anything, but that was OK. The settlements were alive with fireworks (illegal, therefore very powerful stuff - if you do something outside the law, might as well overdo it), and the stars above the dark swamp were amazingly intense and close-up. We stopped for a walk down a trail into a large stand of nipah palms, where we did indeed see the tail of a Dog-Faced Watersnake (Cerberus rynchops) disappear under some palm roots. However, we cut the walk short after twenty minutes - I know too little about Crocodylus porosus to be sure that there weren't any around, and getting our butts ripped off by a hungry saltie wasn't what I had in mind for our New Year's celebration (if I had wanted mayhem, I might as well have gone to the Victoria Arms). So, on we drove.

Our icebox, formerly filled with Red Bull and canned espresso, was empty around eleven, as were our minds and the road. For a second we considered going home, but the idea of celebrating the advent of the New Year in a Bornean swamp was just too cool to give up, so we soldiered on.

And then, as it always happens, it happened. A rather large tree limb appeared on the road, a limb that with increasing proximity divulged black and yellow stripes, as well as a fat, black, glassy eye on one end, and the realization of what we were looking at slammed into our amygdalas with a rush many times more powerful than all the caffeinated beverages of the night combined.

Our first thought was "Banded Krait" (Bungarus fasciatus), but we had our doubts, because those are black and white around here. As we approached the frozen-in-the-headlights snake, it hit me. We had encountered this species before, but in slightly smaller size, and I remembered someone here on FHF telling me that he used to keep a seven-foot specimen. Now I believed it. The Mangrove Cat Snake (Boiga dendrophila) before us surely approached that length, and we couldn't believe our luck. A few tentative matador moves showed that the snake was quite bitey, but didn't seem to mind being tailed and hooked. Picking it up behind the head in a three-finger grip was not the smartest option, though - the animal was so strong that it twisted right out of my hand, and in light of its venom (mild, but still - swollen hands and non-stop retching were never my idea of fun) I didn't want to fist-grab it by the neck, as some people do with pythons. Oh, and it stank, too.

We had a field day (pun indented) with the beautiful beast, and spent more than an hour shooting it from every conceivable angle. At midnight, we wished each other a happy new year under the amazing starry sky of a coastal swamp in Borneo, holding a huge snake in our hands - it couldn't have been more romantic.

Then my son said "Hey Dad, look how dim our headlights are now." Well, Eff You See Kay me with a red-hot poker. We'd kept the car lights on for the entire photo shoot, as was my habit with my old truck, but little did I know that the battery in our Malaysian-made compact car was so anemic. Now we were stuck in that coastal swamp in Borneo, and prospects were (if you'll excuse another pun) dim. We were two miles from the next kampong, twenty from the next town, and a call to the Malaysia Automobile Club wouldn't have been of much use, since we didn't know how to explain to them where exactly we were (I had left my GPS at home, thinking that we would only stay on familiar roads that night. That won't happen again.). Our only choices were to sleep in the car or hope for somebody to come along.

And that's exactly what happened half an hour later. A middle-aged guy on a moped came puttering along, and we flagged him down. Amazingly, he spoke English (not the norm in that sort of neighborhood), and better yet, turned out to be the village cop. After hinting that this was a really bad choice of venue for a car breakdown, as the area "swarmed with gangsters", he whipped out his cell, made a short, barking call, and asked us to wait. Fifteen minutes later, three of his buddies appeared in a car, replete with jumper cable, and soon, after many thank-yous in three languages and a generous donation to their New Year's binge kitty, we were on our merry way home - and not a second too soon, because now all meteorological hell broke loose, as it only does in the inner tropics...

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It's a boy! (He plopped those out as a defensive measure)
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The Great Yellow Hunter
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Snake Rasslin' Extravaganza, starring International All-Stars: Stankey the Snake, Sweaty Smurf, and Busted Fly!

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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #20: Huge Mangrove Snake on New Year's
PostPosted: January 2nd, 2012, 2:56 am 
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Joined: February 6th, 2011, 9:09 pm
Posts: 466
Location: Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China
Nice find! It's been too cold here for just over a month now and won't be good enough to herp until March or so (depending on how bad the monsoons are this year). Subtropics vs Tropics..

My wife is expecting. And not just me arriving home this evening after martial arts class. I look forward to having a herping and martial arts companion in several years - no matter what sex it is! Then we need to move somewhere even warmer.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #20: Huge Mangrove Snake on New Year's
PostPosted: January 2nd, 2012, 3:06 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
Posts: 3179
Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Congratulations!!! Here's a tip from someone who's raising two kids in a Chinese environment: Eventually, the villagers will get troublesome with their inquiries about the child's gender. They're all sexist to the max, as they all want nothing but boys, even the women. Just tell them what I did back when: "Doesn't matter, as long as it ain't no cat or dog." That'll shut them up for a while.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #20: Huge Mangrove Snake on New Year's
PostPosted: January 2nd, 2012, 3:21 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 1:15 am
Posts: 567
Location: Austin, TX
Great find and even better narrative and photos, Hans!

I'm 99.9% sure this is the very first time I've read the word "amygdala" in an online post!! :lol:


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #20: Huge Mangrove Snake on New Year's
PostPosted: January 2nd, 2012, 3:39 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
Posts: 3179
Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Thanks, Mark! I could have said "lizard brain", which amounts to the same, but in THIS forum, people would surely misunderstand :-)

Incidentally, I learned the term "lizard brain" from Gemma Teller, who uses it to explain Opie's stepping out on his porn star wife (Sons of Anarchy, Season 4, Ep. 5). I looked it up, and viola - learned another, completely useless word!


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #20: Huge Mangrove Snake on New Year's
PostPosted: January 2nd, 2012, 3:43 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 1:15 am
Posts: 567
Location: Austin, TX
Heh heh.....ah, but there are no useless words! There are plenty of words with limited usage, but it's always fun to have that word on hand at the right moment, even if (or particularly if) all you get in return is a blank stare!


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #20: Huge Mangrove Snake on New Year's
PostPosted: January 2nd, 2012, 3:47 am 

Joined: June 8th, 2010, 1:17 am
Posts: 136
Quote:
beery expats at the Victoria Arms Pub, crying into each other's drinks and manhandling complete strangers with booze-enhanced affection...shudder


Amen to that (although I am talking your average singapore-city-pub, ewww)

Quote:
illegal, therefore very powerful stuff - if you do something outside the law, might as well overdo it


If you did the time, you might as well do the crime' kind of statement. NICE

Quote:
if I had wanted mayhem, I might as well have gone to the Victoria Arms


OMG :lol: !!!!

All in all, awesome post as usual, cute beast you got there!


Hey Maarten?

Quote:
And not just me arriving home this evening after martial arts class


Was this before or after you renamed a village into slaughtertown :P ? (If i recall correctly, it was you who named this town that?)


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #20: Huge Mangrove Snake on New Year's
PostPosted: January 2nd, 2012, 10:16 am 
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Joined: February 6th, 2011, 9:09 pm
Posts: 466
Location: Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China
Thank you, Hans. So far no one has hoped one way or the other, but many have speculated using wives tale hogwash. Her friends thinks she needs a girl and my friends say I need a boy for martial arts and herping. Both are right so I suppose we need one of each, to be fair. ;)

@DavidG: Slayertown. It was a "sworded" affair (that "pun" for Hans). Before, during, and after. ;)

@Mark Brown: What's wrong with blank stares? You get used to them after awhile in Asia. Or if it's a mental thing you may wallow in the aura of superiority you project unto others. :twisted:


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #20: Huge Mangrove Snake on New Year's
PostPosted: January 2nd, 2012, 12:30 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 6:45 am
Posts: 1472
Location: One of the boys from Illinois
WOW! That snake has been on my Bucket List since Hector was a pup. I swear my amygdala went "freep!" before collapsing in a pool of serotonin.

thanks, Hans!


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #20: Huge Mangrove Snake on New Year's
PostPosted: January 2nd, 2012, 1:27 pm 
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Joined: June 16th, 2010, 12:26 pm
Posts: 561
Fantastic, Hans. It looks to be huge and is so colourful.

Regards,
David


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #20: Huge Mangrove Snake on New Year's
PostPosted: January 2nd, 2012, 4:49 pm 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 10:42 am
Posts: 2218
That is one remarkably beautiful snake.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #20: Huge Mangrove Snake on New Year's
PostPosted: January 2nd, 2012, 9:44 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
Posts: 3179
Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Thanks, folks!

Quote:
I swear my amygdala went "freep!" before collapsing in a pool of serotonin.

Leave it to The Mike to shift things sharply towards Jabberwocky :-) :-) :-) (one of my favorite herping poems ever, by the way. Check out the serpent-rasslin' dude on the right, too!)


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #20: Huge Mangrove Snake on New Year's
PostPosted: January 3rd, 2012, 3:16 pm 
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Joined: June 9th, 2010, 6:17 am
Posts: 351
Happy New Year, if only for barbarians! :)


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #20: Huge Mangrove Snake on New Year's
PostPosted: January 6th, 2012, 6:10 pm 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
Posts: 3179
Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Civilized people, of course, celebrate the real New Year on Monday, 23 January (in 2012). We'll be visiting my wife and other son in Taipei. I'm SO dreading the weather there...


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #20: Huge Mangrove Snake on New Year's
PostPosted: January 9th, 2012, 5:08 pm 
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Joined: June 22nd, 2010, 9:48 pm
Posts: 277
Very cool Hans, just saw this post. Nice find, definitely one of my favourite snakes in Asia :thumb:


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #20: Huge Mangrove Snake on New Year's
PostPosted: January 11th, 2012, 5:37 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 4:51 am
Posts: 191
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Hans, I can relate to your feelings about New Years Eve. I had always referred to it as "amuteurs night". Herping seems like a great way to spend the night and especially with the "great yellow hunter". My son is 11 and I can't wait to get out in the field with him this spring. Herping on New Years here is just not within the realm of possibility. Too cold.

Mangrove Snakes are beautiful. This one looks both beautiful and huge.

Love your posts. I don't always have time to comment, but thanks for the time you take in putting these together.


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #20: Huge Mangrove Snake on New Year's
PostPosted: January 11th, 2012, 5:45 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 2:19 am
Posts: 3179
Location: Kuching, Sarawak (Borneo)
Thanks for the kind words!!


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #20: Huge Mangrove Snake on New Year's
PostPosted: January 11th, 2012, 6:14 am 
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Joined: June 8th, 2010, 4:12 am
Posts: 127
Location: Yorkshire, England
Great post as usual. What a way to spent NYE!


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #20: Huge Mangrove Snake on New Year's
PostPosted: January 11th, 2012, 11:33 am 
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Joined: November 23rd, 2011, 8:26 am
Posts: 372
Location: London, United Kingdom
mate, those things are so impressive :)


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 Post subject: Re: Borneo Dispatches #20: Huge Mangrove Snake on New Year's
PostPosted: January 11th, 2012, 11:51 am 
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Joined: June 29th, 2010, 5:50 am
Posts: 329
Location: northern Westchester co., NY
One of my favorite critters! Thanks for finding and posting this gigantic beauty!


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