Sani Lodge Pt.4 – The Reptiles

Posted on January 23, 2011 by Tim 4 Comments

Lastly, is my most exciting find. I’ve been looking for a South American arboreal viper, genus Bothriopsis for a long time. There are a couple species in the region. One night I paddled the kilometer to the end of the lagoon to hike a long out and back loop trail I reconned earlier in the day. The staff was nervous because I was going to be gone a long time and a fair distance from camp. People just don’t hike alone in the forest at night. Hell, most don’t hike at all at night. Undaunted I made my way through the forest and within 30 minutes I saw this little viper crawling along a branch near the ground. I was sure it was Bothriopsis taeniata*. Its bright yellow tail tip, along with small size, told me it was a young one. Juveniles are frog and small lizard eaters. The colored tail tips are used as lures to attract these small food items. As the snakes get bigger they lose the tail color and switch to feeding on small mammals. I bagged up the snake and continued on my way – constantly resisting the urge to pull out the snake and just stare at it. Later in the night I started to fear I was not on the same trail I was on earlier in the day. I would not have worried about it but between the two hikes I was told that staff added another trail that broke off the loop and headed 17km off to a village. Trails look completely different between day and night and I feared I missed a branch. It’s also extremely easy to lose a trail at night if you get off of it. I decided to back track. Luckily I marked my progress so I found my way back to the canoe and had a lovely midnight paddle across the lagoon under a starlit sky and shooting meteors. Amazingly beautiful, especially knowing I had a Bothriopsis* with me. I could have shot this snake forever. Vipers tend to be somewhat cooperative, if you know how to calm them. I tried a couple different sets and poses with this guy before he had enough. I was tough returning him to his home. I just wanted to keep shooting him. Looking at my images I realize I didn’t get exactly what I wanted. I could have done better – which actually is more a matter or trying different poses on different sets with different backgrounds. But the images are fairly decent. I’m happy. So with that you have seen some of the reptiles of Sani Lodge, Ecuador.

After many years of searching a juvenile speckled forest viper, Bothriopsis taeniata (yet another Bothrops atrox), makes an appearance and cooperates enough to yield some decent photos.

* I was also sure that in reality I caught another Bothrops atrox. Juvies of both species are very similar but the speckled belly and highly upturned snout (and an overwhelming desire to finally see a Bothriopsis) led me to believe I had my new snake. As I knew would happen, as soon as this was posted, I got the comment that I made a mistake. Not the first time.

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  • Ross Perry says:

    Muscle strain and shake? What about pounding heart and hyperventilation when you’re eye tot eye with that guy!

  • Brian Roach says:

    A very interesting and enjoyable post, Tim, and some really fine photos!

  • WW says:

    I am really sorry to have to say it, but the “Bothriopsis taeniata” is actually a juvenile Bothrops atrox. Juveniles have a very different and more lichenous-looking pattern that adults, so it’s an easy mistake to make.

    • admin says:

      Wolfgang, I knew it was going to be an atrox. Admittedly I have more experience with B. asper than B. atrox and this is the youngest I’ve caught (I know juvies are not X patterned). I convinced myself it was a bothriopsis based on the speckled venter and the really upturned snout (not just pointed). That and I’ve seen many a Bothrops and no Bothriopsis. I guess I should say thanks for the ‘bad’ news.

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