What a Beauty!

Living in Thailand I thought I’d learnt to expect the unexpected but a couple of days ago I had an unexpected but welcome suprise travelling home at night.

We had run out of milk so jumped in the car and headed for the nearest 7-11 (a 5 min drive from our house). Whenever I drive down the small roads near our house I always drive slowly scanning the road ahead looking for anything crossing the roads. As I drove up a small road between two rice paddies something caught my eye, oh my god a snake! I hadn’t seen a snake in ages! I pulled over and got out to have a look. It was a snake and a decent sized one too, a meter or more. I ran up the road only to discover it was dead, Damn! It was a beautiful Indochinese Rat Snake (Pytas korros) which had sadly been hit by a motorbike as it tried to cross the road. Sadly I see this all to often, as areas becomes more developed, rice paddies are drained and vegetation is cleared I see more DOR (dead on the road) snakes.

It was sad to see such a beautiful snake dead but it did make me wonder if the rainstorm we’d had the night before had brought some snakes out. I continued on my way to the 7-11 without seeing anything else.

I bought some milk at the seven but the small voice in my head, or maybe withdrawals from not herping in so long, told me to take the long route home to see if anything was on the roads.

I drove slowly home with my brights on whenever possible scanning the road ahead and occasionaly stopping to scan nearby vegetation but came up blank. It’s still too dry I thought, one rainstorm wasn’t enough to rehydrate the parched fields and I turned onto the final road leading up to our home.

As I rounded a bend I saw a black shape on the road and thinking it was a piece of rubber or tubing from one of the fields I didn’t think much of it. Again the ever optimistic voice in my head piped up…”what if it is a snake?”. I stopped the car and got out for a look.

It was a snake! I ran over towards it and immediately realised that I had nothing with me. I had no torch, no snake hook or tongs, and I was wearing flip flops. The snake was crossing the road and was almost about to disappear into the field. It looked like a Rainbow water snake (Enhydris enhydris) but it was hard to tell and I had no way to stop the snake to get a better look, I had to think fast before it could slip into the long grass and disappear.

I turned my phone on and waved the lit screen wildly a meter or so infront the snake which caught its attention and it stopped. Phew! I could get a good look at it now and I could tell straight away what it was, a red-tailed Pipe Snake (Cylindrophis ruffus) (or so I thought) and a stunning one at that! I later found out it was Jodi’s Pipe Snake (Cylindrophis jodiae) a very similar species only described in 2015, bonus, another new species for me! I snapped a quick photo with my phone just in case it decided to slither off the road and then picked it up for a closer look.20180306_195445As I was looking at the snake a car appeared and pulled up behind me but on the narrow road there was no way for them to get past. I got in the car, snake in hand and drove the car up to a small gateway where the other car could get past. No easy task with a wriggling snake trying to slither into your shorts.

I desperately wished that Carly was with me to see this stunning snake. I have seen them  before and they are hands down one of the coolest snakes Iงve ever had the pleasure of handling, but Carly had never been with me when I had seen them. This time I was determined she’d have a chance to see it.

I was only a couple minutes drive from home so I took off my shirt and made it into a makeshift snake bag and placed the snake in it; it immediately escaped. Great! Now I had to try and locate a snake somewhere under the drivers seat with no torch.

After a panicked minute or so it casualy slithered into the footwell. This time I knotted the sleeves and neck of the shirt more securely and placed it back in once more.

I drove home with a huge smile on my face like a cat that got the cream. What a serene moment, I thought, I just stopped on a road to pick up a snake and now I’m driving home with it!

The thing I love about Carly is I knew she’d be excited to see it and immediately asked me if it was safe to handle and then picked it up. Having a passion for something is great but being able to share it with someone is golden. She loves wildlife too and my obsession for showing her weird things or bringing them home never seems to faze her.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s where the story gets even better. Carly reminded me of a meeting we’d had at work earlier that day. Everyone knows I’m obsessed with wildlife and I’m usually the first port of call for any wildlife questions.

In the meeting my boss was talking about teaching materials and was asking what we would like to order or use next year. He thought I wasn’t paying attention so he jokingly said “snakes Nick, maybe they can be your materials for Biology” to which I simply replied, Yes, OK. I noticed one of the Thai teachers couldn’t tell if I was joking or not and so I told him that I’d bring one in for him!
Was it fate? What a cool opportunity, I could show and teach some of my fellow teachers a little bit about one of Thailand’s snakes and hopefully change some of their negative perceptions towards them.
We took the snake to school the next day with us not sure of the sort of reactions we’d get and were prepared to have to keep it away from most people. I was pleasantly suprised that a lot of the teachers were very inquisitive and a few even held it. It was really nice to see Thai people interacting positively with a snake and learning a little more about them.
After what must have been a little bit of a stressful 24 hours stay with us, it was time to take the snake back to where I’d found it the night before to be released. This time though  I was armed with torches, my camera and a better snake bag.
I got to where I’d found it, placed it down on the side of the road and it was nice enough to stay still for a few photos.
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After taking a few photos it was time to say goodbye so I gently nudged it to wards the field beside the road. It refused to move and I didn’t want to leave the snake on the side of the road even if it wasn’t a particularly busy one, so I tickled its tail trying to get it to move off the road. This time it hunkered down in its characteristic defensive display. It flattened itself to almost twice its usual thickness, revealing its pale transverse markings, tucked its head under its coils and raised its orange tail in the air in its best cobra impression and waited to see if I’d leave.
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 No matter how much I tried to convince the snake to move off the road it would just tuck its head deeper under its coils and raise its tail more. I wanted to make sure it got away from the road so I picked it up and placed it in the leaf litter on the side of the road. It lay there for a few seconds and then all of the sudden its head slipped under the leaves followed by its body which slid effortlessly under the leaf litter and was gone in seconds.
What a beautiful snake! I feel very privileged to have seen one of these snakes, especially seeing as they usually spend most of their time underground so seeing one out and about was a very lucky thing indeed.
I hope the it is doing well and I’ll get the opportunity to see one of these gorgeous snakes again one day.

 

 

 

 

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One thought on “What a Beauty!

  1. Pingback: The Versatile Blogger Award – The Jaguar

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