Annual Amphibian Symposium

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BCA – 2012              BCA – Animal Management

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Viper or not?

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Bornean Keeled Green Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus subannulatus) © Matthew O’Donnell

Whilst in Borneo I was incredibly lucky to see a wide range of snake species, ranging from the impressive and photogenic pit vipers, to the less charismatic but equally intriguing slug eating snakes.

Many of Borneo’s native snakes are venomous, however in the field it is not always immediately clear what species you have come across, which is why caution is always the best policy when encountering snakes in the wild!

This is especially true when you come across species such as the painted mock viper (Psammodynastes pictus), these snakes are visually similar to the true vipers (Family: Viperidae) however they are actually a type of rear-fanged coloubrid, with venom that is thought to be harmless to humans.

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Black-headed Cat Snake (Boiga nigriceps) © Matthew O’Donnell

I was lucky enough to be accompanied by local snake expert and Maliau Basin Ranger – Mas, who’s wealth of experience really helped in finding and identifying snakes as well as many other nocturnal animals! Notable snake finds included two species of cat snake, black-headed cat snake (Boiga nigriceps), mangrove cat snake (Boiga dendrophila), a reticulated python (Python reticulatus) and the blunt-headed slug eating snake (Aplopeltura boa) as well as many more.

Mount Kinabalu      SNAKES       Superb snake sightings

Mount Kinabalu

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Mount Kinabalu – © Matthew O’Donnell

On the 11th of January, I embarked on my first ever rainforest trip, as part of my Wildlife Conservation MSc from the University of Salford. I was lucky enough to travel to the Sabah, the northern Malaysian state of Borneo where over the last two weeks I have visited some of the most pristine examples of Borneo’s national parks.

My first stop was Kinabalu National Park, famous for its mountain as well as its spectacular flora and fauna. Mount Kinabalu is the highest peak between the Himalayas and Papa New Guinea, rising to over 4,000 meters above sea level. This elevation has resulted in a variety of habitats and environmental conditions stretching from the lowland foothills to the barren rocky peaks.

These variable conditions and the contrast with surrounding areas have created an island like situation which harbours many endemic species amongst its vast biodiversity. Estimated to contain 5,000 – 6,000 species of vascular plants alone, it is a hot spot for ferns and epiphytes where I saw hundreds of stunning species including many beautiful orchids. Renowned for its birdlife I spent many hours trekking the trails around the Headquarters failing to get many decent pictures of any of this colourful birdlife, I think I’ll stick to what I know. I did however manage to see some of the intriguing local reptile and amphibian life before heading back to the lowlands.

I also got an up close and personal introduction to rainforest wildlife, finding tarantulas in your bedroom will always be a novel experience!

Although I only had a couple of days up here before my field course began it was certainly worth visiting and is somewhere I hope to return to in the future. A quick thank you to Hans Breuer, who provided information and advice to help make this visit extra special.

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Mt. Kinabalu foothills © Matthew O’Donnell