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This monsoon I had an unusual client. A tall young German by the name of Frank contacted me with an unusual request. He wanted to spend ten days only looking for snakes in India! I do of course get the odd client wanting to go looking for snakes in the monsoons every year. But then its usual a short trip that they are interested in. In this case I always pick Amboli since its always been the most productive with reptiles so far. Generally we start looking for snakes around 9 pm and go on till about 11.30 pm. After two to three hours of squinting around with a torch light in rainy Amboli most clients are throughly exhausted! Time to return home!
But that’s not Frank. On our first day there he went out looking for snakes in the day. Unusual indeed since most of my colleagues and I believe that there’s no reason to find anything besides a vine snake during the day. Tell that to Frank who after 3 hours of rigorous walking in the jungle came back having found two Malabar pit vipers and two vine snakes! After an early dinner and a short rest Frank was raring to go again. This time I joined him. I was well rested unlike Frank who had come back earlier soaking wet, shivering but overjoyed at having found those snakes.
Two hours later I threw the towel in and returned to the car. Cold, wet, and bitten by leeches I was done looking for snakes. But not Frank. He stayed in the forest for another three hours. By the time he returned to the car it was 2.45 in the morning. For the entire five hours he’d been out in the forest he’d found only one vine snake. You would think that the rains and a paucity of reptile encounters would have dampened his spirits by now. But no, next morning he was out in the forest again.
Half an hour later I got a call from an unknown number. Frank was on the line. Turns out he was calling me from someone else’s phone. In the excited babbling that ensured from his end I figured out that he’d found something interesting and wanted me to drive out to meet him. Ten minutes later I find him chatting excitedly with a local who’s holding a tied up bag in one hand. Turns out that Frank’s new found friend had only just rescued a Bamboo pit viper from someone’s house! I was overjoyed. I had been looking to photograph one for years. The first and last time i ever saw one was at the Madras crocodile bank . That was eighteen years ago! Frank’s friend was willing to part with the snake on one condition: that we release it back into the wild immediately after we’d finished photographed it. Three hours later, after a very productive photography session, we did exactly that.
Interesting facts about Bamboo pit vipers
1. These pit vipers are arboreal and nocturnal and are often found in bamboo grooves and forested areas close to streams
2. Like other pitvpers they can strike at prey with pin point accuracy in pitch darkness. For executing this astonishing feat they use their highly evolved heat sensitive pits. The pits are very obvious and easy to see being located between the snake’s eye and nostril.
3. Like all pit vipers they are venomous and give birth to live young