Cote d'Ivoire

Accounts and photos of non-captive reptiles in their natural habitat outside of South Africa. Try to record with your account details such as time of day/night, temperature, weather conditions, lunar cycle, sex, rough age of reptile, and so on.

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Cote d'Ivoire

Postby Viridovipera » Mon Dec 06, 2010 8:05 pm

I posted this recently on Field Herp Forum, but figured you guys would enjoy it too. I'm no African, so excuse me if I showed a bit too much enthusiasm for more common herps. Enjoy!

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Here it finally is, the thing that many of you (Hans) have been waiting for, my first post from the Ivory Coast (technically Cote d’Ivoire).

A little background first. I’m not here for herping. I am here as a supervisor on an ongoing biomonitoring project in Tai National Park (in the far west of the country). Basically, we follow locals through the forest, walking transects and recording every sign of animals that we encounter. This usually means looking at footprints and droppings all day, but occasionally yields some pretty cool animals (that usually disappear entirely too fast for even the most skilled photographers). That being said, the time to “herp,” in the sense that I knew it from the States and Asia, has been some what limited. These photos are basically a result of what I have stumbled across after walking about 200km through the rainforest. The photos were generally taken in haste, as we had to promptly continue on with the transect.

How about some more excuses? Fine just one.

I am forbidden to catch snakes. Period. Literally the first day that I got here in August, the boss knew that I was a herper and made me sign a witnessed contract saying that I would not jeopardize the company by catching ANY snakes while I was working in the forest. Knowing (rightly so) that I wouldn’t follow this unless I had to, she proceeded to inform all of the team leaders as well so they would tell her if I did. I have so far missed opportunities to photograph 3 snake species because of that.

The photography pales in comparison to posts like THIS, but hey, forest photography is effing hard with the humidity, low light and all that jazz. I’m getting better though. Excuse the low quality.

On with the show? Heck yes! I guess I won’t turn this into a dialogue heavy Hans post. (Although I do love his loquaciousness and style.)

PLEASE help me with IDs if you know them. I by no means claim to be an expert, I just like taking pictures and showing others. I’d love to have some IDs on the unknown stuff.

Also, ophidophiles, your patience will be rewarded ;)

Here’s some of the more common stuff found around the house.
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I believe these are both Hemidactylus brookii . Check out the awesome color change in one individual.

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“Dinner time.”

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These lizards (probably a juvenile Mabuya affinis), a black and white skink in adult form that I haven’t managed to get a respectable picture of, are found all around our house in Abidjan, and even come into the living room and office sometimes. Herping doesn’t get much easier than that.

You can’t go to Africa without being amazed by these lizards:
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Agama agama I am not only continually impressed by the fact that the type species of the Agamidae family is EVERYWHERE here (from trash heaps in Abidjan, to small 5 person villages to right outside in our garden). We got there at the heart of mating season so the males had bright orange heads and tales, with jet black bodies. The females and juveniles were a more drab tan, but have brilliant, almost neon spots on their heads. (Again I consistently forget to photograph these common herps.)

The best part about them being so common is the fact that you can just sit back at your local maquis and watch the lizards go at it. They head-bob, shudder, siddle-hop and feed all within meters (those are similar to feet, Americans) of other people.
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I watched this guy feed on passing ants, then get up and court a female as we waited for photocopies. Even the hand-less get a chance in Africa!

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Here he is courting (with the female siddle-hopping away on the right). He was unsuccessful.

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These guys, Bufo maculatus and B. rugulosus are also common around the house.

After completing the same training indoors three times, it was finally time to go outside to try our not-so-newly-acquired skills.
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So we picked up and went to the second largest park within a major city in the world, Banco NP. It was great to see the beautiful, although a bit degraded and over-hunted, forest completely surrounded by a city of 5 million people. Unfortunately, they broke out the whiteboard and continued the same training again from the beginning – this time for the fourth time – in the outdoor restaurant.

Highlights of actually going out and doing the transects include:
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A juvenile Kinixys erosa

And the personal highlight for me:
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A rather common snake, Philothamnus irregularis. This one literally fell out of the sky – or well a tree – as we were working. Thinking it was just a green twig, I looked back to the instructor. When it started slithering away, I couldn’t believe it. My first snake in Cote d’Ivoire literally appeared right in front of me. Much to the dismay of my colleagues I caught the squirmy, defensive tree snake and attempted to photograph a fast moving snake in low light. That of course broke the aforementioned rule of no snake catching, but I wasn’t going to let my first snake get away.

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My favorite part about this species was their throat-inflating defense. It literally doubled or tripled the size of these skinny snakes, and, best of all, in between their green scales was brilliant sky blue skin. It was really a beautiful, and poorly documented, display.

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Banco NP.

Back at the house in Abidjan (mind you it’s about 1 month in, 5 trainings later and we still haven’t started the actual job that I’m here to do – it turns out the national park that we are going was late to receive its funding from the German government, and thus couldn’t operate for 3 months lol), someone said they found a snake. Loving when people do my herping for me, I came out to find this beauty:

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Psammophis phillipsi

These guys are basically the Pytas korros of eastern Asia, or the racers of the US. Pretty cool to see the African version.

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Seeing this as a learning opportunity I proceeded to show that not all snakes are venemous and attempt to dispel some of the rediculous (and often hillarious) misconceptions. The Ivorians were a bit more apprehensive.

This seems like a good time to share with you some Ivorian remedies for snake bite.

The guy in the photo above (left of center), had told me that if you are bitten by a snake, no matter what snake, in the village you should drink a large cup of black coffee to clean your system, apply a pierre noire (black rock that is porous and can absorb water) and go see the witch doctor.

A traveling salesman gave more fanciful, yet equally useless, suggestions.

If bitten in a manioc (cassava) field, you should immediately start chewing on the leaves of the manioc plant. Then, when they are nice and chewed up, spit out the mash onto your bite and rub it in. In 2-3 days you’ll be cured.
He also suggested my personal favorite:
If you’re not in a field of manioc, find a worm. Snakes are obviously scared of worms, so that will scare off the snake. Then, cut the worm in half and put the tail end on your bite. It will wriggle and writhe, until it falls off. When it falls off your hand, find the head end and the tail end, and mash them together on your bite. By killing the feared enemy of the snakes you will free yourself of the snake’s venom. You will be healed in 2-3 days.

OK OK, back to photos. Sheesh.

We’re at the forest! …But we have to spend a night in this village before going in. Patience is more than a virtue; it’s a necessity here.
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Tai National Park is in the background.

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I did manage to turn up this Hopolobatrachus occipitalis in a local rice field. I really like this guy because it’s so similar to the Asian H. rugulosus. Both are found in rice paddies (and other disturbed habitats), both look remarkably similar and both are the top choice for locals with a taste for frog legs.

The herps in the forest were, obviously, much more plentiful.

Some frogs:
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Amnirana sp. ??

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Again

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Leptopelis occidentalis (My first Hyperoliidae!)

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L. occidentalis in situ

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Notevenaclue frogensis (Arthroleptis sp.?)

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Probably Phrynobatrachus sp.. I’m posting these not because I love frogs or think they’re the greatest photos, but in the hopes that someone can help me with the IDs (or point me to a helpful paper, especially on that above genus.

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With the first mission done, we headed back to the village with no electricity to enjoy the stars and head home before the first-ever national elections.

I don’t usually post DORs, but this guy was pretty spectacular. As we were driving from the village to a larger town in a forestry rangers pick up truck, the bus in front of us slammed on its brakes on the dirt road. Briefly, I saw a thick black line slithering across the road. I banged my hand on the roof of the cab for the driver to stop, but it was too late. Two people from the bus jumped out and chopped off the head of the large forest cobra (Naja melanaleuca) before we could do anything, and then threw the head into the bushes on the side of the road. We I, and two AK-47 toting forest rangers jumped out of the pickup truck, the two killers dropped their still writhing prize. I took a picture, and they took their catch home for dinner. Despite all hunting being banned over 30 years ago in Cote d’Ivoire, the law is rarely enforced. I pleaded with the forest rangers to do something, or at least reprimand the killers, but they said it was just a snake and nothing serious. Knowing that even snakes were protected under this law, I tried to do my best to convey the message, but the two killers merely laughed and got back on the bus.

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Naja melanaleuca

Things missed with my camera:
-Geotrypetes serapini occidentalis :x :x :evil: :cry: :cry:
-Two green mambas that quickly scaled trees and liana thickets in such jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring and stupefying beauty, that I couldn’t get my camera out in time. Worth it just to see those elegant snakes move through the mid-story.

After a rather close first-round, the elections were pushed until Nov 28th, and we figured we could get another mission in before, so we headed back out to Tai.

The second mission was much nicer than the first. Instead of secondary forest entangled with lianas, fallen trees and tons of man-hating thorns, this time we actually camped right next to a chimpanzee research camp in beautiful, relatively untouched primary forest. The results were immediately visible. We saw 8 monkey species, a chimpanzee, duikers, elephant tusks, and a lot more herps.

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Workin.

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The missions started out very nicely with another, slightly older Kinixys erosa.

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Another no-idea-frog. Help wanted.

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Leptopelis viridis

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My favorite frog found so far. Afrixalus nigeriensis

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A. nigeriensis, dirty, but still awesome.

Then we struck gold. On the day we were going between transects, we had to walk 11km on the same gravel road where the only documented (to my knowledge) specimen of Atheris hirsuta was collected. We turned up the congeneric.

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Atheris chlorechis
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Again

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He was a bit angry and struck several times at the stick with which we tried to move him off the road, thus the wound inside his mouth.

These snakes were so cool. They move reasonably slowly on the ground (perfect for someone who isn’t allowed to catch snakes while on missions), but move effortlessly and beautifully through the trees. I really love these guys not only because of how cool they look, but also because of the remarkable convergent evolution that they show with some of the genus formerly known as Prince, I mean Trimeresurus in Asia, and Bothreiches in the New World. Evolution is just the greatest.

The next day, at a different group of transects, one of our porters led me to this snake that he found while gathering firewood.
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(In situ.) Two in two days! What are the odds? This A. chlorechis is older than the first one we found. They tend to go from yellow to speckled yellow as a juvenile to sub-adult and then turn mostly green as adults. This one was also very different in behavior, groggily moving into position for a photo and not wanting to do very much else.

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Aint he purdy?

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Again

And then, whadda ya know, we stumbled on another one, this one just outside of our transect line. It’s either feast or famine! Vipers are just the greatest too, especially for someone who isn’t allowed to “catch” snakes. These guys just sit, move slowly through the branches/along the floor and if you get in their way, they just stop. I couldn’t hope for a better loophole in that rule.

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This A. chlorechis is a nice, two-faced mix between the two.

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I believe he had a tick on his right eye, but I never got close enough to confirm.

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That’s about all I got for ya. Those A. chlorechis put my photos over the top and made this worth posting in my opinion. Before, the amount of “seen but not photographed” far outweighed the good photos.

Here are some non-herps for closure:

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These guys always wake me up in the morning in Abidjan. I don’t mind so much. Psittacus erithacus timneh.

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These western red colobus monkeys (Procolobus badius) are endangered, however they were the most common monkeys seen during our trip (and the only of the 8 species, and 1 great ape species seen that I got a photo of).

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The wall of green.

Thanks for reading, and PLEASE help out with some of those ID’s if you can.

-Alex
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Re: Cote d'Ivoire

Postby Eyelash » Mon Dec 06, 2010 8:27 pm

MAN !!!
Awesome stuff !
Thanks for sharing...

Regards
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Re: Cote d'Ivoire

Postby Pythonodipsas » Mon Dec 06, 2010 8:36 pm

That green blotched yellow chlorechis is awesome!

And nice to see a Afrixalus nigeriensis...its very pretty.

Does Psammophis phillipsi still exist? When the South African form was renamed P. mossambica (spelling?), did these remain phillipsi?

Thanks for sharing.
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Re: Cote d'Ivoire

Postby Fooble » Mon Dec 06, 2010 8:47 pm

What a fantastic collection of photographs!

Those frogs are great that Afrixalus nigeriensis is especially beautiful we get some nice species here in South Africa.
Great to see chlorechis photo's in situ not against some cheesy plastic plants!

Keep the images coming!
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Re: Cote d'Ivoire

Postby John Rees » Mon Dec 06, 2010 9:03 pm

Great post Viridovipera. I just love seeing what these tropical wildnesses still hold these days. Amazing just how concerned they are about a rabid herper getting a chance to walk through their jungle LOL!
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Re: Cote d'Ivoire

Postby Spider » Mon Dec 06, 2010 9:19 pm

WOW! This is a very nice post. Makes wonderfull reading and nice photo's too.
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Re: Cote d'Ivoire

Postby vuduman » Mon Dec 06, 2010 10:15 pm

Awesum Atheris chlorechis!Thanks for the good read and great photos.I would love to find Atheris in the wild one day!
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Re: Cote d'Ivoire

Postby Marcel2992 » Mon Dec 06, 2010 10:37 pm

GEE!!!
You really found some pretty decent stuff!!It must be a great experience to find those bush viper's in it's natural habitat!! Disappointing/sad that they didn't do anything to the two people who killed that Naja melanoleuca.. But it looks like you had a GREAT trip!! Well done!
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Re: Cote d'Ivoire

Postby purplebean » Tue Dec 07, 2010 7:27 am

WOW....Your photo's make me hate my office job even more. :smt013 . I also really like the photo's of the Afrixalus nigeriensis, small frog with big beady eyes. Thanks for sharing.
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Re: Cote d'Ivoire

Postby roadkill456 » Tue Dec 07, 2010 8:45 am

Absolutely stunning Atheris! Looks like you had a very succesfull trip. Great pics! "mental note to self...visit Cote d'Ivoire" Thanks
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Re: Cote d'Ivoire

Postby Rishaad » Tue Dec 07, 2010 11:36 am

Awesome stuff.
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Re: Cote d'Ivoire

Postby Bushviper » Tue Dec 07, 2010 1:35 pm

Wonderful post. You should have tried to find the head of the cobra too. If they threw it away it means they were scared of it. You could have used that to your advantage.

By the way I think your boss is just plain nasty.

Please dont make this your last post.
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Re: Cote d'Ivoire

Postby fuscusV2 » Sun Jun 19, 2011 10:34 pm

This is an awesome post and a real credit to this forum. Thanks for posting! I haven't had the opportunity to visit Cote d'ivoire but I do have colleagues working there and will certainly ping you if I do end up going. Most of my travels have taken me to East Africa, India and the Caribbean with my fav place being Guyana. These are some awesome pics!
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Re: Cote d'Ivoire

Postby Pieter89 » Mon Jun 20, 2011 1:39 am

EXCELLENT photo's and great topic!!!! :D

I hope I'm one day privileged enough to see 1/10th of these animals up close in the wild.
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Re: Cote d'Ivoire

Postby froot » Mon Jun 20, 2011 8:55 am

I am forbidden to catch snakes. Period. Literally the first day that I got here in August, the boss knew that I was a herper and made me sign a witnessed contract saying that I would not jeopardize the company by catching ANY snakes while I was working in the forest. Knowing (rightly so) that I wouldn’t follow this unless I had to, she proceeded to inform all of the team leaders as well so they would tell her if I did.


What a pathetic human being.

I'm loving those Atheris shots, thanks for sharing.
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