Siguiri - Guinea

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Siguiri - Guinea

Postby Sico » Thu Feb 14, 2013 8:25 pm

It's been a while since I have had anything useful to contribute, and I now find myself in northeastern Guinea, about 80km south of the Mali border in a town called Siguiri. I've been up here going on 3 weeks now and seen very little in the way of herps, but that has been compensated for by some fantastic birdlife.
Environment here is much like you would find in the dry northwest of SA, around Pilanesberg, very scrubby thornveld.
Last night inside the mining village one of the guys caught (in a plastic bottle) and brought to me a "nightadder". This stunner about 85cm long turned out to be West African Brown Spitting Cobra, Naja katiensis
I did not have a lot of time this morning to get really decent pictures of it, I did manage to get a DNA sample for WW, here are the best of the pics I did take, in it's bottle, on the floor of my office and in the glove. It was very innoffensive, never raised a hood, tried it's best to get away from me all the time instead of staying to fight, and spat only once when inside the container, although it did gape a few times. When it was in the glove it did start chewing on my index finger, and spread a surprising amount of venom for such a small guy. Not a bite I would like to experience.
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Re: Siguiri - Guinea

Postby WW » Thu Feb 14, 2013 8:56 pm

Fantastic find! This is the (al)most forgotten cobra of Africa. Judging by how often it turns up in collections in W. Africa when vats of alcohol or formalin are left with villagers, it must be pretty common, and yet hardly anyone has any photos of the species! It would be worth your while trying to get some decent shots on a natural background of this critter!
patience n. the vice of accepting the unacceptable, thereby encouraging further occurrences
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Re: Siguiri - Guinea

Postby Sico » Thu Feb 14, 2013 9:17 pm

It was definitely something awesome to see. I would have loved to have taken it out into the mine myself, but I really was strapped for time today. I am sure I will come across more of these, and from what I have seen there are some decent snakes up here. The guys have shown me pics of file snakes, vipers, house snakes, ball pythons and rock pythons that they have come across up here, so there seems to be a decent variety. I just need to get out and find them. I will be spending two weeks in the bush right up along the Mali and Senegal border from the 28th-14th march, and I am hoping to find something worth posting on here for that excursion as well
Last edited by Sico on Thu Feb 14, 2013 9:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Siguiri - Guinea

Postby Mitton » Thu Feb 14, 2013 9:18 pm

Wow, a first for me, great find Sico.
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Re: Siguiri - Guinea

Postby Westley Price » Thu Feb 14, 2013 9:38 pm

I also have to say, I have never even heard of the species, let alone see any pictures.

It reminds me quite a lot of N. pallida. Wonder how closely they are related.

I REALLY look forward to your updates on this topic.
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Re: Siguiri - Guinea

Postby Sico » Thu Feb 14, 2013 9:51 pm

Thanks guys. Wes, it has a very limited range in the drier scrub of west Africa Senegal, Southern Mali, south of the Sahara, just into northern Guinea, and then a bit east of here. I was initially thrown by the banding, thinking it was maybe a N. haje, but they aren't found this far south into Guinea (according to the texts anyway). It regurgitated a frog when it was caught, but the guys couldn't find the frog for me to see what that was, and I couldn't find it either. There are a ton of feral cats in the compound so I think someone got a free snack...
I'll post some more pics of the surrounds, the birds, and whatnot, and hopefully many more herps. Internet connection here isn't very reliable so I might only be able to post sporadically, but I will try. I get back from the field survey the night before I fly back to Dakar, and then on to SA, so will only update those from civilisation.
Thumbs crossed I have something to show you ;)
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Re: Siguiri - Guinea

Postby Sico » Thu Feb 14, 2013 9:53 pm

Oh, while I remember, any ID guides recommended for this part of the world? Everything I have for the non-venomous stuff tends to stop around central africa, and it appears that I may be out here for a decent period of time.
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Re: Siguiri - Guinea

Postby s'mee » Thu Feb 14, 2013 10:51 pm

Try these:

Guide des serpents d'afrique occidentale ; savane et désert by JF Tape and Y Mane and
Lézards, crocodiles et tortues d'Afrique occidentale et du Sahara by JF Trape, L Chirio and S Trape

Unfortunately both in French but still pretty easy to follow.
If ignorance is bliss, there must be a lot of happy people out there...
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Re: Siguiri - Guinea

Postby Warren Klein » Fri Feb 15, 2013 10:27 am

Very interesting find Mark, I also thought it was a N. pallida. Always exciting to be in a new area with the potential to find new species. Hope you are able to find some more! Cheers
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Re: Siguiri - Guinea

Postby Sico » Fri Feb 15, 2013 12:16 pm

Thanks Warren. Malcolm, I’ve found the first one, which I have ordered a copy of, seems as if the second one is not in print at the moment, but I shall keep looking.
Found another N. katiensis last night, this one a female, about 60m from where the previous nights one was, and this one was also eating a frog, (again the frog was disposed of!!). She was close on 90cm in length and a good weight.
Just for WW I got her outside this morning and took a few shots. I couldn’t get any decent shots of the ventral stripes while she was outside, but managed to get a few nice ones on the hook. This one was also rather docile, intent on going between my legs as opposed to yesterday’s one that head in the opposite direction.
She sprayed me really well from the hook while I was taking some shots, and left a good amount of venom running down my bare arm from about 1.8m away. This was just from an “open mouth and spit”, no previous gaping, no head movement at all. Despite all my attempts I could not get her to display a hood at all, just like the one from yesterday.
This one also had the two neck bands, but the anterior one was very narrowed and faded and almost gone dorsally, and completely absent ventrally, while the posterior one was much broader and well defined. I have seen in texts where it is said that occasionally the bands form complete rings around the neck. Let’s hope I find one like that at some point to photograph.
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Re: Siguiri - Guinea

Postby Mitton » Fri Feb 15, 2013 12:35 pm

Great stuff!! Beautiful!
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Re: Siguiri - Guinea

Postby WW » Fri Feb 15, 2013 4:40 pm

Fantastic - this is one species I have never seen alive, and I don't recall ever hearing of anyone keeping them. Thanks for collecting those samples!

They are not particularly close to N. palllida, they are basically the sister group of a clade consisting of N. nigricollis, N. mossambica, N. nigricincta and N. ashei. See http://pages.bangor.ac.uk/~bss166/Publications/2007_Cobras_MPE.pdf for a fuller phylogeny. In terms of distribution, they go east to at least Nigeria, and I believe there is a record from northern Cameroon. Pretty much the same as Echis ocellatus.

In terms of other cobras, you would get Naja senegalensis, not N. haje, in that area, and of course N. nigricollis. The banded savanna form of N. melanoleuca could be found in and around gallery forests. Incidentally, we have no puff adder sampling from that part of W. Africa, so any help really welcome as well ;-)
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Re: Siguiri - Guinea

Postby Sico » Fri Feb 15, 2013 5:04 pm

:smt021 I meant N. melanoleuca, but when I looked at the range I see it doesn't really come this far into the savannah. I think it would be too arid here for them.
I am keen to find some vipers, the locals know of them being around these parts, and I think the terrain on the mine looks perfect for them. Puffies are here as well, some really large ones according to the old timers, but I don't know if those are just fisherman's tales or not. They shall be investigated nonetheless.
The Safety guy that has been helping with the Naja did a handling course with Mike Perry up here last year I think, and they went cruising on the haul roads at night to get specimens. They came up with some nice house snakes, files, and ball pythons, nothing venomous though. I have identified some nice rocky areas with decent sized boulders lying all over the ground, which I plan to explore on the weekend and flip some rocks. Hopefully something interesting is hiding out
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Re: Siguiri - Guinea

Postby WW » Fri Feb 15, 2013 5:23 pm

Sico wrote::smt021 I meant N. melanoleuca, but when I looked at the range I see it doesn't really come this far into the savannah. I think it would be too arid here for them.


They will occur in and along gallery forests, but not in the savanna itself. They are found in SE Senegal (Kedougou), for instance, so finding them along the Upper Niger and tributaries would not be surprising. The Trape and Mané snake guide has several records from the region.


I am keen to find some vipers, the locals know of them being around these parts, and I think the terrain on the mine looks perfect for them. Puffies are here as well, some really large ones according to the old timers, but I don't know if those are just fisherman's tales or not. They shall be investigated nonetheless.
The Safety guy that has been helping with the Naja did a handling course with Mike Perry up here last year I think, and they went cruising on the haul roads at night to get specimens. They came up with some nice house snakes, files, and ball pythons, nothing venomous though. I have identified some nice rocky areas with decent sized boulders lying all over the ground, which I plan to explore on the weekend and flip some rocks. Hopefully something interesting is hiding out


Sounds like good Echis country then. We got E. jogeri under laterite boulders in SE Senegal, although it took a lot of rock flipping. Paying local village kids to help was certainly worthwhile. Perhaps surprisingly, the E. jogeri there just remained sitting totally motionless, albeit with an "Oh Sh**!" expression on their faces, when a stone was moved from on top of them, which made that use of "child labour" during a venomous snake hunt ethically justifiable. The people there were actually far more scared of other things like Hemitheconyx caudicinctus geckoes and especially amphisbaenians....
patience n. the vice of accepting the unacceptable, thereby encouraging further occurrences
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Re: Siguiri - Guinea

Postby Sico » Fri Feb 15, 2013 5:32 pm

The whole place here is full of laterite so here's holding thumbs! ;)
I'd love to find some amphisbaenians as well, that would be a first for me. It's been a fairly dull office-bound trip so far, so I will accept anything at this stage. WRT your comment on not being aware of whether N. katiensis has been kept in captivity, I am sure there are some around somewhere in the world. I was actually thinking today that on my next trip up I should bring along some of the purpose built plastic tubs with the ventilated roofs you get for kiddies pets, and see what I can keep going in my residence. I doubt anyone would have an issue, the only concern would be maintaining a food source. If i could get them onto fruit bats I'd have no issue :lol:
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