SRI LANKA
2002


"Venom"

Kandy, Central Province

 

Map of Kandy and surrounding region showing location of our Gampola and Peradeniya.
Mouse-over to view satellite map


Kandy, the second largest city, is located in the mountainous centre of Sri Lanka, was the last ancient capital, being established in the 14th Century, and the home of the famous Sri Dalada Maligawa or Temple of the Tooth. Kandy also became the centre of the tea industry due to its cooler and wetter climate. It therefore has a large Tamil population, initiated by the British bringing in tea pickers during colonial times.

We stayed at the plush Le Kandyan Resort, where had had eight rooms and which provided us with easy access to Gampola, where Anslem lives and were we herped and filmed, Peradeniya, for the university where Anslem worked, and the upland rice-paddies and tea plantations for further snake searches. I knew Gampola well, I had spend a lot of time there in 1996 when we filmed sequences for Discovery Channel's Cobra: King of Snakes in the local rice-paddies.

This location also provided the other two Mark's (Stokes and McMullen) with easy access to one of the best golf courses in Asia on our day off. I, as usual, went book-shopping!

 

Views around Kandy in the mountains of Sri Lanka
Views around Kandy in the mountains of Sri Lanka

We filmed in the Kandian tea plantations, hoping to find the Sri Lankan pitviper (Trimeresurus trigonocephalus) that is known to occur in this habitat, without success.

Tea plantation near Kandy

We visited the rice-paddies in the valleys and used a cherry-picker to film the harvesting of rice from above.

Familiar rice-paddies near Gampola
Harvesting the rice-paddy near Gampola
Cherry-picker for filming from above Mark McMullen & Terry Meadowcroft
Harvesting the rice-paddy near Gampola, filmed from the cherry-picker

We searched for reptiles and amphibians by day and night, mostly in the rice-paddies.

 

But one of the best places for herping in the Kandian mountains is Anslem's de Silva's garden near Gampola.

He has recorded 24 species of snakes on his few acres of land which comprises a forested gulley and a garden. He has found vipers, pitvipers, cobras and kraits.

In the garden we also filmed with a sorceror who made a model of a Russell's viper with the fangs from the road-kill I had dissected at Anuradhapura. These people are supposed to be able to 'cause' snakebites.

 
Anslem's garden     Anslem's garden

Anslem and I then visited his work place, the University of Perideniya, to examine a 'Getapolonga', in the company of Dr Sam Kularatne. What I believed I was looking at was a juvenile Russell's viper (Daboia russelii), known locally as the 'Tic Polonga', but Sri Lankans insist this smaller snake is a different and much more dangerous species. One thing we did agree upon was that this small viper had eaten a very large meal in relation to its own size. We published a short note in Herpetological Review (download a copy here). This viper came from Nikaweratiya in North-Western Province, so we decided to go there next.

Getapolonga or Tic Polonga?