SRI LANKA
2002


"Venom"

Nikaweratiya, North-Western Province

Map of Nikaweratiya
Mouse-over to view satellite map


Nikaweratiya is located in North-Western Province about half-way from Kandy to Anuradhapura. We visited this location because the 'getapolonga' at the University of Peradeniya was reportedly collected there. We were faced by a sparce dry habitat that did not look very promising, but Nikaweratiya turned out to be an excellent location for snakes.

The dry scrub of Nikaweratiya
The dry scrub of Nikaweratiya
Dry rice-paddy at Nikaweratiya
The crew waiting to film the cobra

Searching the dry habitat at Nikaweratiya did not produce many amphibians, only the the Common Indian treefrog (Polypedates maculatus) but lizards were slightly more in evidence with two species: Sri Lankan keeled skink (Eutropis carinata lankae - not photographed) and the Common litter skink (Lankascincus fallax).

Lizards from Nikaweratiya
Common litter skink, Lankascincus fallax

Scorpions were also in evidence, two species: a broad-clawed scorpionid (Heterometrus gravimanus) and a narrow-clawed buthid (Buthoscorpio sarasinorum).

Scorpions from Nikaweratiya
Buthid scorpion, Buthoscorpio sarasinorum
Scorpionid scorpion, Heterometrus gravimanus

But it was snakes that were most abundant, we found two Buff-striped keelbacks (Amphiesma stolata) and I was called to a large and defensive Long-nosed vinesnake (Ahaetulla nasuta) in a hedge.

Snakes from Nikaweratiya
Buff-striped keelback, Amphiesma stolata
Long-nosed vinesnake, Ahaetulla nasuta
note: rear-fangs visible in bottom right image
Mark with Long-nosed vinesnake, Ahaetulla nasuta

Medically important snakes were also common. First capture was a Sri Lankan cobra (Naja naja) caught on the dried our paddi-field.

Sri Lankan cobra, Naja naja, in situ close to where it was captured
Mouse-over or click to enlarge

 

Sri Lankan cobra, Naja naja

 

 

 
Mark with the Nikaweratiya
Sri Lankan cobra
, Naja naja
  Palm frond debris containing five
Humpnose pitvipers
, Hypnale hypnale

Next I was called to a small snake in a pile of palm-frond brush but in the process of searching it I lost my balance and fell into the dead fronds. Fortunately I was not bitten because when I had moved the remained of the palm fronds I caught five Humpnose pitvipers (Hypnale hypnale).

Humpnosed pitviper, Hypnale hypnale

After a successful day at Nikaweratiya we drove the 110 km to Anuradhapura, slowly road-crusing for snakes and arriving well into the night. It was an interesting and productive drive.