Monday, January 29, 2007

Are there land snakes in Fiji?

from w
Are there land snakes in Fiji?

Well, one day we found one up a tree at Nukutatava Beach. It was such an unusual find that we took it to All Saints High School to show the science teacher. That was the only time I ever saw a snake in Fiji though the mythology of snakes certainly persists with the story of Degei in the Kauvadra mountains and the Indian temple out of Labasa which is dedicated to a snake.

Anyway, Dr Paddy Ryan writes about the Fijian Burrowing Snake (bolo), Ogmodon vitianus.

One of the myths perpetuated in Fiji even by people who should know better is the mongoose myth…... As with most myths, even modern ones, there is a grain of truth in the story. We do have a terrestrial venomous snake, which must come as a bit of a shock to those people who claim that Fiji is snake-free apart from the pacific boa. What is even more surprising is that the snake is an elapid. In other words it belongs to the same family as the Indian cobra and the Australian taipan. Never fear though, until recently less than twenty specimens of this snake, Ogmodon vitianus were known to science.

From the records of the early naturalists we knew that Ogmodon, bolo in Fijian, was probably a burrowing snake. As a result it would be very rarely seen even if it was quite common. Its burrowing nature was confirmed when a specimen, found a metre down in soapstone rubble, was brought into the Fiji Museum. Unfortunately, the owner would neither let colleague John Gibbons nor me photograph the snake. To add insult to injury the snake escaped from its container and was probably snapped up by a passing mongoose. John Gibbons though was a very persistent man and he launched a one-man "find Ogmodon" campaign throughout central Vitilevu. In time he was successful, a juvenile about 15cm long was brought into the Biology Department at the University of the South Pacific by a villager from the interior. Juvenile bolo can be distinguished from the adults by the possession of a cream chevron between the eyes. Juveniles are also darker than adults, almost black compared with a smokey-grey. Unfortunately this specimen soon died, almost certainly from dehydration, although neither of us realised it then.

14 comments:

Gilbert Veisamasama, Jr said...

Well Wendy, I would not want to be sunbathing on that beach with that snake around. LOL! How about those snakes that are so common in the dalo plantations of Taveuni? What are they called? Are they poisonous?

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Don't know about Taveuni snakes. I haven't wandered around dalo or pawpaw patches there... though I've stayed in Somosomo, Niusawa and Qeleni at different times.
w.

Pandabonium said...

Interesting. I'll add that to the seemingly endless list of things I didn't know.

As for Taveuni, the only one I've heard about is the Pacific Tree Boa, which people tell me they see in Taveuni estates. I've not seen one yet, but would like to.

Gilbert Veisamasama, Jr said...

Wendy, those snakes are quite common in Taveuni. We lived there while we were very young and my parents used to say that they were harmless. I'm not so sure about that. To me, a snake is a snake is a snake ..... lethal and sly .... just like the devil!

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

I suppose on my list of nasty creatures, snakes would come up high on the list. The mongoose, well, he or she is not harmless, but they don't scare me. I swear I saw one in a cafe in Labasa one time - or was it a rat?
The really loathsome creature in Fiji is the cane toad so perhaps I'll write something about that. (Really there ought to be a parable somewhere about these creatures and politics. I did write a garden/animal story for kids one time, it was mainly about the pearly teeth of a former senator!)
W.
PS Taveuni is one of my favourite places in Fiji. And Levuka too.

Sakiusa said...

I did see a 3 foot snake once in Kuku, I guess some kids cuaght from the reeds. I don't know what it's called, but the kids said they were taking it back and some Hindu guys wanted it because they said it was their "God" but whatever.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Bula vinaka Sakiusa,
Are you from Kuku? We have a guy from that village living with us - Musu.
About snakes - I guess there were a lot more before the mongoose came to Fiji.
w.

jeshu said...

yup there are snakes in fiji. in wailoku theres heaps though u hardly will ever see them....during heavy rain they might creep into houses for shelter bt they are harmless...and with proper care can become a good pet not to mention a good way of gettin rid of mice.

snakes are kool and just like any other animal..

Viagra Online said...

That's a good specimen there in that picture, I thought adults were exactly the same color of the younger. It's important to me to know the little differences between specimens, because I'm a teacher of biology.

Anonymous said...

we live on taveuni, and today we saw yet another red snake, the fijians say it is very poisonous.

it also was very aggressive////it was red, pencil thin and about a foot long. it was in a kumqout tree.

we also have pythons about, not very big/// they tend to be on the ground only.

Anonymous said...

today there was another red snake, we live on taveuni, in the jungle.

the fijians say that the snake is nasty, and you are sick for two weeks. it was small pencil thin and about a foot long....VERY agressive it was in a kumquot tree.

we also have pythons but only small, the guys that work for us dont like them either....but think they like rats...which is good.

Anonymous said...

have left two.....thats enough

Anonymous said...

Hindu religion states that Lord Krishna threw a serpent from India with great force and it fell on an Island in the South Pacific.

Anonymous said...

I just came back from Koro Island in the village of Nasau. There are snakes in the bushes and on trees. We just saw one and brought it to the village. There are no mongoose in Koro which might have helped on their being preservation in their natural habitat.