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.