Of course, there are a lot more reptiles and amphibians in Lawachara than just pythons and tortoises. What other snakes, lizards, and frogs did we see and how did we find them?
Each night, while part of the team was radiotracking tortoises and pythons, Caesar, Scott, or Animesh would lead other members of the team on field transects. These night transects were systematic searchers for the herps in a designated area. In jungle habitats like Lawachara, such transects are often the most fruitful means of finding reptiles and amphibians.
On my first night, we were only ten minutes into the search when I spotted our first snake of the night! It was an Assam Slug Snake (Parea monticola), a species I had never seen before, making its way along the forest floor:
On this particular trail several species of frog showed up regularly. Frogs of the microhylid family were the most commonly encountered herps on the night walks. Here is a Berdmore’s Narrowmouth Frog (Microhyla berdmorei).
Invertebrates of all types were also common. Unusually green weevils and unusually spiked spiders were two nocturnal trends.
Less than 30 minutes after I found that first slug snake, Scott found a second one of the same species perched on a plant:
A little while later another team member spotted a Emma’s Forest Lizard (Calotes emma) sleeping on a branch above the trail. Emma’s Forest Lizards look similar to the Oriental Garden Lizard (Calotes versicolor), a species that can be found in every city in south and southeast Asia. However, Emma’s Forest Lizards are never found in cities, preferring undisturbed forest habitat. The main way to distinguish an Emma’s Forest Lizard from its more common cousin is by the spines that protrude from behind the eye.
Some of the invertebrates spotted were unusually large. Here a leaf insect nymph and a pair of mating stick insects are shown to scale.
The last snake spotted on this particular night was a Zaw’s Wolf Snake (Lycodon zawi). I found this snake just as it was finishing a meal, most likely a small forest skink.
Several mammals were seen during the night transects – most spectacularly when Ash Wisco spotted an Indian Crested Porcupine running away. Barking deer, jackals, wild pig, bats, and arboreal rats were also seen. Slow loris and civets are present in the park, and some small cat species make very occasional appearances.
On other nights, we did a trail transect through the oldest section of forest in the park. This area is notable for the many species of frogs that appear to prefer the mature forest habitat.
My favorite find on this transect was a Pied Warty Treefrog (Theloderma asperun) that team member Max Jackson found sitting on a leaf. This aptly named treefrog uses an unusual method of camouflage.
Right where Max found the treefrog, Scott captured an Inornate Froglet (Micryletta inornata). This southeast Asian microhylid was unknown to Bangladesh until earlier this year, when a specimen from Lawachara was identified and published for the first time. Our team found that the species was common in the park.
Only a few meters from those two finds were a pair of juvenile Vampire Frogs (Leptobrachium smithi). These ridiculous-looking litter frogs get their name from their bright red eyes and their unusual stilted walk. Here is a photo of one of those juveniles taken back at headquarters.
The stick insect was shorter, but more massive, than the other more common species in the area:
Here is another Zaw’s Wolf Snake, one of four spotted in quick succession on this night. Zaw’s Wolf Snakes were unknown to Bangladesh before Caesar published their occurrence in Lawachara just two years ago, but they were easily the most common snake we encountered on our nighttime transects.
On a different day our team was able to hear beautiful Twin-spotted Treefrogs (Rhacophorus bipunctatus) calling from the upper branches of trees on this trail. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to locate one low enough for a photo. While the treefrogs were calling, though, we did manage to find a sleeping Fan-throated Lizard (Pyctocolaemus gularis). Animesh Ghose helped me take this excellent photo.
Another very common sight on all of our trail transects were the bent-toed geckos. These slender and agile geckos hunted insects on the forest floor at night. Studies of bent-toed geckos in tropical Asia have resulted in a dozen new species being discovered in the last fifteen years. While the Khasi Hills Bent-toed Gecko (Crytodactylus khasiensis) was formerly believed to exist in our area, all of the bent-toed geckos we found in the park were actually Ayeyerwady Bent-toed Geckos (Cyrtodactylus ayeyarwadyensis), a species only recently found to inhabit northeast Bangladesh.
Finally, the other type of transect our team performed at night was a stream transect. For this transect we followed the route of a stream instead of a trail. One of the unique species encountered in this type of transect was the Point-nosed Frog (Clinotarsus alticola). This one was calling from a rock formation:
An unidentified egg mass in the stream:
The highlight of our stream transect was this mating pair of Vampire Frogs.
Cope’s Assam Frogs (Sylviarana leptoglossa) were common:
As were both species of Microhyla, Berdmore’s Narrowmouth Frogs and Mymensingh Narrowmouth Frog (Microhyla mymensinghensis):
Some specimens were captured during the transects, to be systematically identified, photographed, and then released back where they were found. The identification of a reptile or amphibian can be complicated, requiring a ton of data to be collected. Here is a sample “ID sheet” filled out for an unusual kukri snake:
Cantor’s Kukri Snake (Oligodon cyclurus)
Here are a few other snakes that were found during our nighttime explorations:
Spot-tailed Pit Viper (Trimeresurus erythrurus)
Himalayan Keelback (Rhabdophis himalayanus)
Green Cat Snake (Boiga cyanea)
Green Cat Snake (juvenile)
Zaw’s Wolf Snake