There are a lot of reptiles and amphibians in Lawachara other than just pythons and tortoises. What else did we see and how did we find them?
Each night, while part of the team radiotracked tortoises and pythons, Caesar, Scott, or Animesh would lead the others on field transects. These were systematic observations of 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! It was an Assam Slug Snake, a species I had never seen before, making its way along the forest floor:
Invertebrates of all types were common finds during the transects.
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. 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 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 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 spotted an Inornate Froglet. 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. 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. 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, 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. 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 were common:
As were both species of Microhyla, Berdmore’s Narrowmouth Frogs and Mymensingh Narrowmouth Frog:
Some specimens were systematically identified, photographed, and then released back where they were found. The identification of a reptile or amphibian can be complicated. Here is a sample “ID sheet” filled out for an unusual kukri snake:
A few other snakes found during our nighttime explorations:
Thanks for taking a look!