Our slithering friend… the Wagler’s Pit Viper

 

People get squeamish and just jump out of fright if you mention the word snake or point out a snake to them.Most of us are not aware that snakes are usually more terrified of humans! and snakes get aggressive  thinking we humans are going to hurt them.  So much miscommunication  going on here.

Here at Tropical Spice Garden, we have a unique friendship with our Wagler’s Pit vipers. We  adore them for being such elegant creatures. Whenever we spot them, we go ooh and ahhh and some of our colleagues even name them! We treasure their presence as they are such beautiful creatures and they are quite rare to spot ! Pit Vipers are pretty clever when it comes to camouflaging. At times we may walk past the viper many times not knowing it is all curled up and snug on a tree branch.

 

Our juvenile Viper at Tropical Spice Garden enjoying the afternoon!

 

The Wagler’s pit viper, Tropidolaemus Wagleri belongs to the family Crotalidae. It is named after 19th century German Naturalist Wagler. Pit vipers are an  arboreal species that live in trees in the region of South East Asia.They prefer a climate that is humid and has high rainfall. These beautiful creatures can grow as long as 4 feet, thats pretty much the height of a 9 year old boy! They are called pit vipers because it has pits just behind its nostrils which are special organs that can sense heat and locate warm blooded animals. This is an important adaption as vipers are nocturnal and only hunts at night. They are lethargic animals during the day and are able to withstand weeks of scarcity by lying still for weeks. Survival of pit vipers also depend on adequate hydration. Pit vipers usually feed on rodents,lizards and birds and pit vipers are usually prey to King Cobras.

Know your viper: Juvenile vipers have a green background with red and white spots.
Source:www.ecologyasia.com

Pit viper babies are viviparous  where the babies are born live. The eggs hatch inside the mother’s body which also serves as an increased chance of survival instead of the eggs hatching on the ground. The number of eggs born range from 6-50 eggs per time. Pit vipers are able to look out for themselves the moment they are born. Like newborn babies, they look cute but beware! Their fangs are already loaded with venom. They have a pair of hollow fangs that lie up against their roof mouth that shoot out when it strikes. The venom of a pit viper attacks red blood cells and their ability to carry oxygen as opposed to attacking the nervous system. They are highly territorial, so please do stay out of their striking range!

There is something very special about female vipers. They evolve through 4 phases in their lifespan each time evolving into such beautiful skin colours. The 4 phases are the Malaysian phase, Sulawesi phase, Kalimantan phase and lastly the Philippine phase. The male viper however has a consistent skin colour of a green and black border.

The Malaysian Phase sees the young female  having a  black background with yellow bars.She then moves on to the Sulawesi Phase where she has a lime -green background with blue bars, a white strip across her back and a cream and blue belly and a blue stripe from nostril to the eye. After much transformation, the female viper enters the Kalimantan phase where she has a yellow background and bright blue bars. Finally, the Philippine phase the female viper resorts to her original colour when she was young, she has a green background with yellow bars.

 

Malaysian phase of the female Pit Viper
Source:www.kingsnake.com

 

Sulawesi Phase: isnt she beautiful?
Source: www.kingsnake.com

 

Kalimantan phase: a nice mix of yellow and green bars
Source:www.kingsnake.com

The Philippine Phase: pretty exotic dont you think?
www.kingsnake.com

Vipers are also seen as holy representatives of the deity Chor Soo Kong. Temple Vipers got their name as they reside in the Temple of Azure  Cloud also known as the 150 year old Snake temple in Penang, Malaysia. Large numbers are kept on plants, statues and around the temple. It is thought that snakes bring good luck where some people welcome and keep vipers in their home.

Pit vipers.. beautiful creatures yet dangerous,  we somehow coexist in harmony at Tropical Spice Garden  with a unique friendship. Come visit the gardens and have fun spotting our slithering friend!

 

 


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