Uganda, October 2018

For your reports/images, made outside Europe and the "Mediterranean" countries. Not to be too narrow minded and limited to our European/Mediterranean herps.

Uganda, October 2018

Postby Daniel Kane » Fri Jan 11, 2019 11:26 am

Another herp trip I was fortunate to be a part of in 2018 was this one, to Uganda. I went with the same two friends from Thailand, +1 other who wasn't able to make the Thailand trip earlier in the year. We flew from London to Brussels and then on to Entebbe, via Kigale. Not a bad set of flights, but a full day travelling.

We were met at the airport by the awesome Jeff from Self Drive Uganda who was our companion for the week we were in Uganda. The local help came in the form of Nsaggu - an unstoppable snake-catching machine who seemingly just had to be let loose in some habitat and would turn up something good. I don't think we had a day without any snakes at all, and on most days we would have one of the 'big-hitters' - be it a cobra, gaboon, or bush viper. A nice mixture of medium and small-hitters made up most of the rest of the snakes we saw.

Habitats searched were mostly agricultural areas, savannah-grassland habitat or the remaining patches of forest around the edge of these areas. We would generally be out from around 9am to 5pm each day with Jeff and Nsaggu, then for a few hours just the 4 of us after dark; one night Nsaggu came with us, too. We certainly saw the bulk of our species in the daytime, no doubt in part to the decades worth of experience Nsaggu brought to the team. All in all a great trip and I thoroughly recommended this country to anyone interested in east African herping.

As usual I won't do a long commentary so here are some shots!

Typical forest-patch habitat. Good for nasicornis, squamigera and Python sebae, apparently.

The same forest, showing some nice structure and availability of different microhabitats available for species to use

Our first reptile of the trip after maybe an hour in the field - a beautiful Thrasops mid-way through the ontogenetic colour change. Surface temperature 31.1*C, UVi 9.0.

Shortly followed by this Philothamnus heterolepidotus

That night we visited the same forest and found this nice-sized Toxicodryas blandingii cruising through the canopy. These snakes have a strange rubbery texture to their bodies, not like any other snake I have handled.

It was a calm specimen once out of the trees, more curious than anything else

This small Leptopelis bocagii in a chilli field rounded off the first night

Acanthocercus ugandaensis - almost the only non-ophidian reptile seen on this trip. Really pretty males were found on some of the larger trees in an otherwise open savannah habitat

The next species we found and what a beauty. No introduction needed!

One thing I have tried to do more of in recent years, when I am in the field, is record environmental and morphometric data. Even if I don't work directly with certain species at the present time, you never know when this sort of first-hand data may come in useful for others or yourself. It's useful for me in my job at ZSL plus I find it really interesting. With this in mind, if anyone is willing to share length & weight data from individuals of any of the 'large' Bitis species please drop me a pm :)

For example, this gaboon viper was found basking on top of some grass in a clearing in the papyrus, beside a forest patch. Exactly where the snake was found, on the surface of the grass, a temperature of 32.2*C was recorded with a UVi in full sun of 12.2. For the most part the sky was slightly overcast, but even under fully clouded conditions a UVi approaching 6 was recorded. In a captive setting we probably would have gone for a similar bask temperature but a lower UVi of perhaps 4 in this zone, with an ambient UVi of 1. Goes to show how even with the best intentions you could be way off the mark in terms of replicating nature. Obviously this is just a single observation, but in time these small anecdotes may add up to reveal some interesting contrasts between wild behaviour and captive management.

Amazing geometric pattern on this female

A closer view of the head, showing the double dark markings and small nasal horns which help differentiate the eastern (B. gabonica) and western (B. rhinoceros) species of gaboon vipers

No luck searching for mambas after lunch but we did turn up this little Boaedon olivaceus which was active in the rain

That night we visited a new forest patch but struck out on reptiles. We did see this nice Leptopelis christyi, though

L. christyi

Our next day was spent roaming agricultural areas - after about 7 hours it paid off right here!

Naja subfulva - approximately 2.1m long and 2.1 Kg

A closer view of this impressive specimen. Surface temperature 30.1*C, UVi 4.7.

The following day had this little beauty in a patch of palm trees in a wet field habitat

On the way home we caught another subfulva while crossing the road. You can imagive the speed at which 6 of us jumped out of the Land Cruiser to get this one, just by the tip of the tail!

This smaller animal was more feisty than the larger one from the day before. While photographing it local workers came to see what the mzungus were up to

This little male Trioceros ellioti was from one of Nsaggu's gardens

Same again

The next day we were out searching mixed forest/agricultural land. Habitat reminded us quite a bit of the English countryside, only warmer

This stunning Thelotornis kirtlandii was a nice surprise, found in a shrub in an open area beside the forest. Surface temperature 27.5*C, UVi 6.3.

A side profile of the head

Scale detail of the same specimen

That night we headed back to the same forest as night one where we got the Blanding's. The only snake this night was a small Toxicodryas pulverulenta found active on the ground.

T. pulverulenta

The following day was our final full day, which we dedicated to trying to see mambas. Splitting up and searching plantations and small forest areas yielded 3 or so for the Sag-man, however none were seen by us and all evaded capture. Never mind - a consolation squamigera just before lunch cheered us all up.

Atheris squamigera found mosaic-basking. This is the pose it adopted after noticing it had been seen by us.

Same again

The snake in it's understory habitat. Leaf surface temperature: 27.1*C, UVi in small sunlight patch 1.8.

That night we tried a new forest, after picking up Nsaggu from a bar in town. Took around 20 minutes before we heard his whistles which would lead us all to one of our most-wanted snakes - the rough-scaled, or hairy, bush viper (Atheris hispida). Found active around 3m above the ground and then watched while she moved down the vines to the forest floor, seemingly to get to another tree. Apparently the land owners here were not keen on having people in their forest so we were advised to keep disturbance to a minimum. As such, we left the forest after around 40 minutes and the snake was kept overnight before being quietly released in the same place the following day. Nocturnal surface temperatures in the forest while the snake was active were around 19.0*C.

Atheris hispida. If you check the rear of the jaw you might see some dark-coloured gunk. We thought this may be the result of a diet comprised of snails...

Atheris hispida, gorgeous female

Atheris hispida

The final snake of the trip - a nice, dark, Thrasops

T. jacksonii

Species list:

Amietophrynus regularis
Hyperolius viridiflavus
Leptopelis bocagii
Leptopelis christyi

Acanthocercus ugandaensis
Mabuya sp.
Trioceros ellioti

Atheris hispida
Atheris squamigera
Boaedon olivaceus
Bitis gabonica
Dendroaspis jamesoni
Naja subfulva
Philothamnus heterolepidotus
Psammophis mossambicus
Thelotornis kirtlandii
Thrasops jacksonii
Toxicodryas blandingii
Toxicodryas pulverulenta

That's it - hope you enjoyed. If you've got any questions (or Bitis data) do feel free to get in touch!
Daniel Kane
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Re: Uganda, October 2018

Postby Michal Szkudlarek » Fri Jan 11, 2019 12:29 pm

So Nsaggu is a naturalist/fieldherper? How did you get to know about him?
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Re: Uganda, October 2018

Postby Daniel Kane » Sat Jan 12, 2019 9:08 pm

A farmer, who has worked as a snake catcher in the past. Good at what he does. He's not hard to find and I know plenty of others on here have met with him as well.
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Re: Uganda, October 2018

Postby Bobby Bok » Mon Jan 14, 2019 7:30 pm

Fantastic finds Daniel, must return one day for those sneeky Thelotornis :shock:
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Re: Uganda, October 2018

Postby Ilian Velikov » Thu Jan 17, 2019 4:19 pm

Really great Daniel! Such interesting species to encounter. I'm glad you had a good time.
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Re: Uganda, October 2018

Postby Bobby Bok » Mon Jan 21, 2019 9:41 am

Btw. Your Acanthocercus should be A. ugandaensis (Wagner et al. 2018), a lot of the former subspecies were raised to speciesrank last year.
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Re: Uganda, October 2018

Postby Daniel Kane » Tue Jan 22, 2019 1:26 pm

Bobby Bok wrote:Btw. Your Acanthocercus should be A. ugandaensis (Wagner et al. 2018), a lot of the former subspecies were raised to speciesrank last year.

Awesome, thank you Bobby! I hadn't seen this paper yet.
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