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The Hump-Nosed Pit Viper

The Hump-Nosed Pit Viper

Rahul Alvares, 31, is a wildlife consultant and snake rescuer based in Goa. He also edits an online newsletter called The Creepy Times. Be sure to check out his website: www.rahulalvares.com

Rahul Alvares is thrilled when his friend Vicky calls him up with exciting news. He has a hump-nosed pit viper! Rahul tells you all about this fascinating snake.

About two months ago I got a phone call from my colleague Vicky. He was bursting with excitement. “I have something very special for you,” was all he was willing to tell me. Vicky rescues many more snakes from people’s houses than I do and sometimes finds some very interesting specimens. The biggest Russell’s viper I have ever seen was caught by him some years ago. And this is despite him being about a foot shorter than me!

The ‘eager beaver’ I am, I wasted no time in getting to his house. Vicky had a smirk on his face when he presented me with a small plastic jar. I stared incredulously at the 15 cm. long snake curled up within. It was the first time I was looking at a live hump-nosed pit viper, probably a juvenile! As far as I knew hump-nosed pit vipers are only found deep inside the forests of the Western Ghats.

“Where did you find this thing?” I quizzed Vicky with amazement.

“It was given to me by a doctor,” he replied pointing to the Goa Medical College right behind his house. As it turned out someone had been bitten by the tiny snake when placing his hand on a tree in a forest. Not knowing what snake it was, the victim had captured it alive and brought it to the hospital for identification. The doctors not knowing what kind of snake it was had called up the only person they knew could identify it: Vicky!

The hump-nosed pit viper is quite secretive, residing in deep forests and usually hunting at night.Photograph by Rahul Alvares.

My colleague Gerry Martin tells me that the hump-nosed pit vipers are also common in plantations (areca nut, coconut, rubber, coffee, cardamom, etc.)

Vicky unfortunately hadn’t bothered to ask the doctor about the effects of the venom on the victim. I know pit viper bites to be very painful and Gerry tells me that some species have venom toxic enough to be fatal.

Romulus Whitaker and Ashok Captain’s book Snakes of India mentions the hump-nosed pit viper to be nocturnal and terrestrial. The hump-nosed feeds on geckos, skinks, small rodents, reptile eggs and frogs. Juveniles apparently wriggle their tails to lure prey closer to them. It has a stout body and wide head. The pointed snout ends in a hump, hence the name. It is greyish brown with large dark spots. The belly is brownish or yellowish. The hump-nosed is ovo-viviparous (embryos develop inside the eggs which are retained within the mother’s body and live young are born). The mother will give birth to between four and 18 young which are born between March and September.

The hump-nosed pit viper is a highly venomous snake that is found in regions of Sri Lanka and India and grows to lengths of upto 60 cm.Photograph by Rahul Alvares.

by Rahul Alvares, First appeared in: Sanctuary Cub, March 2012


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