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 Post subject: Green pit viper - Hidden amongst the leaves
 Post Posted: Sun Jun 17, 2007 8:56 pm 
Green pit viper - Hidden amongst the leaves

Humans loathe snakes, they are being remorselessly killed due to trepidation, lack of knowledge, misidentification and mainly as an instantaneous reaction evoked to prevent from getting bitten. Among the copious number of species of reptiles who are victimized by the mal practices of humans, the green pit viper (Trimeresurus trigonocephala) who is endemic to our island is certainly in the top of the list.


Source: DM / Thursday, June 07, 2007, By Rashmini de Silva

Swathed in a unique green colored coat with yellow mottles out lined by black, this species most successfully camouflages itself in shrubs and trees. A mature animal grows up to about 5.5ft. Equipped with a prehensile tail which is a paragon for its range of characteristics the green pit viper is most likely to be found in the wet zone, but there is a diminutive population in the dry and intermediate zones.

They are known to be moderately venomous with a neurotoxic impact when bitten. These vipers consume a diet varying from small birds and rats to tree frogs and lizards, and to assist to trace and hunt down its prey they have a special organ situated on either side of their head called the loreal pit between the nostril and the eye which is sensitive to infra red radiation, this directly aids this creature to detect and locate warm blooded prey.

The green pit viper is viviparous (produces live young not eggs – the eggs are hatched inside the female and live young are produced). According to Premasiri Pieris who’s in charge in the reptilium of the National Zoological Gardens Dehiwala, a brood consists of 5 – 46 juveniles, 6-8 inches long. He also explained, in cases where the female produces a heavy brood she may give birth only once and then die after a couple of months, and when the brood consists of about 5-10 neonates a female would give birth only about twice in her life time. Although a specific period for the breeding season isn’t announced yet some research confirms that their mating season occurs during the months of June and December.

Due to the fact of this fascinating endemic viper being entered to the IUCN Redlist categorized under threatened species, The National Zoological Gardens has implemented breeding program conducted by Mr. Pieris. “We release adult specimens to wild habitats in Sinharaja and Labugama after they are fully grown and only when they are able to fend for them selves.” replied Mr. Pieris when inquired about the latter stages of the breeding program.

There are various threats that manipulate the gradual decrease of the green pit viper population in Sri Lanka. “Lack of awareness and deforestation leading to habitat fragmentation are the two major aspects that perturb the existence of this species in our island.” According to environmental lawyer Jagath Gurawardhana highlighting a crucial factor, outlining the main threats.

Educational research assistant at the National Zoological Gardens Menaka Pathirage, claimed that the rapid change of environmental conditions in the forests of Sri Lanka also owes up to the reduction of this species. ‘Vipers along with other reptiles are cold-blooded beings, their body temperature is not internally regulated, and it varies along with external interferences.

“Although the green pit viper doesn’t strike unless provoked, most people brutally kill and destroy when they encounter specimens of this species because of the fear generated due to fake beliefs and inadequate knowledge” he added.

Time still hasn’t run out for the Green Pit Viper in our island. The relevant authorities and departments should endorse public awareness programs along with initiating necessary conservation processes and management strategies in order to avert this extraordinary species from reaching terminal extinction.

Common Names: Green pit viper (E), Pala polanga (S), Pachi thulai mooku virian (T)
Scientific Name : Trimeresurus trigonocephalus
Status : Nationally Threatened Endemic

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