Continuing on from the snakes in part 1. With all the traveling time it takes to reach the Swamp Forest everyone had to work like crazy to get what we came for. The Conservation International team was out everyday setting traps to collect samples of turtles and other reptiles that can be found in the swamp and surrounding water sources. They were quite successful collecting 7 species of turtles, including 1 very rare specimen that is on the IUCN Red List of endangered species. They also caught a few snakes but fortunately they didn’t find any pit vipers in the traps.
Lars and Ida from the University of Copenhagen and their student compatriot Soren got stuck into the job of wading through the swamp in search of new species of trees. In the end they collected more than 70 species with the help of Phourin and Sokha of the Forestry Administration who also carefully logged and stored all the samples.
On the subject of snakes we had a close call at a lunch stop. We decided to spend 1 day exploring a nearby river just an hours walk from the camp. We sat down in a small clearing and had our lunch, as we were finishing up one of the locals spotted a pit viper sitting under a bush just 1.5 meters behind Ida. If she had decided to lean back it could have been a disaster.
Pit vipers are sometimes referred to as “Natures Landmines”, unlike most snakes, cobras included, pit vipers don’t generally get out of the way when they feel you approaching. Instead they rely on their amazing camouflage to protect them, the trouble is if you don’t spot them and get too close they will strike. I must admit I was amazed by the number of vipers we saw and we weren’t even looking for them. A herpetologist I know once told me that even if you are looking for them it is generally believed that for ever snake you find there are another 10 snakes you missed, scary. Ida and Lars had been to Prey Long a year earlier and on that trip they had a similar experience with vipers. One morning Ida awoke to discover a green pit viper sitting on a branch just a couple of meters from her hammock. Sends a shiver down your spine.
On our last day before heading back to Spong we all walked the 8 or 9kms to a small pond where I had spent several days up a tree trying to film various animals the previous summer. On that occasion there was simply too much water so the usual trick of waiting by a water source didn’t work. This time the rains had only just started so the pond was still virtually empty. We found tracks all around the pond, from Banteng (large wild cow), Fishing Cat and Sambar deer among others many others.
Sadly I had no time to set up an try to film anything, I also didn’t have the night vision cameras that I had gone to so much effort to drag out there the previous summer.
(to be continued)