Yesterday it rained a bit, and had been raining the previous few days. That would be good for snakes, I thought. It was set to be a near-full moon night, and that wasn’t so great for snakes, but I was eager to get back out to see what I could find. The last time I was out herping was 2-weeks ago. I saw a couple cool snakes, and then while trying to get photos of a Homalopsis buccata I fell backward into the mud and water at the edge of a stream. It was late at night, I was soaking wet, and I had a 15 km motorbike ride home. Not so fun, but definitely funny after I quit swearing at my misfortune (and the broken concrete which sent me over backwards).
I got a message from Rupert Lewis from the UK about herping sometime. He said he’d be staying in Trang, and if I wanted to go out, he’d be keen. I wasn’t keen at first. You know, I get about 5 of these requests per month from people that see ThailandSnakes.com or some of my videos online. I just don’t have time to go out with everyone that writes, but more importantly, it just doesn’t make sense most times.
Though sometimes I’ll go out with someone that doesn’t have a clue about snakes, just to be able to introduce them to snakes and teach them a little of what I know. Usually though, I like to go herping with people that I can learn something from… whatever it is. It might not even be about herping. If someone from Tasmania wrote me (and he already has), and wanted to go out – I’d go in a second. Why? I want to find out about his country, the wildlife, the snakes. If a herpetologist (biologist) or other serious enthusiast with a lot of experience writes – I will usually go out.
Rupert is a 17 year old that appeared to have little experience herping in Thailand or anywhere with venomous snakes. He had a real interest, and I figured I’d go sometime after April when the snake-finding activity picked up a bit, as is usual at that time.
As it turns out he contacted me again recently and would be nearby. He sent me a link to his photos, and I was blown away. He has already, in about 6 months, found MANY Thailand snakes and even some that I’ve not seen here before – 2 cat snakes that I really want to find. (nigriceps and jasperidae (spelling?))
So we met up last night and the kid is brilliant. I’ve seen only two other people know southeast Asia snakes to the level of depth Rupert does, and of course that’s a subjective statement. Suffice to say, he impressed the hell out of me with what he knew. I thought he’d be asking questions like, “what do snakes eat”. Instead, he’s explaining to me the difference between the Malayan Bridle Snake and the juvenile Malayan krait. He is almost an encyclopedia of snake knowledge. It was awesome to spend time with him as we picked each other’s brains about snake habits, appearance, and defensive behavior. We found 5 snakes too – near-full moon be damned.
Rupert wants to make snakes his life… I have no doubt that if he sticks to it, he’ll be THE snake authority in Southeast Asia. He’s a sponge with facts. He knew tiny details about snakes that only someone that lived here or studied the place for years knows.
He may have even found a new species of gecko already – I saw photos. We walked around until about 1:30 AM and found the Mangrove Cat Snake (B. dendrophila) Puff-faced Water Snake (H. buccata) – three of them, and the ultimate southern Thailand find, or one of them, the Malayan Krait (B. candidus).
Anyway, kudos to Rupert… I do hope he goes far in the field and makes a real difference. If he knows this much at 17, it’s scary to think what he’ll be like in a couple years of living in the region! Scary in a good way.
Cheers Rupert, keep it up man, you’re well on your way.