Herping Paraguay, Part III

30 Apr

Well, we were back in Filadelfia after a night in Defensores Del Chaco and were starting up with the reason for the herping: we had some specimens to use as educational animals for some classes we were teaching at the New Tribes Mission Ed Camp. We got to work teaching about the wonderful, beautiful wildlife literally just outside our door. Some shots of teaching – I gave them a clue in this first picture as to what the specimen was – see if you can see it.




The herps I brought to show them were a hit – as was the gushing wound the Boa gave me when I wasn’t paying attention. The kids from the camp were quick to show me their herping skills – bringing me a few species they’d found around the mission house:



It was all fun and games until they proudly showed this guy off to me:



And of course, some relaxation time was in order – Paraguayan style: Terere and a copy of Gerald Durrel’s “The Drunken Forest” (If you’re a herper/animal type and haven’t read this book, you need to).


While in Fili I capitalized on the evenings to get out and search for more specimens for the class – the moonrise was getting later now and making herping a little more productive. The first night of the Ed Camp I got out and found this guy, a Mussarana (Bioruna maculata). Unfortunately it had recently been hit – I thought it might pull through though, so I bagged it and brought it out the next morning for the K-4th grade class. Unfortunately, my hopes for it surviving came to naught, and I quickly emptied the building with the smell of putrifying Mussarana.But not to be dismayed by one night’s sparse finds, we headed out the following night: this time it was cloudy and was beginning to look like rain, and that’s all it took for the best night of roadcruising on the trip.


You see, we had been driving aimlessly along dusty lanes through Mennonite farmland without a single find; until I began to see the little liquid drops of rain on my windshield. In Florida, rain is typically a kiss of death for snakes; but I explained to Beka that I’d heard in drier climates that it actually brought snakes out to play. As I was explaining this, I turned a corner and there before me was another Mussarana; this one much more alive than the last:



And things just got better from there, mere feet down the road I spied a tricolor banner slide in front of me. Tricolor it was, though only later that night did I confirm that it was a Oxyrhopus rhombifer.


Another corner, another snake! This time it was a a Chaco Miner Snake (Phimophis vittatus):

Its rostrum was similar to hognoses back in Florida:



The beginnings of a great night – but it was soon hit with a twinge of disappointment. We found a DOR Tricolored Hognose (Xenodon pulcher) one of my top targets for the trip. Even so, he stilled looked alive, so I photographed the DOR:


By now it seemed everything had stopped moving, so Beka and I started back for Fili. On our way, we spied a mammal and stopped to take pictures of this Azara’s Fox (Lycalopex gymnocercus).


To our surprise, the rain which has tapered off began to build again, and we managed one last find for the night, a snake the locals call the Jarará, Bothrops diporus:

What a beautiful snake! I was particularly captivated by its eyes.


Anyway, with the Education Camp over, Beka and I were going to hang out at Shaun and Melanie’s property in the more western part of the Chaco. On the way we saw several species of Liophis and Racer, but only managed decent shots of one – most of the Racers in Paraguay are rear fanged, and I didn’t want to experiment with their bite toxicity on this occasion:


Around that time, we had some car trouble, and finally hobbled into Shawn’s driveway some hours later, at which point he took a look at the car: the prognosis was not good and we were to herp on foot for the rest of the trip. Oh well, lo que será, será.


But nevertheless there were some more critters found. Among them a live Tricolored Hog. As found:





This is what some of the typical Chacoan thornscrub habitat looked like near the native village we were staying in:

Shaun and Melanie’s homestead:




That evening, we went in to help with a snakebite victim in the village. We were hoping to identfy the species to tell whether they would need to go to the hospital. Unfortunately the identification was all too clear, it was a small Neotropical Rattlesnake (Crotalus durissus terrificus). Shaun took the woman to the hospital in the truck, and Beka, Melanie and I walked home. On our way back, we saw a larger Rattlesnake, but unfortunately I only had my long lens on me, so the pictures were not superb:


We also found a larger Chacoan Monkey Treefrog the next night. In situ:





And behind  the house in the Swamp, a lone Broad Snouted Caiman, Caiman latirostris:


And the last snake before heading back to Fili to catch a bus was a juvenile Mussarana. This particular individual was found on one of those starry nights that are so vivid in the Chaco, where the stars are like a glowing cloud overhead.


We returned to Fili, had a nice meal out and readied for our bus trip home the next day. We managed a couple more snakes for the trip (and a couple of frogs) after a Mennonite man kindly showed us a well at the Fili airport that had been acting as a big pitfall trap. Ironically this was one of the few cases I’ve ever come across of misidentification of a venomous species for a nonvenomous one – the guy had said they were boas at the bottom of the well!


That was about it for our time in Paraguay, except for a couple of days to relax in the capital of Asuncion before returning stateside. I’ll leave everyone with a few miscellaneous shots that I forgot where they fit in with the narrative. Thanks for reading all.



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Posted by on 30/04/2014 in Tales From the Field


4 responses to “Herping Paraguay, Part III

  1. Doug

    01/05/2014 at 12:03 am

    Great stuff as always!

  2. Josh

    01/05/2014 at 11:48 am

    Thanks Doug!

  3. Andrea Weiler

    21/05/2014 at 12:24 pm

    My name is Andrea Weiler, I am a biologist from Paraguay. I found your page very interesting, great photos!!!

    I want to share with you our book Anfibios del Paraguay

    • Josh

      21/05/2014 at 3:42 pm

      Wow, that’s great! Some good photography – I wrote a field guide on Florida’s snakes a while back (and am working on another field guide) so I appreciate the hard work that goes into that sort of thing; I will definitely have to reference that when I make a return trip to Paraguay. Are there hard copies available anywhere for sale?


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