Tuesday, October 24, 2006

City Reptile Expert Finds 276th Species of Indian Snake

Suchetana Haldar / Kolkata Newsline
Photo by Ecology Asia
Adding to the list of 275 species of snakes found in India, “Dip Chiti”, or Dipak’s wolf, has now become the newest member after experts could not confirm it as part of the existing reptile tribe. Dipak Mitra, the brain behind Calcutta Snake Park, had stumbled on the new specimen about five years ago. After repeated verifications by several experts failed to get any result, Mitra, a renowned snake expert himself, concluded last year that this indeed was a new species. He named it Lycodon Dipaki after himself.

The snake, a little more than a feet in length, has several distinctive characteristics that separate it from other members of the Lycodon family. First, it inhabits on ground, while the rest of its kind is arborial, dwelling on trees. “Then, unlike other Lycodon snakes, this one is not aggressive,” he said, “it is, instead, more of the crouching type.” But its most striking feature is the flaming band of light yellow at the end of its head, near the “shoulder”. “It appears to have a pale green hue if you see it from a distance,” Mitra said. “But if you look closely, its body is so shiny that it is difficult to ascertain the exact colour.
Mitra first spotted “Dip Chiti” in Badu, near Madhyamgram in North 24 Parganas district, though he confused it with another variety of the Lycodon type. He spotted another one with three eggs the following year but the specimen did not survive. Mitra spotted two snakes the next time around and kept one of them alive by feeding it with termites. He scanned the images and noted down the details, which he then compared with the ones in the existing list.
Mitra next sent the details and photographs to the Zoological Survey of India, and the Wildlife Institute of India. He also sought confirmation of the chairman of Reptile Group of the South East Asian chapter of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources). “All the organisations confirmed that they were not familiar with the variety and that ‘Dip Chiti’ had remained unidentified till date,” Mitra said.

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