I retired from the University of Illinois on May 1st. On the 23rd I boarded a flight to Kuala Lumpur, kicking off a 31 day excursion to 5 countries in southeast Asia. Malaysia was my first stop, and I met up with friends Dan, Kevin, Adam, and Kurt. During our stay, we herped upland and lowland forests.
On our first night in KL we herped a nearby forest with great success. Our first herp was a Peter’s bow-fingered gecko, Cyrtodactylus consobrinus.
Kurt spotted a snake in a small tree – a blue bronzeback, Dendrelaphis cyanochloris. This species inflates its body to show a brilliant blue on the tips of the scales, but it was tough to get the snake to display on command.
Bam! Another serpent, just like that – an Asian whipsnake (Ahaetulla prasina) which posed quite nicely.
A cinnamon treefrog was another awesome find early-on.
We followed a trail down into a stream valley and found more interesting herps, including quite a few white-lipped frogs (Chalcorana labialis).
A giant forest dragon (Gonocephalus grandis) on the side of a tree was a spectacular sight.
My first megophryid horned frog of the trip and a top-tier herp for me. Months later and I’m still gobsmacked.
Kalophrynus kiewii is basically the Grumpy Cat of the anuran set.
The next morning we left Kuala Lumpur and headed to Fraser’s Hill, up in the highlands. It was cool there, but not cold, and we did well, both during the day and at night. Some nights were a bit on the foggy side.
Our first pit viper of the trip, splayed out and facing the wall of an old building, and just waiting for a lizard to happen by.
Lots of Odorrana hanging around. Odorrana hosii is about the size of a North American green frog (Lithobates clamitans).
Species in the genus Limnonectes occupy a number of niches. Limnonectes malesianus is a streamside frog with a large mouth and a sturdy build. Think bullfrog and you’re dialed in on this species, which basically snacks on anything that wanders by, including other frogs.
An exciting moment when Kurt spotted this jasper cat snake in a trailside bush. The first of many tasty Boigas.
Amolops larutensis is one of the torrent frogs, often found in well, torrents. They have extra sticky toes that allow them to hang on to wet and slick surfaces.
The enormous and athletic giant Asian toad (Phrynoidis asper). This one was hanging around some park buildings after dark.
At night, roadsides in the forest were good places to find megophryids by their eyeshine. Here’s a couple smaller species:
A jade treefrog (Zhangixalus prominanus) in a roadside puddle.
We found several pink-headed reed snakes (Calamaria schlegeli) on wet asphalt roads at night, some in the open, and others under leaves.
These snakes remind me of the worm snakes (Carcophis) found back home in the States.
Taylor’s Bow-fingered Gecko (Cyrtodactylus quadrivirgatus) were common on rocks and rock walls along the roadsides at night.
Cyrtodactylus geckos were starting to interest me, but this Southern Titiwangsa Bent-toed Gecko (Cyrtodactylus australotitiwangsaensis) really lit a fire under my ass. This juvenile was about the same size as its printed name above.
A juvenile Butler’s wolf snake (Lycodon butleri). One must be careful with these krait-mimics.
Mountain slug snakes (Asthenodipsas vertebralis) are fascinating creatures. Note the triangular cross section and enlarged vertebral scales, both of which act as stiffeners to aid the snake in climbing and reaching from one branch to the next. A juvenile first, and an adult below that.
This Larut forest skink was one chonky lizard.
A Twin-spotted treefrog (Rhacophorus bipunctatus), often referred to as a ‘flying frog’. They may do some controlled glide-falls but I’m not sure. Note the calcars (fleshy protuberances) on the heels. I find these interesting, as some South American species in the genus Hypsiboas also sport calcars, which may assist in breaking up the frog’s profile and confusing predators.
Our last night up in the highlands was a foggy one, and sharp-eyed Adam spotted this Striped Coral Snake (Calliophis intestinalis). I’m told that while the venom glands on this species are quite thin, they extend for some distance down the body. Not an aggressive snake despite its potential lethality, spending much of the time trying to hide its head under its body.
We left Fraser’s Hill all too soon – I can’t wait to go back. We headed downhill to an area southeast of Kuala Lumpur, and spent a few days and nights working some forested low hills.
Leptobrachium are awesome – they perch upright like little pyramids along forest trails and stream beds, waiting for insects to blunder by – their eyes reflected a distinct glow when I hit them with a flashlight beam. When approached, they drop and flatten themselves against the ground – thanks to their head shape and ocular structure, their eyes are nearly hidden from above in this position.
My first legit flying frog – Rhacophorus nigropalmatus! These creatures drop down to the forest floor at night, and this one did so while we were busy photographing a different frog. Kurt spotted it and I was very happy he did. It was tough to get poses that displayed their awesome feet and hands. I’d give much to see one gliding down and that’s one more reason to return to Malaysia.
We found three species of bronzebacks in this area, all of them sleeping in trees at night. Site fidelity was evident – some of them were observed in the same trees on subsequent nights, including one that we captured for photos – it was back in its spot the next night.
I’ve seen Braminy blindsnakes elsewhere (including the back yard of a hotel in La Paz, Mexico) but here I got my first opportunity to attempt macro photographs. They are a tough species to photograph, as they never stop moving.
More Boiga! We found a nice dog-toothed cat snake (Boiga cyanodon) followed by a red cat snake (Boiga nigriceps brevicauda), which was a simply stunning pastel beauty.
Kurt turned up one of the rarer gecko species – Brown’s wolf gecko (Luperosaurus browni). These lizards are tough to spot against a matching background of treebark.
I was hoping we’d get to see Heteropoda davidbowie, and we did! A spectacular spider that did not disappoint.
Another flying frog! Norhayati’s Flying Frog (Rhacophorus norhayatii). The specific epithet norhayatii honors a female herpetologist, Dr. Norhayati Ahmad of the National University of Malaysia.
A checkered keelback (Xenochrophis piscator) captured in situ above a small forest stream.
A mahogany frog (Abavorana luctuosa). Found near a puddle along a forest trail, we had a few brief moments to photograph this sturdy little frog before it sproinged away into the dark.
The last serpent of our Malaysia leg was another Boiga, the beautiful white-spotted cat snake (Boiga drapiezii). The genus was very good to me, and I need to go back to see a few more.
And then it was time to move on to Thailand! I can’t thank Kurt Orion enough for his expertise and enthusiasm, and I highly recommend him if you’re thinking about a herp trip to Malaysia.