Hot Stove Herping 2: Malaysia

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.

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.

Dendrelaphis cyanochloris

Bam! Another serpent, just like that – an Asian whipsnake (Ahaetulla prasina) which posed quite nicely.

Ahaetulla prasina

A cinnamon treefrog was another awesome find early-on.

Cinnamon treefrog (Nyctixalus pictus)

We followed a trail down into a stream valley and found more interesting herps, including quite a few white-lipped frogs (Chalcorana labialis).

Chalcorana labialis

A giant forest dragon (Gonocephalus grandis) on the side of a tree was a spectacular sight.

Gonocephalus grandis

My first megophryid horned frog of the trip and a top-tier herp for me. Months later and I’m still gobsmacked.

Malayan Horned Frog (Megophrys nasuta)

Kalophrynus kiewii is basically the Grumpy Cat of the anuran set.

Kiew’s sticky frog (Kalophrynus kiewi)

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.

Trimeresurus sabahi fucatus – Siamese Peninsula Pitviper

Lots of Odorrana hanging around. Odorrana hosii is about the size of a North American green frog (Lithobates clamitans).

Odorrana hosii

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.

Limnonectes malesianus

An exciting moment when Kurt spotted this jasper cat snake in a trailside bush. The first of many tasty Boigas.

Boiga jaspidea – Jasper Cat Snake

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.

Larut sticky frog (Amolops larutensis)

The enormous and athletic giant Asian toad (Phrynoidis asper). This one was hanging around some park buildings after dark.

Phrynoidis asper

At night, roadsides in the forest were good places to find megophryids by their eyeshine. Here’s a couple smaller species:

Megophrys aceras – Yellow Horned Frog
Megophrys longipes – Red-legged Horned Frog

A jade treefrog (Zhangixalus prominanus) in a roadside puddle.

Zhangixalus prominanus

We found several pink-headed reed snakes (Calamaria schlegeli) on wet asphalt roads at night, some in the open, and others under leaves.

Calamaria schlegeli

These snakes remind me of the worm snakes (Carcophis) found back home in the States.

Calamaria schlegeli

Taylor’s Bow-fingered Gecko (Cyrtodactylus quadrivirgatus) were common on rocks and rock walls along the roadsides at night.

(Cyrtodactylus quadrivirgatus)

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.

Cyrtodactylus australotitiwangsaensis

A juvenile Butler’s wolf snake (Lycodon butleri). One must be careful with these krait-mimics.

Lycodon butleri

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.

Juvenile Asthenodipsas vertebralis
Adult Asthenodipsas vertebralis

This Larut forest skink was one chonky lizard.

Larut forest skink (Sphenomorphus praesignis)

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.

Rhacophorus bipunctatus

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.

(Calliophis intestinalis lineata)

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.

Highland forest near Bukit Fraser.
Our second location – hilly lowland forest in Selangor.

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.

Hendrickson’s moustache toad (Leptobrachium hendricksoni)

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.

Wallace’s flying frog (Rhacophorus nigropalmatus)

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.

Painted bronzeback (Dendrelaphis pictus)
Painted bronzeback (Dendrelaphis pictus)
Blue bronzeback (Dendrelaphis cyanochloris)

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.

Braminy blindsnake (Indotyphlops braminus)

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.

Dog-toothed cat snake (Boiga cyanodon)
Red cat snake (Boiga nigriceps brevicauda)

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.

Brown’s wolf gecko (Luperosaurus browni)

I was hoping we’d get to see Heteropoda davidbowie, and we did! A spectacular spider that did not disappoint.

David Bowie spider (Heteropoda davidbowie)

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.

Rhacophorus norhayatii

A triangular keelback (Xenochrophis trianguligerus) captured in situ above a small forest stream.

Xenochrophis trianguligerus

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.

Abavorana luctuosa

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.

Boiga drapiezii

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.


  1. Vince Adam

    Red-sided Keelback Water Snake (Xenochrophis trianguligerus) not piscator

    1. Mike Pingleton (Post author)

      Fixed. thanks, Vince!


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