One morning we stopped in at a local animal shelter near Filadelfia and it proved to be quite an interesting experience. Jake and Dermot made a new friend – a fish-eating raccoon named ‘Shampoo’. A little nippy and a lot nosy.
The place also had a large number of rescued Redfoot Tortoises (Chelonoidis carbonaria). Dermot and I are redfoot aficionados, and we had a great time walking among the many beautiful adult tortoises. I had high hopes of seeing a wild redfoot, but it was not to be on this trip.
The place also had a South American Tapir (Tapirus terrestris), which was dog-tame and enjoyed being petted and scratched. Another new experience for me.
The shelter had a number of rescued snakes and lizards, including a ginormous False Water Cobra (Hydrodynastes gigas).
This eight foot snake had been found in town, in a local mechanic’s garage, and the shelter owner asked if we could relocate the animal to some body of water away from town. Sure! This gave us an opportunity to interact with an absolute unit of a serpent as we released it.
‘Cobra’ is appropriate – this powerful snake reminded me of the large king cobras I had interacted with at a venom lab in Bangkok. It was very muscular and alert, and we all steered clear of that big teeth-laden mouth.
We had one more day and night to work around Filadelfia. Aside from a few two lane highways, most of the roads were dirt, but they were well-maintained. The farms in this part of Paraguay were laid out in orderly grids, and many of the roads went on for miles without so much as a wiggle.
We also saw quite a few Greater Rheas (Rhea americana), usually in farm fields and on the edges of tree lines.
This Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) was spotted within the city limits of Filadelfia.
The finds kept coming, including more of the Painted Lanceheads (Bothrops diporus).
And the Jeep crew came up with a stunner, a snake we all had hoped to see – the Tricolor Hognose (Xenodon pulcher).
If a Heterodon and a Cemophora got together, chances are the offspring would look something like this snake. We spent quite a while photographing this beauty (and staring at it) on the side of the road.
Another favorite of mine was this Banded Pampas Snake (Phimophis vittatus). It looked a bit dull and drab at first, but the camera flash really pulled out some nice colors and detail. A burrower, if smooth scales and the shape of the snout means anything.
While I was photographing the Phimophis, I looked up to see this snake crawling by, just a few feet away – a Spirit Ground Snake (Psomophis genimaculatus). Well well, my little beauty, I’ll take your picture too!
The next morning we made a long and bumpy trek to the southwest, towards the border with Argentina. Our destination was Fortin Gral Diaz, a small community that in times past served as an army post. The highway stopped there and the small town was close to a small river. We stayed at the Hotel Pira, which turned out to be awesome as we’ll see later.
Hotel Pira was run by a chap named Matti and his wife, and he turned out to be quite helpful, and a fun guy to be around as well.
Using his small boat, Matti took our crew out on the river in small groups, to see Yacare’ Caimans. There were quite a few and some were enormous.
Up until now we had only seen smaller sized caiman, so I was suitably impressed by these big adults.
We poked around some marshy areas on a private ranch. No herps of note other than caiman, but there were lots of great birds, including some Jabiru storks.
Road-cruising the first night was productive, including a few Chaco treefrogs (Boana raniceps).
Another great find was this Chaco Worm Lizard (Ophiodes intermedius), looking much like the legless lizards we have back in the U.S.
We also turned up a Southern Banded Cat-eyed Snake (Leptodeira annulata pulchriceps). There were plenty of frogs around to keep snakes like this well fed.
The next day Matti took us to the old abandoned army barracks, built by the Argentine army, but later occupied by Paraguayan forces after the Chaco war.
A few neat herps and I got my first good look at vampire bats!
We saw a few of these Four-toed Tegus (Teius teyou) running around outside of the barracks.
More cool finds from road-cruising at night. Dermot and I turned up this cool Southern Mussurana (Boiruna maculata), which proved extremely difficult to photograph.
The Jeep crew also did well with this lovely Argentine Rainbow Boa (Epicrates alvarezi). Also a tough snake to shoot – it tended to tuck its head and when it wasn’t tucking it was on the move.
Matti’s pal Joel drove up from Asunción, and that night they entertained us with fish soup, many beers, and some classic American Rock. A good time was had by all.
The next morning we said goodbye to Matti and Gral Diaz and headed back to Asunción. We had to be back in time to get Covid test results before our flights home.
While waiting, we visited a city park a few miles from our hotel and the herps kept showing up. The park had received a lot of recent rain and there were puddles and standing water everywhere. In the parking lot we found several Klappenbach’s Red-bellied Toads (Melanophryniscus klappenbachi).
The park was a mixture of athletic fields and walking trails that passed through woods and open areas. We saw quite a few Giant Ameivas (Ameiva ameiva) and the slightly smaller Large-Spotted Four-toed Tegus (Teius oculatus).
I love burrowing owls and it was a kick to see a few of them at the park, using the fences and other high spots as perches.
Our Paraguayan friend Joseli turned up a Lema’s Ground Snake (Lygophis dilepis). Something had to be the last herp of the trip, and this cool little snake was it!