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Foresters record first sighting of local viper species in Cebu

News | Myxie Rogado

T. subannulatus is known for its green background color with red and white variable stripes. Photo courtesy of Archiebald Malaki, Steve Alcazar, Edgardo Lilio, Raamah Rosales, Bernardo Redoblado, John Diaz, and Inocencio Buot Jr.

Foresters in Cebu recorded the first sighting of the North Philippine temple pitviper (Tropidolaemus subannulatus) at the island in 2018. The documentation was reported in a paper published in the Philippine Journal of Science.

Cebu Island was lacking information on its reptile and amphibian population, as there were currently only two published articles on the said population. Moreover, neither of the 1986 and 2016 expeditions reported the presence of T. subannulatus.

Foresters conducted an observation in Mt. Lantoy in Argao, Cebu since it was also one of the five study sites in the region that were explored for a reptile and amphibian survey in 2012. The mountainous region is a key biodiversity area, which was also one of the study areas for the 2016 expedition.

It wasn’t until April 13, 2018 that a single specimen of a male juvenile T. subannulatus was found perching on the vines in the lowland secondary mixed forest over limestone of Mt. Lantoy.

The species’ habitat had a mixed plantation and secondary natural forest cover, with dominant local canopy trees, bamboos, and a few fruiting trees thriving in the area. They also found out that the species’ microhabitat in the forests of Mt. Lantoy was crucial for its survival.

The North Philippine temple pitviper is one of the most venomous snakes endemic to the Philippines and its presence is documented in the three major islands of the country. Its distribution was also documented in Palawan, Panay, Sibuto, Tumindao, Sulu archipelago, and Balabac.

“Since Cebu Island is part of the Greater Negros-Panay Biogeographical Region, the presence of the North Philippine temple pit viper is not that surprising. However, its discovery in the field where it was never documented is, indeed, welcome,” the foresters said in their study.

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, T. subannulatus has a “least concern” conservation status as there is still a lack of information regarding the species.

“The current discovery of this new distribution record may trigger further studies of this lesser-known organism,” the foresters concluded.

The rarity of the North Philippine temple pitviper supported the study by another group of scientists in 2016 where they said that there is little natural habitat for amphibian and reptile species in Cebu due to early signs of deforestation in the island.

“To facilitate the immediate recovery of the remaining forest fragments, and resident herpetofauna (reptiles and amphibians), conservation effort [sic] must be sustained. However, prior to any conservation interventions, ecological baselines must be established to inform the process of recovery,” the scientists said.

The Philippines’ wildlife species and habitats are protected by the Republic Act No. 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act. Any person partaking in the exploitation of wildlife resources and habitats shall be subjected to imprisonment and fines ranging from 200 thousand to one million pesos.

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Scientia

Scientia

The official student publication of the College of Science, UP Diliman.