(TRINIDAD EXPRESS) — The rare black Cribo snake, last spotted more than a decade ago, was found in Cumuto last week.
Also known as Massurana, and commonly known as the “Huntsman’s friend” since it is carnivorous and feeds on other snakes, it was found at the reptile rehabilitation compound of herpetologist Syed Ali on January 3.
Ali told Express on Monday that the snake was observed by his son, Taariq, 21, while maintenance work was carried out on the premises.
Ali said that the snake was captured for it to examined for research purposes, but it will be released back into the forest this month.
“This one is a female, about six and a half feet long. We suspected that it had had a meal and we will allow a few days for it to digest properly before we examine in further. It will be released afterwards because there is no point in keeping one snake in captivity. We will try to identify anything that it might have fed on”, Ali said.
He described it as a rear-fanged snake with a mild venom which it uses to paralyse or disable its prey, and squeezes it before it becomes a meal.
It feeds primarily on the dangerously venomous Mapepire Balsain, and for this reason it is known as a ‘friend’ to hunters, Ali explained.
“It does not attack hunters but it feeds on the venomous snakes of which hunters are afraid”, Ali said.
He said the snake may be rare possibly because of its specific diet, and destruction of its habitat when forested areas are cleared.
Over the last 27 years, there have been ten recorded sightings, according to an online article ‘The Online Guide to the Animals of Trinidad and Tobago’ written for the University of the West Indies by Ali’s wife, Nalini Rampersad.
The article stated that the black Cribo can be present throughout Trinidad, but not in Tobago.
The sightings were – one at Moora Trace, Matura, in 1988; Oil Field Road Goudron, Guayaguayare, 1992; two at Trinity Hills Guayaguayare, 2008; a pair at Brasso Seco Trace, Paria, 2013; one dead on road at Plum Road, Brigand Hill, 2013; one at Moruga North (seen by a hunter), 2014; one juvenile at Cumaca Forest, Platanal, 2015; one on Chacachacare Island, 1996; one with a clutch of eggs, the article stated.
The juveniles are usually bright orange/red with a black crown and off-white collar.
“The sightings of adults are rare and the juveniles even rarer”, the article stated.