Rainforests and snakes kind of go hand-in-hand, right? A single trip where one comes across not one, but five Malabar Pit Vipers in hues of green, brown, and a rare yellow, undoubtedly is enough to convert one into a lover of snakes for life. So it happened to us too.
Now, the Malabar Pit Viper is an intriguing snake. Endemic to the Western Ghats of India, this snake is slender and can grow up to 105 centimetres (We saw a green one that was about three feet long). They slumber during the day and hunt by night, either on the ground or on shrubs.
Malabar Pit Vipers have this immense capacity (and patience, I must say) to lie absolutely still in wait of prey, not just for hours but at times for days. And when the moment arrives, these snakes make a quick move, kill, and feast on frogs, lizards, rodents, and even other snakes. Yes, they are venomous snakes. (A single bite can make a human swell up and be in moderate pain. But most often than not one wouldn’t die of the bite.)
Did I say the Malabar Pit Viper is a nocturnal snake? Well, yes. In the darkness of rainforests, how does this snake manage to spot its prey? In the answer lies the justification of its name. The Malabar Pit Viper (like all Pit Vipers) has a unique hole on its face (below the eyes). This hole, or the Pit Organ, has a membrane spread across it, which helps the snake detect infrared radiation from any warm body nearby. They form a picture of the prey and then launch an attack on the unsuspecting prey.