Articles that have been featured in newspapers on 'Fauna of Hill Palace'.
Abstract : We have spent all our whole life in Tripunithura. Ten to Fifteen years back, Tripunithura was a lot greener than what it is today. We witnessed the greenery disappear right in front of our eyes. The many species of animals and birds which we used to see around daily vanished so quickly from our neighborhood. Being animal loves, we were surprised as well as worried about this disappearance. With the disappearance of neighborhood greenery, Hill Palace Museum premises attracted us with its tall trees, green canopy and vast gardens.

The development of Tripunithura from a god blessed royal town to one of the major residential area of the big city Cochin, had resulted in the depletion of many micro habitats which banished some wonderful creatures, which now refuge at the forested gardens of Hill Palace Cultural Museum. This has evolved the once mere forested garden to a unique biosphere which ensures the existence of the fauna.

Below is the link to the Initial Checklist study report which we did to analyze the fauna diversity inside the premises of Hill Palace. We are improving on the Checklist by including more species to the already mentioned list.

We'll be publishing the improved checklist soon..

Initial Checklist Study report on Fauna Diversity at Hill Palace Museum
File Size: 632 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

September 12th : Soham asked us to transfer a few Morlet Crocodile juveniles (Crocodylus morleti) from the turtles haven (An exhibit) and from the nursery. We had to transfer both the lot into a new enclosure. After the shifting, soham pointed out some interesting characteristic behavior to us. The Color of the juvenile crocodiles shifted from the nursery were more brighter than the ones from the Turtle haven exhibit. They were much bigger than the ones from the turtle haven exhibit. Both these lot were from the same clutch, which was layed by the Mother morlet's on June 2007.
Morlet crocodile Juveniles from the TURTLE HAVEN EXHIBIT enclosure (See, they are more darker).

Morlet Crocodile juveniles from the NURSERY ENCLOSURE (See, they're larger and brighter in coloration).

Soham explained this variation in their morphology/color. He said, the lot from the nursery had more availability of sunlight during the day hours than that at the turtle's haven. The Nursery exposed direct sunlight for nearly 5 hours everyday, making the juveniles from the nursery more brighter and larger (More sunlight, More metabolism, More intake of food, Grows faster). Where as, the ones from the Turtle haven exhibit exposed only less than 2 hours of direct sunlight during the day hours. This made them darker (which helps them to absorb the available sunlight/heat for metabolism) and smaller (Low sunlight, low metabolism, low intake of food, lesser growth). The juveniles from the turtle haven are smaller due to the smaller amount of space they have in their enclosure. Where as the juveniles from the nursery had a much more bigger enclosure resulting in bigger size.

Both the group (5 each from turtle haven and nursery) was from the same clutch which was layed on June 2007 and showed these drastic adaptation behavior based on the area they were housed.

Nature always finds a way.

Gokul's House - We were getting ready for our weekly field study to Hill palace when I found something moving alongside my legs. Thought it was a Common Indian Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) juvenile. Luckly i was forced to have a closer look and was actually surprised to see the Indian Painted Frog (Kaloula taprobanica). This is my first sighting with this species in my locality (Tripunithura). These are burrowing frogs which are of medium size, stocky build and short-legged. 

About the Specimen :
The Indian Painted frog is readily identified by its striking color combination of bright red to flesh pink, brown and black, spotted ireegularly with white. The red patches on the upper side are rather symmetrical bordered with black. The underside is grayish, finely speckled with brown. In breeding males, the throat is black. The tips of the fingers are enlarged into large and flattened discs. The digging appendage on the inner aspect of the sole is well developed. 

The Adults grow no less than 6 cm. A bony ridge on the roof of the mouth right below the internal opening of each nostril is a feature unique for this genus (Kaloula). 

The genus Kaloula is widespread in South and Southeast Asia extending east till about the Philippines. Around 10 species are known in this genus, three of which occur in India.

The call of the Indian painted frog maybe described as a loud and low pitched " Brong " uttered incessantly during the night and early hours of the day during the rains. From a distance, it sounds like the slow and deliberate gratin of the coconut.

They are well adapted to living within highly urbanized cities like Bangalore and Chennai. Found throughout the western ghats. Species widely distributed in India (Orissa, Assam, W.Bengal, Kerala, Bihar, M.Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.)


Signature spider, Writing spider, Orb-weaver spiders. 
Different name to suit the specimen. They are beautiful, widespread and strikingly colorful abdomen spiders. They belong to the Family Araneidae.
The very easily visible pattern of banded silk made by Argiope is pure white, and some species make an "X" form, or a zigzag type of web 
(often with a hollow center). The spider then aligns one pair of its legs with each of the four lines in the hollow "X," 
making a complete "X" of white lines with a very eye-catching spider colored bright yellow on a field of black or variegated red white and yellow stripes forming its center. The white patterns are called stabilimentum and reflect UV light.

This specimen was found at K.G.Chavadi (Coimbatore) on my way back from College to my hostel. These walks have always stuck me with interesting wildlife specimens of arachnids, avians, reptilians, amphibians etc.. and ofcourse.. loads of road-kills..

On 31 March 09, I found this specimen from under the culvert on PKD CBE Highway.. around 3:30 PM. This guy caught my attention from a long way. Was surprised to see such a big specimen of the species (Argiope anasuja). I had the ruler with me so that i could measure the him/ her 
(I dunno what sex it belonged). The measurement was surprising. 
I have seen and measured more than 15-20 specimen of Argiope anasuja and non gave this big measures.

length (From Abdomen to head) 
around 6Cm
Left leg (Hind) to right leg (Front) 
around 12Cm..

Huge it was.. I could also take some pictures of the specimen, 
which i have uploaded here.


(from top left)
Philautus chlorosomma, Philautus chotta, Philautus akroparallagi, Philautus amboli , Philautus jayarami, Philautus kaikatti, Philautus coonoorensis, Philautus munnarensis, Philautus sushili, Philautus marki, Philautus chromasynchys and Philautus kani. Photos copyright: S.D. Biju,

From the News :
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Flagging the extent of species diversity in the Western Ghats, researchers have reported the discovery of a dozen species of tree frogs from the region.The discovery by S.D. Biju of Delhi University and Franky Bossuyt of the Free University of Brussels is published in the latest issue of Zoological Journal of Linnean Society, London. The paper is titled ‘Systematics and phylogeny of Philautus Gistel, 1848 (Anura, Rhacophoridae) in the Western Ghats of India, with descriptions of 12 new species.’A Delhi University release on Tuesday said the findings followed 10 years of field study in the Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot, complemented by laboratory research. The paper is unique for the sheer number of new species described, the release said.The paper, while making a comprehensive taxonomic revision of the genus Philautus (mostly bush frogs and tree frogs), also reports the rediscovery of a bush frog that was considered extinct. The rediscovered Travancore bush frog (Philautus travancoricus) had not been reported since its discovery more than 100 years ago. It was found now in a highly degraded environment in the Vagamon area of Kottayam district.The genus Philautus was discovered in India in 1854. Over the 155-year period since then, 32 species under this genus have been reported from the Western Ghats. Dr. Biju has been associated with the discovery of 19 of them, including the 12 reported now. In their paper, he and Dr. Bossuyt, a systematics expert, also report the possible extinction of two of the species reported decades ago.“This highlights the need for a new conservation strategy for our country. Seemingly small habitat disturbances can wipe out species… Seven of the newly reported species were found in unprotected areas that were forests some time back and are plantations and human habitations now. These species are fast vanishing,” Dr. Biju said.


Aglyphous ("lacking grooves") snakes have no specialized teeth - each tooth is more or less the same in shape and often in size. When some teeth are larger than others, as is sometimes the case in bird eaters such as Corralus, the enlarged teeth are merely "scaled up", and are otherwise identical. Aglyphous snakes are non-venomous, and can be found in numerous families.

Opisthoglyphous snakes have fangs at the
back of their mouth (opistho means behind).
These fangs usually have a ‘groove’. When the snake is holding or biting into prey, venom flows down the groove and into the prey’s wound. They are mostly harmless or mildly venomous
to humans.
The only Australian snakes that have grooved fangs are the brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) and some freshwater snakes in northern Australia.

Proteroglyphous snakes have small fangs fixed in place at the front of their mouth. These snakes’ fangs do not move and are smaller than other types of fangs, so the snake does not puncture its lower lip when it closes its mouth. Fang size ranges from 3 to 10 millimetres long, depending on the size and species of snake.
When these snakes bite they hang on and ‘chew’ into the prey’s flesh to release venom. These are some of the deadliest snakes in the world. Examples of proteroglyphous snakes are cobras, taipans, coral snakes and sea snakes.

Solenoglyphous snakes have hollow fangs that are located at the front of the snake’s mouth. They are hinged, so they can swing forward, stab prey and quickly inject venom before withdrawing their fangs to avoid being injured by the struggling prey.The fangs fold back into a pouch on the roof of the snake’s mouth until they are needed again. These snakes can also open their mouth almost 180 degrees with the fangs extended straight out.Solenglyphous snakes can rotate each fang independently, but when they swing forward
to strike, the fangs are erected together.

When proteroglyphous and solenglyphous snakes lose their fangs, they have five to seven replacement fangs waiting in their gums behind and above the original fang. Depending on the species of snake and how healthy or injured it is, fangs are replaced every ten days to ten weeks.


Colubridae (Colubrids) :
About 2000 species. Make up 2/3 of total snakes.
Eg: Garter snakes, Boomslangs, African Bird snake.
Lives through out the world. The different species vary greatly in appearance and ways of life.

Typhlopidae (Blind Snakes) :
About 200 species; burrows the underground and eats ants and earthworms. Looks like earthworms. About 90 cm in length; Eyes covered with head scales. Lives in tropical and sub-tropical regions.

Anomalepididae (Primitive B.S) :
Small worm like snake which lives in rain forests of central and south america; eats small insects and worms. Closely related to Blind snakes. about 20 species known.

Leptotyphlopidae (Thread Snakes) :
About 50 species known. Closely related to the Blind Snakes. Only differences are 
B.S : Tooth in upper jaws.
TS : Tooth in lower jaws.
Lives in Africa, Southern Asia, S.W.N America; tropical areas of Central and S. America.

Boidae (Biods) :
Include the largest snakes like Anacondas, Pythons and Boas. about 100 species; large and stout bodies. However some are less than 90 cm. Have external vestigal organs. Seen in tropical and subtropical areas. 

Elapidae (Elapids) :
About 200 species. Short; have non movable fangs (modified venom tooth). Front fanged snakes; All highly venomous. No elapids live in Europe.
Eg: Coral snakes, Australian Black snakes, Death Adders, Tiger Snakes, King Cobras, Cobras.

Hydrophiidae (Sea Snakes) :
About 50-60 species. Related to Elapids. About 90-120 cm long. Body flattened sideways (adapted to swimming). Topical areas of the Indian and Pacific oceans. Seen in depths less than 50 m. Give birth to Young ones.

Uropeltidae (Shield Tailed) :
About 25 species. Live in Southern India and Sri-Lanka. Have highly pointed or wedge shaped snout. Blunt tail and smooth scales.

Viperidae (Vipers) :
Have long hollow fangs (Movable), Highly venomous. Head triangular and keeled (in majority). Front movable fangs. Longer fangs. 


The new specimen was found by a group of three men from the Arunachal Pradesh and its surrounding areas.. Feared by the local people.. (Bad Omen).. Its not a true viper.. its a pit viper.. which has similarities b/w the Jerdon's Pit Viper (Protobothrops jerdonii) and Kaulback's lance-headed pitviper(Protobothrops kaulbacki)... 
The Male and female specimen were examined and it was seemed that these snakes suicided in the hands of the herpetologist. Killing themselves with their own fangs.The snake specimen is yet to be named..

From the NEWS :

A deadly hiss has emanated from the country’s easternmost state, Arunachal Pradesh.A three-member team discovered what could be a new species of pit viper snake, from the remote Sango area in Papum Pare district of the state.Herpetologist B.B. Bhatt from the state Forest Research Institute, Arunachal Pradesh, Pune-based herpetologist Ashok Captain and Kedar Bhide, a Mumbai-based wildlife documentary filmmaker told The Telegraph that two serpents belonging to the “new species” were caught after a one-year hunt.Barta, as the local Nyishi tribesmen call the six-foot-something reptile, is the most-feared creature among the tribes in Arunachal Pradesh.According to Nyishi folklore, sighting of a barta, meaning the deadliest of all the snakes, is a bad omen.The finding of “a new species of pit viper snake”, however, has created a flutter among the country’s herpetologists.“Going by the colour, count and patterns of the newly-found snakes which differ from Protobothrops kaulbacki, another species of pit viper snake spotted by Ronald Kaulback in the forests of Upper Myanmar in 1940, it can be said that it is probably a new species found never before in the forests.Although at a glance they look similar to the snake found in Myanmar, their features differ from Protobothrops kaulbacki. The blood samples of the snakes have been sent for DNA tests to a Hyderabad-based laboratory this month. We are awaiting an official confirmation,” Bhatt told The Telegraph.Bhatt, who has documented 76 of the 140 species of snakes found in Arunachal Pradesh, said the most striking feature of the newly-found species was its egg-producing capacity. It can lay a clutch of 20 to 30 eggs - a phenomenon hitherto unknown to scientists.“This type of snakes are found at an altitude of above 1,000 meters and prey on frogs, fish and rats. But they are not known to lay eggs. Another striking feature are their pits, which are much larger than those of the other snakes of the pit viper family. The species has been so named because an organ in its body consists of pits. It is just behind the nostrils and covered with a temperature-sensitive membrane. Some pit vipers may also use these organs to find cool refuge from inhospitable daytime temperature,” Bhatt said.The herpetologists caught a pair of snakes, a male and a female, but the reptiles chose to escape death at the hands of the humans and killed themselves by using their own fangs, much to the surprise of Bhatt who has been watching reptile behaviour for the last seven years in the forests of the Northeast and north India. According to Bhatt, this sheds new light on the strange behavioural pattern of the species, so long unknown to herpetologists.“Pit vipers have long, hollow, erectile fangs that are folded back against the roof of the mouth except when the snakes are striking. Once the fangs are out, it becomes difficult to fold back those organs and unable to cope with the situation they might have killed themselves,” Bhatt explained.


Kapuas Mud Snake (Enhydris gyii) or the Chameleon snake is a native of the Borneo Island, found inside the macro habitat of the Kapuas River. The Snake can change its epidermal color spontaneously. Discovered in 2005 accidently, when the specimen was put in a dark bucket, the snake turned into pale white 20 mins later. A new species to the Enhydris genus.. Like all Homalospinae, this 30 inch snake is mildly venomous (Rear fanged snake) and Viviparous.

To be much plain ... Kapuas Mud Snake (Enhydris gyii) is a rear fanged water snake.

Extract from Nat Geo News

June 27, 2006--A newfound species of poisonous snake might have developed an unusual way to keep enemies at bay—by spontaneously changing its skin color.

The slightly iridescent serpent, was discovered in the Indonesian section of the island of Borneo, the international conservation organization WWF announced today. A WWF team found the snake during a 2003 survey of the island's reptile diversity.

"I put the reddish-brown snake in a dark bucket," Mark Auliya, a German reptile expert and WWF consultant, said in a press release. "When I retrieved it a few minutes later, it was almost entirely white."

Auliya found the 1.6-foot-long (0.5-meter-long) snake in wetlands and swamps near the Kapuas River in Borneo's Betung Kerihun National Park. His team named it the Kapuas mud snake, and the scientists believe it exists only in the river's drainage areas.

"The discovery of the 'chameleon' snake exposes one of nature's best kept secrets deep in the heart of Borneo," WWF's Stuart Chapman said in a press release. "Its ability to change color has kept it hidden from science until now. I guess it just picked the wrong color that day."

A handful of other reptiles are known to be able to rapidly change their pigmentation (photo:chameleon color change), and the trait has been documented as a defense mechanism in some snakes. The researchers don't yet know how or why the new snake species makes the change, but they speculate it could be a warning behavior.