September 2022

A new reptile for the Grumeti-Ikorongo records: Hook-nosed snake

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A new reptile for the Grumeti-Ikorongo records: Hook-nosed snake

Grant Telfer
By Grant Telfer
Head of Guide Training

In September 2022 a group of guides spent a few nights camping in Ikorongo to the west of OP 8. We set up a base camp and from there we explored the rocky ridges on foot. There were a lot of migratory animals in the area, and fresh signs of elephants from the night before. We saw a number of klipspringer sunning themselves in the morning sun and found two old buffalo bulls tucked away under a thicket.

At about 09:00 on the 23 September we had ascended a steeper section of broken rocks, small thickets and tufts of grass and reached a flatter plateau. Crossing the plateau we crossed paths with a snake that none of us had seen before.

White flecking ran the length of its stocky, shiny body. It had a blueish iridescence with a pale belly and the tapering tip of the tail also changed into a pinkish colour. Its head was short and blunt and there was a noticeable hooked beak/nose (a protruding rostral scale). It had a black tongue and noticeable black eyes.

We managed to grab a few quick photos of our new discovery and when we finished the walk we climbed into the field guides and books to try and ID the snake we had seen.

What we had found was a juvenile (grey or grey/blue with spots) hook-nosed snake (Scaphiophis albopunctatus). Apparently the East-African population is quite disjunct with specimens having been found in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and potentially as far west as Gabon.

Not much is known about this snake but some interesting behaviour regarding it is that it lives in holes, burrows and it is harmless. When it grabs hold of potential prey (lizards, mice and eggs) it will aggressively bash and slam the prey against the walls of the hole in order to kill it.

We shared our discovery with the East African reptile group, and they confirmed it as the first recorded sighting of this snake in our area. It was so rewarding to put in the effort, to get out on foot and explore, and then find something new and interesting.