Ecology and conservation of the bamboo pit viper: Natural history, demography and effects of translocation

Elizabeth Anne Devan-Song, University of Rhode Island


The bamboo pit viper (Trimeresurus albolabris, Gray 1842) is broadly distributed through South and Southeast Asia. This venomous snake occurs in high abundances in Hong Kong, and frequently comes into contact with humans. Thus it is viewed as a `nuisance' species and is commonly translocated away from areas of human habitation. Despite being relatively abundant and a frequent focus of human-snake conflict in the region, very little is known about the ecology, demography, and the effects of long-distance translocation on this species. I captured 104 T. albolabris from throughout Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China and collected morphometric and reproductive information. I conducted radio-telemetry on 41 individuals (21 translocated, 20 resident) and obtained information on survival, movements, reproduction and brumation. Populations exhibited even sex ratios. Females attain sexual maturity at ~460 mm snout-vent length, and males at ~ 410 mm snout-vent length. Males exhibit an ontogenetic increase in relative tail lengths that is not observed in females. Mating occurs between September and November and coincides with the onset of spermatogenesis. Trimeresurus albolabris displays post-nuptial vitellogenesis, and long-term sperm storage in females likely occurs over the winter. Females reproduce once every two or more years, except for very large females that may reproduce annually. Translocation decreased survival of T. albolabris, and translocated snakes were more likely to make unidirectional movements away from point of release. Translocated snakes also displayed aberrant movement patterns, with elevated average daily movements and elevated distances moved away from point of release. Translocation also negatively affected brumation behavior and reproduction. Long-distance translocation is not a viable conservation strategy for addressing human-snake conflict in T. albolabris, and alternative strategies should be explored for management of this species. Knowledge of the natural history, demography, reproductive ecology, and responses to long-distance translocation of T. albolabris provide baseline ecological information for a species that contributes significantly to medically important snakebite injuries in the region and will be useful for prescribing improvements to current management strategies.

Subject Area

Wildlife Management|Ecology|Conservation

Recommended Citation

Elizabeth Anne Devan-Song, "Ecology and conservation of the bamboo pit viper: Natural history, demography and effects of translocation" (2014). Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access). Paper AAI1570673.