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Peninsular Thailand, July 2022

Great flying lizard

(Draco maximus) (Boulenger, 1893)

One of the largest species of flying lizards, within Thailand it is only found in the far south of the country in the provinces which border Malaysia.

In July 2022 I returned to Thailand to my previous teaching position I had there between 2017-2021. I arrived with a few weeks to spare so Kat and I joined Ton on a trip mainly to the south of peninsular Thailand. I had also had a few nights out searching in the hills near my home in Kathu on Phuket which I have also included.

For the trip itself we were mainly targeting a number of species only found in the provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat in the deep south of the country. In the end we spent 7 of the 9 nights of the trip in Narathiwat with single night stops in Surat Thani and Phatthalung to break up the long drive.

Thanks to Ian Dugdale, Rupert Grassby-Lewis and Parinya Pawangkhanat for some sneaky hints and ID assistance.


I wandered some familiar trails where I found species very typical for those areas. One standout species was the Cinnamon frog (Nyctixalus pictus) which I have only seen a couple of times previously here. A number of Wagler’s pit vipers (Tropidolaemus wagleri) and a male Phuket pit viper (Trimeresurus phuketensis) were the standout snakes encountered.

Wagler’s pit viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri)

Surat Thani (1 night)

We met Ton in Surat Thani just before nightfall and en route to our first location we found two monocled cobras (Naja kaouthia) and a striped kukri snake (Oligodon taeniatus) crossing the road. While exploring some limestone forest we found a large number of beautiful pit vipers (Trimeresurus venustus), we lost count but probably over a dozen. Other species seen included a blue bronzeback (Dendrelaphis cyanochloris), and a cute striped sticky frog (Kalophrynus interlineatus). At a second wetland location only a few Cox’s water snake (Homalopsis mereljcoxi) were seen.

Monocled cobra (Naja kaouthia)
Beautiful pit viper (Trimeresurus venustus)
Spotted bent-toed gecko (Cyrtodactylus zebraicus)

Phatthalung (1 night)

I had not seen the iconic tentacled snake (Erpeton tentaculatum) before so Ton suggested that we stop at a known location on our way down to Narathiwat. Exploring a wetland area at night we first found three mangrove cat snakes (Boiga melanota) and then Ton was able to spot two of the desired tentacled snakes. My lack of experience with this species was very obvious as I walked past both individuals. The first animal in particular just looked like a piece of wood in the murky water with only part of the body visible. Luckily Ton knew what to look for with this species and hopefully next time I will have a better idea myself.

Tentacled snake (Erpeton tentaculatum)
Mangrove cat snake (Boiga melanota)
Buffalo mud bath

Narathiwat: Part 1 (3 nights)

Our first 3 nights in Narathiwat would be in an area of rare peat swamp forest where we hoped to see a number of aquatic snake species that we had not seen previously. The first stop was initially a failure, walking around in muddy mosquito-infested swamp until I finally spotted a Javan file snake (Acrochordus javanicus) which made us all very happy. The following evening I found a prettier specimen and then Ton found a third at a different location. This was one of the snake highlights of the entire trip. Another highlight was when I spotted an interesting frog during the daytime which turned out to be a Robinson’s flying frog (Leptomantis robinsonii), a very rare species in Thailand. Other snakes found included a dozen Cox’s water snakes, a few rainbow mud snakes (Enhydris enhydris), a Bocourt’s mud snake (Subsessor bocourti), a few mangrove cat snakes, and a white-spotted cat snake (Boiga drapiezii). A couple of road-killed snakes included a banded krait (Bungarus fasciatus) and a Malayan banded wolf snake (Lycodon subcinctus). A big lizard find was a nocturnal foraging Dumeril’s monitor lizard (Varanus dumerilii) but sadly I couldn’t manage  a photo before it disappeared. Two skinks which are only known from the deep south; big tree skink (Dasia grisea) and the rough-scaled sun skink (Eutropis rugifera) were also seen.

Robinson’s flying frog (Leptomantis robinsonii)
Javan file snake (Acrochordus javanicus)
Mangrove cat snake (Boiga melanota) in situ
Another mangrove cat snake (Boiga melanota) in situ
Oriental bay owl (Phodilus badius)
Sunda flying lemur (Galeopterus variegatus) 

Narathiwat: Part 2 (4 nights)

On to the main destination of the trip, the pristine Malay dipterocarp evergreen forest of Narathiwat province. I really enjoyed this place the last time I was here in 2020 and I was pleased to see that the checkpoints en route were not so heavily armed as previous visits, perhaps an indication that the political situation here is improving? A few months previously Ton had found a number of exciting species in this area and indeed the list of potentially amazing finds was endless. While Kat and I stayed here for 4 nights Ton was able to stay an extra night which allowed him to find a beautiful male Sumatran pit viper (Trimeresurus sumatranus). Although it was a pity to not be with him for this find I certainly cannot complain about what we had already seen in the previous nights. One of the main targets for me personally was to finally see a Wirot’s pit viper (Trimeresurus wiroti). Snakes found over the first few evenings included up to a dozen Hagen’s pit vipers (Trimeresurus hageni), dog-toothed cat snake (Boiga cynodon), dark-headed cat snake (Boiga nigriceps), striped bronzeback, Bengkulu cat snake (Boiga bengkulensis), jasper cat snake (Boiga jaspidea), white-spotted cat snake, speckle-bellied keelback (Rhadophis chrysargos), white-bellied rat snake (Ptyas fusca), blunt-headed slug-eating snake (Aplopeltura boa), reticulated python (Malayopython reticulatus) and a Malayan krait (Bungarus candidus). On our last night a 3 metre king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) crossed the road during a rainy night but we couldn’t get a photo in time.

However, the highlight was finding not one but two of the much desired Wirot’s pit viper. The first was an adult, spotted by Ton hanging from a branch with a full belly just as we were about to call it a night. The second was a juvenile that I spotted in ambush next to a stream. The adult in particular was very well marked and a very pretty individual.

Some amphibian highlights included two long-nosed horned frog (Megophrys nasuta), one sat by a small cascade and the other on the road during a rainy evening. Ton found a harlequin flying frog (Rhacophorus pardalis) which was a new species for me in a swampy section of the forest. Another amphibian highlight was finding a juvenile warty tree frog (Theloderma horridum). Interesting lizard encounters included Bell’s angle head lizard (Gonocephalus bellii), giant angle head lizard (Gonocephalus grandis), brown scrub lizard (Aphaniotis fusca) and during the daytime a number of flying lizard species, including the great flying lizard (Draco maximus).

No visit to this area is complete without some trips to the Hala Bala Wildlife Sanctuary. During two relatively short drives we found a number of species that we had not seen or photographed before, some of which only live in this part of Thailand. These included agile gibbon (Hylobates agilis), white-thighed surili (Presbytis siamensis), rhinoceros hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros) and although much more widespread, the very rare helmeted hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil).

We shall be back…

Hala Bala Wildlife Sanctuary
Blunt-headed slug snake (Aplopeltura boa)
Wirot’s pit viper (Trimeresurus wiroti)
Wirot’s pit viper (Trimeresurus wiroti)
Warty tree frog (Theloderma horridum)
Rhinoceros hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros)
Long-nosed horned frog (Megophrys nasuta)
Great anglehead lizard (Gonocephalus grandis)
Great flying lizard (Draco maximus)

Amphibian species list:

  1. Koh Tao caecilian (Ichthyophis kohtaoensis)
  2. Spachai’s caecilian (Ichthyophis supachaii)
  3. Spotted litter frog (Leptobrachium hendricksoni)
  4. Smith’s litter frog (Leptobrachium smithi)
  5. Long-nosed horned frog (Megophrys nasuta)
  6. Asian spiny toad (Duttaphrynus melanosticus)
  7. Slender legged toad (Leptophryne borbonica)
  8. River toad (Phrynoidis aspera)
  9. Banded bullfrog (Kaloula pulchra)
  10. Mukhlesur’s chorus frog (Microhyla mukhlesuri)
  11. Painted chorus frog (Microhyla pulchra)
  12. Inornate chorus frog (Micryletta inornata)
  13. Striped sticky frog (Kalophrynus interlineatus)
  14. Field frog (Fejevarya limnocharis)
  15. Blyth’s giant frog (Limnonectes blythii)
  16. Common puddle frog (Occidozyga lima)
  17. Larut hill cascade frog (Amolops larutensis)
  18. Copper cheeked frog (Chalcorana eschatia)
  19. White-lipped frog (Chalcorana labialis)
  20. Red-eared frog (Hylarana erythraea)
  21. Hose’s rock frog (Odorrana hosii)
  22. Rough-sided frog (Pulchrana glandulosa)
  23. Masked rough-sided frog (Pulchrana laterimaculata)
  24. Malayan dark-sided frog (Sylvirana malayana)
  25. Warty treefrog (Theloderma horridum)
  26. Cinnamon frog (Nyctixalus pictus)
  27. Four-lined treefrog (Polypedates leucomystax)
  28. Harlequin treefrog (Rhacophorus pardalis)
  29. Robinson’s tree frog (Leptomantis robinsonii)

Lizard species list:

  1. Phuket spiny lizard (Acanthosaura phuketensis)
  2. Green canopy lizard (Bronchocela cristatella)
  3. Gunung raya canopy lizard (Bronchocela rayaensis)
  4. Forest crested lizard (Calotes emma)
  5. Garden lizard (Calotes versicolor)
  6. Common flying lizard (Draco sumatranus)
  7. Blanford’s flying lizard (Draco blanfordii)
  8. Great flying lizard (Draco maximus)
  9. Bell’s angle-headed lizard (Gonocephalus bellii)
  10. Giant angle-headed lizard (Gonocephalus grandis)
  11. Oldham’s bent-toed gecko (Cyrtodactylus oldhami)
  12. Zebra bent-toed gecko (Cyrtodactylus zebraicus)
  13. Peter’s bent-toed gecko (Cyrtodactylus consobrinus)
  14. Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko)
  15. Big tree skink (Dasia grisea)
  16. Rough-scaled sun skink (Eutrophis rugifera)
  17. Little ground skink (Eutropis macularia)
  18. Common sun skink (Eutropis multifasciata)
  19. Spotted forest skink (Sphenomorphus maculatus)
  20. Dumeril’s monitor lizard (Varanus dumerilii)
  21. Water monitor lizard (Varanus salvator)

Snake species list:

  1. Malayopython reticulatus- reticulated python- 2
  2. Xenopeltis unicolor- sunbeam snake- 1 live, 1 DOR
  3. Acrochordus javanicus- Javan file snake- 3
  4. Aplopeltura boa- blunt-headed slug snake- 1
  5. Pareas margaritophorus- white-spotted slug snake- 1
  6. Cerberus schneideri- Asian bockadam- several (Phuket)
  7. Enhydris enhydris- rainbow mud snake- 10+
  8. Homalopsis mereljcoxi- Cox’s water snake- 20+
  9. Hypsiscopus plumbea- plumbeous water snake- 1
  10. Erpeton tentaculatum- tentacled snake- 2
  11. Subsessor bocourti- Bocourt’s water snake- 1
  12. Ahaetulla prasina- Asian vine snake- several (Phuket)
  13. Ahaetulla mycterizans- Malayan vine snake- 2
  14. Boiga cyanea- green cat snake- 2 (Phuket)
  15. Boiga cynodon- dog-toothed cat snake- 1
  16. Boiga melanota- mangrove cat snake- 6
  17. Boiga drapiezii- white-spotted cat snake- 2
  18. Boiga bengkuluensis- Bengkulu cat snake- 2
  19. Boiga jaspidea- jasper cat snake- 1
  20. Boiga nigriceps- black-headed cat snake- 1
  21. Dendrelaphis caudolineatus- striped bronzeback- several
  22. Dendrelaphis cyanochloris- blue bronzeback- 1
  23. Lycodon capucinus- common wolf snake- 1
  24. Lycodon subcinctus- Malayan baned wolf snake- 1 DOR
  25. Oligodon taeniatus- striped kukri snake- 1
  26. Ptyas korros- Indochinese rat snake- several DOR
  27. Ptyas fusca- white-bellied rat snake- 1
  28. Psammodynastes pulverulentus- mock viper- several (Phuket)
  29. Rhabdophis chrysargos- speckle-bellied keelback- 1
  30. Rhabdophis nigrocinctus- black-banded keelback- 1
  31. Bungarus candidus- Malayan krait- 2
  32. Naja kaouthia- monocled cobra- 2
  33. Ophiophagus hannah- king cobra- 1
  34. Trimeresurus phuketensis- Phuket pit viper- 1
  35. Trimeresurus venustus- beautiful pit viper- 12+
  36. Trimeresurus hageni- Hagen’s pit viper- 10+
  37. Trimeresurus wiroti- Wirot’s pit viper- 2
  38. Tropidolaemus wagleri- Wagler’s pit viper- 4 (Phuket)
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