Paradise tree snake, a successful reptile in urban area?

This blog is inspired by Sherry’s post on S12 “mini-forest”. I recalled my encounter with a Paradise tree snake, or Paradise flying snake (Chrysopelea paradisi) near that patch of forest. I was a little bit surprised as the place is no way near a natural reserve or a park.

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The IUCN Red List classify them as Least Concern:

Listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large population, it occurs in a number of protected areas, is tolerant of a degree of habitat modification, exists as an apparently stable population, and is not subject to any major threats.

They appear to be urban adapters as they can inhabit a wide range of urbanized habitats.

It has been recorded from coconut plantations adjacent to forests, rural villages, tree-shaded gardens, and within the attics of old houses.

They are also widespread in Singapore.

Commonly encountered in a variety of habitats including mangrove, secondary forest, and parks and gardens.

 

From previous lectures we learned that reptiles are heavily impacted by urbanization because of their low mobility, ground-dwelling nature and so on, yet there are still abundant Paradise tree snakes in the heavily urbanized Singapore. Are there any properties that make them successful? Here are my speculations:

 

  1. The ability to “fly”
    Snakes in this genus perform parachute jump, giving them the name of “flying snakes”. Their bodies form a concave surface that acts like a parachute, and therefore prolong the “flight”.   They generally move from tree to tree, but sometimes land on the ground. This greatly increase their mobility in terms of distance and speed, and perhaps the ability to cross gaps. This could potentially justify their presence in habitats with relatively fragmented canopy cover, such as parks.
  2. Arboreal nature
    They usually live in tree canopies and rarely land on the ground. This greatly reduce their encounter with humans as well as the frequency of road kill. In addition, Singapore as a garden city provides more canopy cover as their potential habitats compared to most cities.
  3. Favouring coconut palms
    Their favorite habitat seem to be the crown of coconut palms. Fortunately, there are plenty of coconut palms in Singapore.
  4. Lizard-hunters
    Their diet mainly consists of tree-dwelling lizards, which are abundant in Singapore. They also eat rodents, frogs and birds. Compared to snakes that prey on larger animals (e.g. King Cobra prey on other snakes; adult reticulated pythons prey on mammals and birds), their is more food available for Paradise tree snakes in Singapore.
  5. Mild venom
    Their venom is mild and harmless to human. Although many residents still find it terrifying, there is usually not a need to eliminate Paradise tree snakes despite their abundance in city.

 

It seems that Paradise tree snakes have many traits that make them successful in Singapore, perhaps also other tropical cities. However, these five points are far from complete. I would love to know your thoughts on this.

We can further look at other snakes abundant in cities to study their common traits. Here is a website on snake encounters:

http://www.natureloveyou.sg/Plant%20Story/Plant%20Story%20-%20Snakes.html

 

Sources:

http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/183189/0

http://www.wildsingapore.com/wildfacts/vertebrates/snakes/paradisi.htm

http://www.ecologyasia.com/verts/snakes/paradise_tree-snake.htm

http://animals.mom.me/paradise-flying-snakes-6213.html

 

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