The Fascinating Reptiles of Bangladesh – Part Two

A previous article on the reptiles of Bangladesh examined the saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), the Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus) and the Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko). This article will take a look at the spotted slug snake (Pareas margaritophorus) and the black softshell turtle (Nilssonia nigricans), the former being commonly found in Bangladesh and the latter being extinct in the wild.

As its name may suggest, the spotted slug snake feeds primarily on slugs and snails, as well as earthworms when these are accessible. It is a completely harmless snake and serves a useful purpose in the ecology by keeping slug and snail populations in check. The fangs on the snake’s lower jaw allow it to scoop snails from their shells with ease. The spotted slug snake seldom reaches more than 47cm in length and is readily identified by the orange-yellow band around its neck. Its body is dark grey or brown with scattered scales featuring white spots. As a nocturnal creature, the spotted slug snake lies concealed in forest vegetation during the day, coming out at night to look for food. Should you come across a spotted slug snake while exploring the nature conservation areas of Bangladesh, bear in mind that it is harmless and an essential part of the ecology.

Considered to be extinct in the wild, the black softshell turtle, also known as the Bostami turtle, is officially found only in the manmade pond at the Hazrat Sultan Bayazid Bastami shrine at Chittagong. Up to 300 turtles live in the pond, where they are dependent on the caretakers of the shrine for their survival. Bostami turtles are considered by worshippers at the shrine to be the descendants of sinners who were transformed into turtles by the prophet Bayazid Bostami centuries ago and are, therefore, carefully protected by their guardians. Visitors can reach a platform at the edge of the pond via a series of steps where they may be permitted to feed the turtles by hand. Sheltered nesting grounds around the pond ensure that these rare reptiles continue to produce offspring, preventing this endangered species from becoming extinct.