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The rainy season here brings a whole new host of creatures to the Iracambi reserves.  Many of our forests’ organisms have been lying in wait for the rains to emerge.  Our local frog populations have exploded with our ponds ringing with their nighttime chorus.  The annual bloom of furry caterpillars has arrived, and every available surface is dominated by our fuzzy, slow-moving friends.  Though frogs and caterpillars seem pleasant enough guests, we also welcome the increased activity of jararaca snakes.  For those not familiar with the jararaca, they belong to the genus of bothrops snakes.  Commonly known as lance-headed snakes of Central and South America, they belong in the same group as other venomous snakes such as the fer-de-lance.

The jararaca is native to Southern Brazil and responsible for the largest proponent of snakebites delivered in Brazil.  They inhabit a diverse range of habitat from tropical forest to savannah.  Jararaca come in varying colors, some almost yellowish to dark grays.  Their triangular heads and slitted eyes are a dead give-away for the deadly venom they store in sacs located at the rear of their upper jaws.  Their most active months here are during our rainy season, preferring to lie low during the colder winter months.  Despite their fearsome reputation, and the social stigma surrounding most poisonous snakes, the 1039740_10153651070550034_136512494_ojararaca may have done more for human survival than most know.  Their venom contains a peptide that causes a significant drop in blood pressure.  This chemical trait made them a focus point in using venom to treat medical conditions.  This peptide is used to treat hypertension and congestive heart failure, and is also used as an antihemorrhagic drug.

In addition to its medical contributions, the jararaca appears to have a timid disposition as a few of our volunteers can attest.  Two of our male volunteers have put the tolerance of the jararaca to the test as they have literally come within inches of them without knowing.  On two separate occasions they have stepped over these snakes while hidden in the leaf litter.  Neither time have the snakes made a move to strike.  Recently, a third snake showed up outside of Centro.  After posing for a brief photo shoot, this stellar snake put up with a bit of annoyance as the volunteer coordinator attempted to move him.  Eventually, our friend was picked up using a walking stick and moved off the road, never attempting to bite.  It would seem as though we may have a sheep in wolf’s clothing.  Perhaps, these misunderstood reptiles have garnered a worse reputation than they deserve.  As the rainy season continues we here at Iracambi will be sure to keep our eyes downcast looking for these sneaky snakes making sure to give them the respect they deserve.

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