Heads and Tails: The Snake and the Lizard

Pankil Desai recounts a most amazing and suspenseful encounter between a Green Vine Snake and a Calotes lizard

It was a regular sunny day and I was in my hostel room at the National Institute of Technology Karnataka, Surathkal. At around 11:30, I got a call from an unknown number informing me of a snake spotted nearby. It was not new for me to get such a call. I had volunteered with the Gujarat Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (GSPCA) earlier and many people knew that I rescue snakes from human-reptile conflict zones. Since the snake was in the open, I carried my camera hoping to capture some nice portraits.

I was delighted to see it was a Common Vine Snake (Ahaetulla nasuta) — it was the first time I was seeing an adult up close. Going closer I saw that it was holding a Garden Lizard (Calotes versicolor) by the neck. 

Trying to capture the scenario from all possible angles, I tried to get as close as possible to the snake without disturbing it. Under no circumstances did I want it to abandon its prey. I dispensed with my kit lens and put on a 28-135 mm lens to get better close-up shots without the risk of scaring away the snake.

I wondered why the snake had not yet started swallowing the lizard though its prey had stopped moving for the last ten minutes. Curious, I carefully moved some twigs for a better look. I was amazed at what I saw. The snake had a firm grip round the lizard’s neck; at the same time the lizard was holding on to the Vine Snake’s tail. I had never before seen anything like that!

The snake desperately tried to free its tail; at the same time it tried not to loosen its grip on the lizard. I think the lizard was very much dead by this time but its jaw muscles had contracted in its bite and remained so even in death. The snake had even started to bleed from the bite wound inflicted by the lizard. The struggle to release its tail from the lizard’s mouth went on for over one and a half hours. 

Finally, after a great struggle, the snake freed its tail and pulled the kill into the nearby bushes to enjoy a well-earned and much-deserved meal. 

Pankil Desai is an engineer with Linde engineering in Vadodara, Gujarat. After his BE, he completed his M Tech from National Institute of Technology, Karnataka in Surathkal, near Mangalore. During a year’s break between degrees he volunteered for the Gujarat Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (GSPCA). His work included feeding injured birds and animals, administering basic healthcare, as well as rescuing reptiles from human conflict zones and releasing them back into the wild. During his stint there, he honed his affection for snakes and developed an interest in photographing them.  

Text and photos: Pankil Desai 
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