Saturday, 8 June 2013

Unusual Morocco: looking for snakes, scorpions and other small animals

A trip to the Morocco, reminds me of beaches, the riads in Marrakech and the delights of its cuisine. That, that was until I read the adventures of my friend Pierre-Yves! The universe of naturalists, lovers of reptiles and amphibians was completely unknown to me. I discovered it by following a link on a Facebook site Batrachians and reptiles of the world, its forum and the magnificent photos of Pierre-Yves Vaucher, Geneva naturalist and herpetologist. I wanted to know more and asked him a few questions to which he has kindly respond.

Hello Pierre-Yves,

First of all, Hello! I was born in October 1956 in Geneva, Switzerland. My Herpetological memories date back to 1966. At that time, my father went twice per year in Africa (Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania) for his passion of naturalist. One day, he brought an Adder (Bitis arietans) housed in a binoculars case in his suitcase. the worst thing is that the suitcase is lost in London before arriving in Geneva. The poor beast has finished in alcohol at the Geneva Museum... Shortly after, I asked frequently my father to take me on Sunday looking for snakes, vipers, toads, frogs.

Years passed, and I récoltai here, and there, a few reptiles and amphibians for my pleasure. Note that I have also chased butterflies to 17 years old, I am interested in "exotic" terraria: I had up to 150 poisonous snakes of any kind (rattlesnakes, cobras, vipers), some amphibians that were all housed in a room on the first floor of the family home, as well as in my room.

To 20 years, my interest is porta to music and I had little time to take care of my animals; I then decided to part. Now I devote my time to the observation of reptiles in nature. Note that, not only the reptiles, but everything is in the realm of the living!

I imagine that this travel itinerary is specially chosen to have a maximum of chances of encountering the species that you wanted to photograph: a route based on your experience in the field or are there "circuits" for naturalists?

This route was chosen based on my experience, that of others as well as a reality of field time and meteorology. There is no "naturalistic circuit". There is a network of people who trust and share, or not, of information. This map summarizes points large and however known to everyone. This itinerary includes choices of naturalistic observations, including mammals, plants, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

Route journey to the Morocco - click to enlarge

Need special equipment for surveying the desert and photograph these animals to be dangerous?

No, we must above all of knowledge, field, biotopes, weather, species, behaviors, detect individual character differences (concerning the approach of certain venomous snakes). Then Yes, basic specific equipment are taken into account: hooks, gloves, tweezers, boxes. After, it is field-related equipment.

Moroccan Cobra, Naja haje legionis

Is there a risk of being bitten by one of these snakes or bitten by a scorpion? Do you have a special emergency kit in case of problems?

Yes, there is always a risk and just caution is our best Advisor... The antivenom are fragile, require a cold chain permanent which is impossible to ensure travel and local hospitals do not have the equipment or knowledge. However, we know the attitudes to adopt in case of concern. Scorpions are neither aggressive nor dangerous if it does not seek to harm them. They are like all animals and snakes which one speaks here and elsewhere, they are fleeing, seek to protect themselves and defend themselves as nature has given them the means.

Bitis arietans female

As tourist in these regions, we risk a "bad encounter"? Be nose-to-nose with a cobra, stepping inadvertently on a scorpion, or then these animals fear rather men and one can walk in the vicinity of the oasis safe?

The risk of encountering a snake venomous or not is almost nil, unless extraordinary coincidence, tourists see nothing in general because the fauna is quite discreet and fearful. In principle the foreign tourist has good shoes. The only recommendation I can do it is to never walk barefoot at night, wherever you are. Scorpions are mainly nocturnal and come out to hunt as soon as it starts getting hot. Scorpioniques envenomations are very common in the Morocco as children and adults roam in sandals and bare feet in the ground. Hikers know the precautions of use. yellow, little dangerous Scorpion Buthus sp.

You have visited the Tiout oasis where you took photos. Who lives there? Are they frequented by tourists?

Tiout, nobody lives there, from what I've seen, the villagers are in the village! There are a few people who come to visit, there is a large pool where people come to relax, chat and do some laundry. However the entire surface of the oasis is used for agriculture and the cultivation of aromatic plants such as verbena, mint and every family has its plot. Wild boar also enjoy crops, but villagers less


A Board, an address for those who might be tempted by the adventure?Marrakech is a destination very well served from Geneva, particularly with lowcost companies. Marrakech is the central point to visit the cities of the North such as Fez, Meknes and Beni Mellal, the cities of the South as Agadir, not very interesting in itself because completely rebuilt since the devastating earthquake of 1960.

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