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Man-made forest houses rare flying snake
Jayanta Kumar Das

 KALAIGAON, April 5 - A rare species of flying snake has been found at Bhairabkunda near Assam-Arunachal-Bhutan border on April 1.

 Members of man-made forest called JFMC Bhairabkunda – Ismail Daimari, Alfred Daimari, Lenin Daimari and Bimal Daimari – found the snake in their forest which was later identified as Chrysopelea Paradisi (Paradise Flying Snake).

It’s a very fast moving snake and hardly seen on ground. Flying snakes are actually gliders, using the speed of free fall and contortions of their bodies to catch the air and generate lift.

Recent scientific studies have revealed about how these limbless, tube-shaped creatures turn plummeting into piloting. To prepare for a take-off, a flying snake will slither to the end of a branch and dangle in a ‘J’ shape. It propels itself from the branch with the lower half of its body, forms quickly into an ‘S’, and flattens to about twice its normal width, giving its normally round body a concave ‘C’ shape, which can trap air. By undulating back and forth, the snake can actually make turns. Flying snakes are technically better gliders than their more popular mammalian equivalents, the flying squirrels.

There are five recognised species of flying snake found from western India to the Indonesian archipelago. Knowledge of their behaviour in the wild is limited, but they are thought to be highly arboreal, rarely descending from the canopy. The smallest species reach about 2 feet (61 centimetres) in length and the largest grow to 4 feet (1.2 metres). Their diets are variable depending on their range, but they are known to eat rodents, lizards, frogs, birds and bats.

They are mildly venomous snakes, but their tiny, fixed rear fangs make them harmless to humans. Scientists don’t know how often or exactly why flying snakes fly, but they use their aerobatics to escape from predators, to move from tree to tree without having to descend to the forest floor and possibly even to hunt prey.

Members of JFMC Bhairabkunda are happy to see new animals, birds, reptiles coming to their forest which carries new ray of hope to the wildlife activists. It needs to be mentioned here that people of six villages near Indo-Bhutan-Arunachal border have converted a plot of barren lands measuring 5,500 bigha into a new green man-made forest where they have already planted more than 14 lakhs of saplings of various rare species. This has already been unofficially recognised as Indian record of human planting 14 lakhs plants.

The plants have grown taller and bigger now attracting various species of animals, birds, insects and reptiles. After identification, the snake was released in the forest.

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