August 2011 – Casablanca-Assa-Guelmin

By Gabriel Martínez del Marmol

Sunday 21 of august, I was talking with Lore, my girlfriend, to make a short trip to Morocco and see again my friend Kentaoui and to know personally Aymerich. Lore needed to stay in Spain the saturday 27 but finally we decided to visit Morocco. It would be a hard trip but Morocco is always a good option for holidays…

Monday 22, we crossed to Morocco in the last boat. We arrived Tanger Med very late and drive directly to Asilah and we slept in a hotel.

Wake up in Asilah

Next morning, tuesday 23, we drove to Agadir to meet there Michel and Kentaoui. It´s a large distance and we only made a short stop in Casablanca, in the place where I found Daboia mauritanica last year. We stopped there at 13:00 and the weather was very hot. We didn´t see vipers, just a juvenile Hemorrhois hippocrepis and a juvenile Malpolon monspessulanus monspessulanus.

Good habitat for snakes in Casablanca

Juvenile Hemorrhois hippocrepis

Juvenile Malpolon monspessulanus monspessulanus

Juvenile Malpolon monspessulanus monspessulanus, detail

After some photos we drove to Agadir and we met with our friends. There, we were talking when Michel introduce us the director of the TV documental “Amouddou 110 serpents du sud”:

We went to sleep in the house of Kentaoui son but we slept just 4 hours because we were talking about snakes, nature, habitats, Western Sahara, Morocco…

Next morning, wednesday 24, we went to the Amouddou offices and we could see the documental complete (52 minutes). Very good documental to show Moroccan people the real face of the snakes like pacific animals. In future this documental will be emited in Morocco. After the TV session we say bye bye to Aymerich. Lore, Kentaoui and me went to the south.

Wake up in Agadir: Michel (left), Nasser (center up), Kentaoui (center down) and me (right).

We arrived Bord Six very late. In the Kentaoui house we took the dinner and we began to look for herps. Kentaoui had a Echis prepared to be released, but before take photos of this snake I wanted to try to find my own viper. We was searching a while but we just found Tarentola boehmei. We went to sleep but a cousin of Kentaoui told me he had never seen an Echis there and he had only found Psammophis. So Lore and me decided to make a last chance. We began to look for but there wasn´t nothing, no Tropiocolotes, no Chalcides, no Tarentola… and at 1:00 when we were returning we found in a wall a nice specimen of Echis leucogaster. We were very happy to this finding (I was happy and Lore and Kentaoui´s cousin also to see me so happy). We took some photos of both Echis.

Typical landscape of Assa and Bord Six, habitat of Echis leucogaster, Telescopus tripolitanus, Psammophis schokari, Uromastyx nigriventris

Echis leucogaster, detail

Echis leucogaster

Echis leucogaster, another photo of the same individual

Another photo of the same individual

Photo of 2 individuals

Big Echis leucogaster, close-up

Another close-up of the same individual

Big Echis leucogaster

Echis leucogaster in habitat

But when I felt myself a very lucky man, Kentaoui, Lore and me continue looking for and we found a dead Telescopus tripolitanus. I was very excited, because Echis and Telescopus are probably the most rare snakes in Morocco. So we began to look for and we found a couple!!! I was very surprised to see 2 Echis and 3 Telescopus in a short time. All the snakes were released in good places far away of human houses.

Telescopus tripolitanus, two individuals (a couple?)

Telescopus tripolitanus, big tail individual, probably a male

Telescopus tripolitanus, detail

Telescopus tripolitanus, male

Telescopus tripolitanus, detail

Telescopus tripolitanus, small tail individual, probably a female

The thursday 25 we continued looking for and we found some Uromastyx nigriventris and a DOR Rhagerhis moilensis. We drove to Guelmim. In the way we saw at the side of the road 4 childrens flipping stones and hitting something, they were very agressive and trying to kill something, Kentaoui said: it´s a snake!. We run quickly and the childrens stopped. Kentaoui flipped a stone and under it we captured a tiny Psammophis schokari. We play with the snake a while showing Psammophis is a harmless snake very rare because it never bites!! And these kids would have killed the snake if we would not have seeing it.

Oasis close Guelmim

Lore and tiny Psammophis schokari

We continued driving to Guelmim in direction Tan-Tan. In the way we found a redish Hemorrhois hippocrepis, Psammophis schokari, a juvenile Malpolon monspessulanus saharatlanticus and a strange Hemorrhois. For me it´s a Hemorrhois algirus intermedius or hybrid Hemorrhois hippocrepis x algirus. But like the specimen of june, the discussion is sure… ( last june 2011 individual)

Typical habitat between Guelmim and Tan-tan

Redish Hemorrhois hippocrepis

Malpolon monspessulanus saharatlanticus, juvenile

Subadult Psammophis schokari

Strange individual of Hemorrhois sp. close up.
Maybe hybrid between H. hippocrepis and H. algirus or just a H. hippocrepis with anormal pholidosis and rhombic marks in the dorsal area

Strange individual of Hemorrhois sp.

Bufo boulengeri

In the middle of the way, Kentaoui talked with a friend. He told us if we wanted to see the huge cobra of the TV documental “Amouddou 110 serpents du sud”. We was close Tan-tan so we acepted. We arrived to the aissaoui house and quickly they offer us tea and many food. Kentaoui told us this aissoui is very honest and good man, and I see it. This aissaoui told me that he was working with J.A. Valverde during 10 years. And I asked him many things about the actual distribution and abundance of Naja haje and Bitis arietans, activity and distribution of Daboia mauritanica… He give me a very good information and also he told us fun histories in his work. When we finish the dinner, Kentaoui told us if we wanted to return Guelmim or to see the more than 2 meter Naja haje. I had curiosity to see a snake so big so we accepted. The aissaoui did a private spectacle for us in his house due to his friendly with Kentaoui. I was facinated by the huge cobra but again we could see the problem in Morocco with this. This good man and all his family survive thanks to the spectacles with the snakes in a country without many work possibilities. Then is necessary to finish with this spectacles to protect snakes?? And what happen with this people?? Are we going to get them another job?? The question is very complicated. Although is very easy to the “city” herpetologists to talk about the protection of the snakes, the true is very different.

Aissaoui with more than 2 meters Naja haje and Bitis arietans

More than 2 meters Naja haje close-up (shedding)

more than 2 meters Naja haje, detail

Me (left), the aissaoui with his son (center) and Kentaoui (right)

Lore (left) and Kentaoui with the aissaoui family

After say good bye to the aissaoui and his family we drove to Guelmim to sleep and next day, friday 26, we had to drive more than 1.200 Km to Tanger Med and crossed to Spain in the first boat of saturday 16 at 8:30. Crazy trip indeed. Lore was the key to translate me the french and she was strong in a country where the position of the women is not the best as possible. Kentaoui was a good partner, very very fun and crazy. It was very good to know Michel. And very interesting species. I want to return to Morocco soon!