Black-headed Bushmaster (Lachesis melanocephala)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 13257065
Bushmasters (genus Lachesis) are one of the most iconic snakes found in lowland tropical forests of Central and South America, with the Black-headed Bushmaster likely the rarest species of the group. The limited work that has been conducted on bushmaster species suggests these snakes are dependent on several specific resources and are thus particularly susceptible to disturbance. Their niche is characterized by an exclusively mammalian diet composed primarily of spiny rats and marsupials, an association with burrows of species such as agouti, paca, and armadillos, oviparous reproduction (unique among New World vipers), and an apparent association with primary rainforest. Conservation of bushmasters would likely enhance conservation of large burrowing mammals, rodents, marsupials, and all the plant species required to support the mammal species. Collectively, this represents a large and important component of tropical ecosystems. However, we currently understand very little about the details of bushmaster biology and the above generalizations need additional confirmatory data. The development of an appropriate bushmaster survey protocol is the first critical step towards effective bushmaster conservation and research. Meaningful conservation efforts for any species require research to assess population status as well as ecological studies to understand what the primary threats to the species are. The lack of a proven bushmaster survey protocol has prevented any direct conservation actions for this species. The paucity of information is due in large part to the cryptic nature of this species, as it likely occurs at low densities and spends much time underground.
We have the following objectives:
1) In concert with a local partner, Área de Conservación Osa, concurrently conduct visual encounter surveys and intensive burrow surveys across known localities for Lachesis melanocephala in Costa Rica;
2) Determine landscape and microhabitat associations with bushmaster presence;
3) Evaluate the efficacy of these methods for locating bushmasters to finalize a field protocol as well as identify focal study sites.
Project 13257065 location - Costa Rica, North America