November 17, 2008

A Flora and Fauna Guide to Lebanon Needed

What’s lacking? A guide to Lebanon’s flora and fauna, I was thinking, as I saw this snake in the riverbed of the Walnut River (Nahr el Jaouz) in Northern Lebanon. I’m sure they have guides in Arabic, and maybe even French, but this illiterate Dutch would like one in English please. The - still dry - riverbed of the Walnut River The snake looks like a gigantic python on the picture, or something of the likes, but in reality it was a puny little snake of 40 centimeters in length at best. Hanging on a branch, basking in the sun around a garbage bag (how appropriate). So here we (SIL and I) stand with four little kids (well, one a very fierce and incredibly bored teenager), trying to teach them to appreciate nature.
It hissed quite fiercely (the snake), so what do you do? Grab it? Not grab it? Is it going to bite?
What is it anyway, mom?”
It’s a snake.”
Yeah, I know THAT! What kind of snake?”
Well, a snake kind of snake.”

We let it be in the end, but I would like to know what kind of snake it was. So, what’s lacking? A guide to Lebanon’s flora and fauna. Anyone up for the job?

The weekend was spent hiking in a – still dry – canyon of the Walnut River in Northern Lebanon, near the village of Kaftoun. Although I’ve been roaming around the Kaftoun area a number of times now, I haven’t been in Kaftoun itself yet, but it must be quite a place, because they even have their own web site (‘I have a web site, so I exist’). I picked this little piece of information from their site; “The houses of Kaftoun number seventy, and its inhabitants number about three hundred. They are mostly Greek Orthodox Christians, who are peaceful, respectful of others, and generally well educated.” I like the ‘generally well educated’. Define educated for me.
It has been raining a bit, and where the riverbed was encased in limestone, there was water, but everywhere else it had seeped away.
There was a lot of mud, which was greatly appreciated by kids and dogs. 'I am getting old,' I remember thinking, because all I could worry about was the upholstery of my new car. 'All that mud? How am I going to get that off them? Nobody gets into my car, they'll all have to sit in the trunk.'
SIL and I are planning to build a Frank Lloyd Wright type of villa right over the riverbed, and we were exploring a good site for our project, that will probably never materialize, but it is always good to dream. We better be fast, because it looks like this is becoming a protective area (which is a very wise decision). The good thing is that you see absolutely nobody. (We're staking our claim) Totally stuck Lebanese hill top villages as the sun is setting on them.


Anonymous said...

Probably the snake you saw is a Coluber ravergieri or Coluber nummifer. These are snakes without poison glands, but nevertheless you should take care not to receive a bite because this may result in a wound infection. So unless you know very well what you are doing it is better not to pick up a snake, even if it is not poisonous.
In case you are really interested in Middle East herpetology, you should obtain the "Handbook to Middle East Amphibians and Reptiles" by Leviton et al. Although this book focuses on the Gulf region, it includes many species which occur in Lebanon.

Anonymous said...

I've learned: a snkae with a flat hat is dangerous because of its poison.

Anonymous said...

Was the head flat before Hana hit it?

Anonymous said...

@ Was the head flat before Hana hit it?

(ha ha)
The only one who knows is Hana herself.
Please ask her to make a painting "before" and "after".

Anonymous said...

Wat die slang betreft, dat is een moeilijke. Hij lijkt het meest op een Palestijnse adder (Palestine viper, Vipera palaestinae), maar het kleurenpatroon is niet typies. Dit exemplaar is erg wit en met name de tekening van de kop is minder uitgesproken dan normaal. Misschien komt het omdat het een jong dier is. Volgroeide exemplaren kunnen meer dan een meter lang zijn.

Nora C said...

Hey Sietske, sorry it took a while to get back to you on this. I knew we had an English Flora guide to Lebanon at home so I emailed my dad to get back to me about it and this is what he said: :)


Illustrated Flora of Lebanon
Georges Tohme - Henriette Tohme
CNRS Publication 2007

The snake is probably called A'Kd al Jouz, in our area. perhaps because the spots look like a "necklace of walnuts" as it translates. Ironic since it was seen in Nahr al Jouz. ("River of walnuts") Perhaps you want to tell her that. I think the photo of the village is taken from near your aunts house toward Ijdeibrin. You an also tell her that what is meant by "well educated" is probably university graduates as is the case of the Koura in general.


It seems you can buy the guide here, though I'm pretty confident we bought it from somewhere in lebanon:

My family is from the town of Kfarhata where I have spent every summer of my life (so 19 so far), We too have a website (and may I say that ours came before Kaftoun's, though it needs updating to be sure - Kfarhata is Kaftoun's biggest rival (especially in Volley ball!) and is seperated from Kaftoun only by the very small village of Bttaboura. So funny that you paid a visit to our little neighborhood!

I recommend that you go to Kfarhata (we have a supermarket and 2 gas stations--that's huge in terms of Lebanese villages!) and pay my grandparents a visit! :) Or maybe wait until I'm there this summer at which point I'd love to give you the grand tour of our beautiful area ;)

I'm sure you've already been there but a visit to the Nouriye (monestary) in Hamat and the several hidden churches which surround it (that all have SPECTACULAR views) is well worth a trip, especially with your new Tomtom!

All the best,


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Anonymous said...

Looks like a Palestinia Viper to me. It's very poisonous by the way.

Anonymous said...

Correction: It's actually a coin snake. Its bite is not too painful and not dangerous at all.

Despite this, its appearance it misleading- it is strikingly similar to the palestine viper, a very venomous snake. Like the Plaestine viper, it has a triangular head (although it has no venom glands) and V-shaped spot to emphasize the triangular shape of the head. The pattern on its back is remarkably similar to the zig-zag pattern on the back of a viper (the only difference being that the spots on the coin snakes' back are not connected but separate).