Barta: Ethnoknown Viper Discovered

Posted by: Loren Coleman on November 17th, 2007

According to cryptozoologist Chad Arment, an apparently previously ethnoknown cryptid viper has been discovered. The barta, a feared snake, is well-known to the indigenous people of Arunachal Pradesh.

Arment points out that the alleged “suicide” (see below) is probably a misunderstanding of behavior.

P. jerdonii

Protobothrops jerdoni is a known viper from India and Southeast Asia that may be related to the newly found snake.

The following report is dateline Itanagar, India:

A deadly hiss has emanated from the country’s easternmost state, Arunachal Pradesh.

A three-member team discovered what could be a new species of pit viper snake, from the remote Sango area in Papum Pare district of the state.

Herpetologist B.B. Bhatt from the state Forest Research Institute, Arunachal Pradesh, Pune-based herpetologist Ashok Captain and Kedar Bhide, a Mumbai-based wildlife documentary filmmaker told The Telegraph that two serpents belonging to the “new species” were caught after a one-year hunt.

Barta, as the local Nyishi tribesmen call the six-foot-something reptile, is the most-feared creature among the tribes in Arunachal Pradesh.

According to Nyishi folklore, sighting of a barta, meaning the deadliest of all the snakes, is a bad omen.

The finding of “a new species of pit viper snake”, however, has created a flutter among the country’s herpetologists.

“Going by the colour, count and patterns of the newly-found snakes which differ from Protobothrops kaulbacki, another species of pit viper snake spotted by Ronald Kaulback in the forests of Upper Myanmar in 1940, it can be said that it is probably a new species found never before in the forests.

Although at a glance they look similar to the snake found in Myanmar, their features differ from Protobothrops kaulbacki. The blood samples of the snakes have been sent for DNA tests to a Hyderabad-based laboratory this month. We are awaiting an official confirmation,” Bhatt told The Telegraph.

Bhatt, who has documented 76 of the 140 species of snakes found in Arunachal Pradesh, said the most striking feature of the newly-found species was its egg-producing capacity. It can lay a clutch of 20 to 30 eggs – a phenomenon hitherto unknown to scientists.

“This type of snakes are found at an altitude of above 1,000 meters and prey on frogs, fish and rats. But they are not known to lay eggs. Another striking feature are their pits, which are much larger than those of the other snakes of the pit viper family. The species has been so named because an organ in its body consists of pits. It is just behind the nostrils and covered with a temperature-sensitive membrane. Some pit vipers may also use these organs to find cool refuge from inhospitable daytime temperature,” Bhatt said.

The herpetologists caught a pair of snakes, a male and a female, but the reptiles chose to escape death at the hands of the humans and killed themselves by using their own fangs, much to the surprise of Bhatt who has been watching reptile behaviour for the last seven years in the forests of the Northeast and north India. According to Bhatt, this sheds new light on the strange behavioural pattern of the species, so long unknown to herpetologists.

“Pit vipers have long, hollow, erectile fangs that are folded back against the roof of the mouth except when the snakes are striking. Once the fangs are out, it becomes difficult to fold back those organs and unable to cope with the situation they might have killed themselves,” Bhatt explained. ~ by Atanu Choudhuri, “Herpetologists claim unique species of serpents in Arunachal Pradesh,” The Telegraph, Calcutta, India, November 16, 2007.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

8 Responses to “Barta: Ethnoknown Viper Discovered”

  1. Bob Michaels responds:

    Outstanding find.

  2. DavidFredSneakers responds:

    Cryptozoology at its finest.

  3. Saint Vitus responds:

    Actually, there is another species of pit viper that lays eggs, the bushmaster. Anyway, this is a very interesting find. Is it really as deadly as the natives say it is, or is that not known yet?

  4. Lesley responds:

    Protobothrops jerdoni is beautiful! I would love to see pix of the newly discovered viper.

  5. cryptothekid responds:

    Amazing! When new animals are discovered, it gives me hope that someday Nessie, Sasquatch, and all the others will be found someday.

  6. sausage1 responds:


    What a stone in the kidney of the English language that is! and if it IS “ethnoknown,” hasn’t it already BEEN discovered?

    I know I have banged on about this before, but isn’t it time that the science community and the press that report these things stopped being so condescending to the ‘ethnoknowers?’

    The suicide thing is very strange. IS it some sort of altruistic behaviour to protect a nest or somesuch? What are is benefits?

  7. cryptidsrus responds:

    Exciting discovery. Whoever thought—snakes that can kill themselves. Weird.

    The world we live in is FAR more interesting than any fiction.

  8. DARHOP responds:

    Wow! Very Kool! Any new snake is a kool snake. Very interesting that they might kill themselves to avoid being killed. I personally don’t really think they killed themselves for that reason. I don’t really think snakes are that kind of a thinking animal. Their must be some other reason they do that. I am no snakeologist, not even a herpetologist. I don’t know, I just feel their is some other explanation about why they are killing themselves other than suicide. Are they biting themselves ? Or are they biting each other? Anyway, kool discovery. And if they look like the snake pictured above. What a beautiful snake.

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