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Habitat Utilization and Phylogeography of Sri Lankan Green Pit Viper in three climate zones of Sri Lanka

Through the Save The Snakes Support Grant Program, Save The Snakes supported Theranga Dasanayake in 2023 to increase awareness about snakes in Sri Lanka. Her project aims to preserve an endemic green pit viper population and its habitat and to promote conservation awareness among students.

Project Title:

Habitat Utilization and Phylogeography of Sri Lankan Green Pit Viper, Craspedocephalus trigonocephalus (Serpentes: Viperidae: Crotalinae) in three climatic zones of Sri Lanka

Project Summary:

The Sri Lankan Green Pit Viper (GVP) is an endemic, mildly venomous snake that is the only arboreal species in Sri Lanka and is medically significant. It is widely distributed in all three climatic zones of the island, except higher hills and arid zones from 153 to 1,000 m. This is the first research on green pit viper molecular and morphometric traits. Only a few research on Green Pit Vipers coagulopathy has been conducted. In most cases, this species is frequently misidentified and killed by people. As a result, the first conservation steps should be taken with the assistance of a comprehensive morphological and molecular study, with conservation being prioritized.

Moreover, successful conservation measures of this species should incorporate habitat structure and selection preferences, for the management of threatened populations. To date, habitat utilization of C. trigonocephalus in Sri Lanka has not been investigated in detail. Hence, there is a barrier to launching conservation approaches to conserve this endemic species. The current study will be the first scientific study on GVP’s habitat utilization in both protected and non-protected areas in the country.

Aims and Objectives:

This project aims to educate and foster a connection to nature in students by introducing them to the natural world of snakes so that they will gain knowledge, be inspired, and a develop sense of responsibility toward their conservation. Many educational programs that exist part of a study, lack plans for monitoring and to continue education in subsequent years. This project is the first in a series of education programs in learning institutions which will allow for follow up visits and monitoring the impact of the education program.

Through this project, students will receive one-hour lectures about snakes, their characteristics, and roles in the ecosystem, and recognising common misconceptions about snakes. Basic yet essential knowledge about snakes will provide them with a solid foundation for subsequent learning. Students will also have group discussions, do role-play exercises, and watch informative videos about snakes. The entire process of delivering snake conservation education will be refined and documented into a lesson plan to be availed to teachers in schools and other trainers for continued application beyond the project life. Education materials will also be distributed among students and members of community to promote awareness.


Research will help to fill the information gap on the ecology of this species. Most species including C.trigonocephalus lack information regarding the basic biology, reproduction, foraging strategy, and habitat selection. Only a few studies have reported the relationship between color pattern variation and distribution range. No study has addressed the color variation of patterns in the Green Pit Viper and its geographic distribution. The use of morphological and molecular data to investigate the Green Pit Viper may reveal insights into the phylogeographic pattern of this species using extensive molecular methods.

This study also aims to take the first step of setting up island-wide phylogenetic research on this species. Apart from that, we hope to study the general attitude toward reptiles of local communities. We will initiate community involvement conservation programs which include educating farmers about the ecosystem services of reptiles that are beneficial to man and the environment. Our study will help to educate local authorities about the consequences of killing these animals. This kind of awareness and education campaign is badly needed for the conservation of this endemic species.

Support Snake Conservation

Theranga Dasanayake’s project is a recipient of the 2023 Save The Snakes Support Grant Program. Save The Snakes Support Grants are made possible because of the generosity of compassionate people and organizations who are inspired and dedicated to protect threatened snake populations and mitigate human-snake conflict around the world. Please donate today to help us continue to fund projects like their snake conservation project in Sri Lanka. Thank you for your support.

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