The mighty Thar. The name itself invokes visions of grandeur and a sense of the unknown. One of the biggest deserts in the world covering 200,000 sq km, the Thar might seem devoid of life at first. But look closer. On a desert safari at our luxury desert camp in Jaisalmer, you can expect to see at least 60 species of mammals and several hundred species of birds.
In the past we’ve shared the stories of some of these larger species of fauna within the desert including snippets of how they are revered by the local communities that live in the Thar. Blackbuck and Chinkara are sacred to the Bishnois, and the Demoiselle Crane is offered special protection when it has a scheduled stop during its migratory journey.
But what about the wild that hides underneath these revered sands? What of the microfauna of the desert? The ones that venture out in the cooler parts of the day? As it turns out, the Thar Desert is also home to at least 40 species of reptiles. Across the spectrum, various species of reptiles also live among the desert, and we’d like to talk about some of those today.
One of the big 4 of India’s venomous snakes, the Saw Scaled Viper may be common across India but Rajasthan is the abode of a distinct variant of the serpent known as the Sorchurek’s Saw Scaled Viper. It grows to a length nearly double that of its Southern counterparts and has different scales as well. Unlike its cousin of the plains, this Saw Scaled Viper also uses sidewinding locomotion to move around, an evolutionary necessity thanks to the difficulty in slithering straight across sand. When threatened it rubs its scales together to create a raspy warning sound that sounds very similar to a saw being used (and now you know the source of the name!). Saw Scaled Vipers are venomous and are typically ambush predators like most vipers. When a blissfully unaware rodent dithers by, the well camouflaged snake strikes. One quick dose of venom and the Saw Scaled Viper has found itself a meal.
You can expect to find Saw Scaled Vipers around shrubs and sand dunes, but do be careful when walking in these areas. Always wear full boots and do not go near a snake if you see one. Respecting the animal and its boundaries is always the safest way to enjoy wildlife on a desert safari in Jaisalmer!
India's only herbivorous lizard, the Spiny Tailed Lizard is one of Rajasthan's most unique reptiles. As such they're an important seed dispersal system in the arid Thar thanks to their unique diet. They live in colonies with several lizards in one burrow that they don't stray very far from! Even when emerging from their den for the day, they take great precautions to ensure the surroundings are safe first.
Spiny Tailed Lizards are the preferred prey for a wide host of other predators such as falcons and harriers, and they also unfortunately come under the purview of humans, who poach the animals. But in the reserve around our desert camp in Jaisalmer, they are protected from intrusion by humans!
One of the rarest residents of Rajasthan, the Desert Monitor is a cousin of the more common Bengal Monitor Lizard. Its numbers are fewer than 200 around the Thar. It can be distinguished by its rather large size although it is the smallest of monitor lizards, and the range of horizontal patterns on its body. During the winters and up until early summer, desert monitors go into hibernation since they’re cold blooded and need to conserve energy.
Desert Monitors are quite endangered, but local communities have strayed away from killing them. The species is an excellent pest control system and is non venomous, which means there is nothing serious to worry about in the event of an accidental bite.
If you want to try your luck at chancing upon the reptiles of the Thar, come with Manvar on a desert safari at our luxury camp in Jaisalmer!