The members of this family – Viperidae – are the most timid, and include venomous, big, fat, strong, intricate and beautiful specimens. This family has representatives in almost all of the planet and in Ecuador that representation adds up to 17 species, barely 5% of the global total. In Mashpi four of these species have been found.
How do you tell between a dangerous viper and an inoffensive snake? Vipers have a head in the shape of diamond, a robust and strong body and big fangs that they use to inject venom into their prey or to defend themselves. Their name, a synonym of danger, has nothing to do with its venomous power; it comes from the fact that their young hatch inside the mother and then come out live and not through eggs in external nests.
The venom of these vertibrates is very dangerous, hemotoxic, causing severe necrosis in the zone of the bite and could even be mortal.
The Equis (Bothops asper) is the most famous viper in Ecuador, and is certainly present in Mashpi. This corpulent snake is a successful ambush predator, that waits patiently until a mammal of medium to small size, or a reptile, bird or amphibian, passes by its hiding place to trap it and disarm it with its strong mouth and venom.
Mashpi is home to the lock headed viper (Bothriechis schlegelii), also a corpulent and dangerous ambush predator that is active during the night, perching itself on branches to trap small mammals, frogs and birds. It has fat eyebrows that decorate its head and a colour that varies between coffee and different shades of green, helping it to camouflage itself among vegetation.