This post is reflective of KTJ from 2014-2016. It is meant to be a balanced, unbiased description with both the good, and the not-so-good. If you have any questions, or want details of things I cannot in good conscience write in this post you can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave a comment below.
LONG TAILED MACAQUE Macaca fascicularis
KTJ has a substantial monkey population. My seniors told me that the giant cages around the school are monkey traps. This species is aggressive by nature. They can be solitary, or move in groups of around 40-50 (I counted).
How to identify: long tails (usually longer than their bodies), looks like a monkey.
Where: the “jungle” opposite the houses, the houses’ rooftops, near the 6th Form Centre (on exeats)
- do not engage.
- do not taunt. They can and will give chase.
- do not feed.
- do not leave your windows open.
- if they bare their teeth, they are being aggressive.
All these pictures are a bit blurry as they were taken from a distance. Be careful when walking near the “jungle”areas near the houses. It can be quite difficult to spot them in the trees.
MONITOR LIZARDS Varanus salvator or bengalensis
The school is also home to monitor lizards. You can tell between the clouded monitor (V.bengalensis) and the water monitor (V.salvator) by their general head size and position of their nostrils. V.bengalensis is generally more common here. Juveniles have more defined spots, are more slender and have smaller claws; adults have fainter spots, are more stocky in build and have long untrimmed claws. They move fast and if you look closely you can see little flies following them around.
How to identify: It’s a big lizard. Almost always solitary.
Where: everywhere. Most likely to be seen on the ground, climbing up trees or swimming in the school lake.
- do not chase.
- do not hunt or attempt to eat.
- avoid being bitten – risk of bacterial infection.
- watch where you are going – easily mistaken for tree roots.
CHANGEABLE LIZARD Calotes versicolor
It’s really neat to watch them during breeding season. If you watch the males closely you can see them inflating their throats (to attract mates) or doing little pushups (to deter the competition).
How to identify: During breeding season (June-July) males turn redder and are more territorial; they will also have a distinctive black ventro-lateral mark. Females are duller. Both male and female have a short crest above the neck.
BEES, WASPS, HORNETS
There are also lots of bees around. What to do if you’ve been stung: skip the house matron and go to the health centre (or have the house matron take you there).
Greater banded hornet Vespa tropica
I’ve only had to remove a couple of these from friends’ rooms. It is important to note that the greater banded is highly aggressive (attacks have been known to be fatal) and venomous.The species has recently invaded Guam (Aug 2016). They do not take too kindly to being trapped and will charge at the walls of whatever is being used to trap them.
Unidentified bee species Apis sp.
I haven’t managed to work out what species this is yet. I think it could be the dwarf honey bee (A.andrenifromis) is but I am not entirely sure. We get these in our rooms relatively often. Once I had one land in my cup before it ruptured its pollen sac (not a pretty sight). I can usually catch these bare-handed as they are less likely to sting.
The first hive (left) was on the starfruit tree behind Alia while the second (below) were near the admin block.
Giant honey bee Apis dorsata
I’ve only seen one such hive in KTJ; it was near the Arts Centre. The shape of the hive is distinctive, and are hanging unlike the previous species which you would notice clings more to the branch rather than hanging from it. Reproductive swarming usually takes place at the end of the year.
This species is very aggressive. What you see in the pictures above is a form of colony defense consisting of layers and layers of bees (the actual hive is quite flat)
Anyway, the school got rid of this one after a week or so (it was in a more obvious location than usual) so I managed to collect some specimens to study up close and pin.
Yes, I went around picking up dead and dying bees.
Snakes are a scarily exciting reality in KTJ. I’ve seen 2 in classrooms, 1 in the drain, 1 near the MPH and a few while out on my nature walks. A snake even fell on one of my housemates (I’m envious, of course).
Below is the paradise tree snake caught in one of the classrooms. My classmate was giving a presentation (right in front of the SMARTboard) when this snake suddenly appeared.
The one near the MPH was black and orange but slithered away too quickly for identification. I hope it wasn’t a Malayan krait. The snake in the drain was slender and bright green. The only Malaysian snakes that come to mind are the Malayan whip snake and Oriental whip snake, both of which are only mildly venomous. The ones I see on my walks tend to be darker in colour.
- don’t go about running in the grass
- watch your step
- learn to identify some common Malaysian snakes
- sneakers, not flip flops
If you see a snake:
- stand as still as possible, then move away slowly. Might not always work.
- if it looks like it is about to strike, that might be a good time to run.
- for the love of God, don’t scream
- don’t touch it. don’t get nearer.
- don’t try to hit it with a stick.
- don’t try to kill it.
What to do if you’ve been bitten:
- try to remember what the snake looked like (pay attention to length, general shape, colour, locality) or take a picture.
- get help, preferably from the health centre (although I don’t know if they have antivenom handy)
- probably not try to suck the venom out. I don’t think it really works that way.
PANTROPICAL HUNTSMAN SPIDER (Heteropoda venatoria)
Both the huntsman spiders I caught from the house (one from my friends room and the other from underneath the bathroom sink) were small. The biggest one I’ve seen is about the size of my palm but got away. The legs can grow up to 5 inches long, and the body about an inch. To put that into perspective, a big spider might fit nicely into a circle with a 6 inch radius (i.e. hand-sized).
The spiders do bite and are venomous, although only slightly. The venom is said to contain neurotoxins.
BIRDING IN KTJ
KTJ is a brilliant place for birding. Some of the birds, like the blue tailed bee eater (Merops philippinus), black naped oriole (Oriolus chinensis) and the white throated kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis) are easy to spot but very hard to photograph.
Some of my best birding moments in KTJ were never captured on camera. There was the time when a bird dropped a dead rat it had been eating from atop a tree in front of Irinah; the time when a Common Flameback pair hopped after each other around the tree near the school lake; all the times that the two black-naped orioles flew about together in the evenings; watching swifts catch their prey on the wing or dipping their wings into the lake water…
My personal favourite was the time when a little Eurasian tree sparrow landed next to an unattended tray in the dining hall and helped itself to some rice.
There are way too many cats in KTJ. There is a feral dog somewhere as well. Chances are that these cats belong to, or will belong to, one of the staff.
How to identify: Two pointy cat ears, cat-eyes, whiskers, four legs.
- if you are allergic to cats, avoid them like the plague.
- if you have cats in your house, keep your room doors closed. Cats do not knock and have no qualms about trespassing. Most are also unable to differentiate between floor and litterbox.
Sometimes, if you’re really lucky, you might find an animal carcass that doesn’t get disposed of for a few weeks. This is particularly interesting from a scientific perspective as you can watch decomposition in action. My only regret is not documenting the process properly.
I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.