| Reptiles and Insects
Armenia has high diversity of herpetofauna, which includes 29 species of snakes, 24 species of lizards, 3 species of tortoises and 8 species of amphibians. Among others there are endemic vipers Vipera raddei, Vipera darevskii, Greece Tortoise (Testudo graeca) and Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus) an endangered species.
One of the rare finds in Armenia is the Loti. Looking every bit like a lime green snake, loti actually has gills for breathing, and projections where a million years ago or so it had legs. Harmless, the loti is endangered and listed on the Red Book, an official listing of endangered species in the former Soviet Union.
Between May 1 and early June and between September 1 and 20 snakes are most active, and may be spotted sunning on warm rocks. Snakes include the Moghesakul (Lizard Eater, sand and earth colors), Poloz (Long Head, different colors by habitat), Haikakan Eezh (Armenian Eel, black and ochre), Shahhmarzh (rose and tuf color), Jerayin Eezh (Water Eel, Black, white w/yellow rim under head) and Haikakan Vishap (Armenian Dragon, grey and black tones).
The Haikakan Vishap has a distinct shape which has been incorporated into carpet designs (the so-called "Dragon carpets" incorporate designs using the Vishap Snake as inspiration), and the Giurza.
All these snakes except one are harmless. The GIURZA (Vipera lebetina) is extremely rare but poisonous. Located in rock canyons and rock ledges like those found at Garni, they can also be found along the Arx River. There is little chance of coming across one, but you can detect it by its sand colored to dark gray coloring and hexagonal shaped markings. Adults are between 150-175 cm in length (two to 4 feet). Giurzas are most active at sunset.
If you do happen to spot any snake, simply stop. The snakes avoid contact with humans, the Giurza giving a warning before it strikes by coiling and raising its head. Even at a few inches distance, if you stop moving, it will not bite.
If you are bitten by a snake, get help immediately if you can, or tourniquet the limb about 20 cm from the bite and seek help immediately. Despite what some health officials have said about tourniqueting, it is still considered a reliable way to slow the spread of poison if you are caught alone in the wilderness. See Health Section for more info.
Keep your eyes open and look around you and you should be OK.
There is an amzing number of insects in Armenia, more than 12.000 species, including about 4,000 species of beetles and 2,000 species of butterflies, with hundreds of endemics among them.
Every year scientists discover several heretofore unknown species, and there seem to be incaluculable more to find.
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