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Photos of Common Thailand Snakes
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Photos of Common Thailand Snakes
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One of the top 10 most toxic terrestrial venomous snakes in the world resides in Thailand, and it is second behind the Bungarus multicinctus in strength of venom, according to LD50 charts for subcutaneous venom injection (in mice), is the Malayan Krait, also called the Blue Krait (Bungarus candidus).
I’ve been looking for one of these snakes in the wild for a couple of years. I don’t herp at night all that much so it was really unlikely that I saw one for a bit of time – but I was due to see this one.
Update 2015 – I’ve seen around one dozen of these snakes. They seem to be active most from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. cruising the ground along sidewalks or rocks. They are not big biters, and I’ve only seen one bite the tongs as I picked it up. These are relatively common snakes in Krabi province.
Here’s the story I put on Youtube about how it came to be that I caught this beautiful krait…
This is the mack daddy of all snakes in Thailand, for me. I’ve seen king cobras in the wild. I’ve caught monocled cobras and maybe 30 other kinds of snake. Last night I hit the jackpot by catching the lovely Malayan Krait – the black / white banded snake you see in the video.
I was herping with a guy from the UK, Michael. He found a red-necked keelback about 30 minutes before. We were herping HARD all over this great wildlife area and I was fully prepared to find nothing more. It was hard herping.
I stopped on the sidewalk for a second and was shining my flashlight (9pm) on the greenery just below the sidewalk (and next to it).
I couldn’t mistake the black/white pattern as the blue krait moved just inches from Michael’s feet.
I said loudly – KRAIT KRAIT! Move back, move over here!
My first instinct, before I opened my mouth was to grab that sucker with the tongs and bag him.
As I moved to do that I realized Michael might get a good bite!
It was funny to see in hindsight how my mind worked. I’m glad I thought of him – right? You know how you get so excited you just act? That’s jsut about where I was. I’d looked for years and years for one of these kraits. Finally there it was – 1 foot from me, and I had all the equipment I needed to catch it if I was fast enough…
Anyway – after he moved a safe bit away I gave the initial squeeze with the tongs and pulled it up where we could see it. It was a beauty. I held it for a while as Michael searched through my backback for the snake bag. The krait got loose because I didn’t want to squeeze too hard… I found the bag – and re-found the krait who was already half under a large rock that I couldn’t have moved if I wanted to.
I slowly pulled it out with the tongs and we bagged it.
Today we took this video in the morning.
She was calm… slow for a bit, then woke RIGHT up. You don’t want to miss this video if you handle or plan on handling kraits. They do have the potential to move VERY fast in whatever direction they choose. I was shocked (horrified!) that it came right at me in an instant.
I never felt as alive as in those few seconds, I can tell you truthfully.
Though we tailed it – and were able to handle the krait a little bit – I never felt comfortable with it – and would never hold one, day or night. Least of all night-time.
So – that’s the story.
More info on Bungarus candidus here.
Come to Thailand and herp – and see what we can find!
The video is below. You don’t want to miss the video because just after I say something like, “This snake kills a few people a year in Thailand” the krait comes at me totally unexpectedly and I freak out trying to move my feet out of the way and get back. Just by pure luck I filmed it coming at me.
That was one of the scariest moments of my life – and yet my body still reacted to get out of the way. It was totally unexpected – and yet I was able to move fast enough. I don’t know whether it would have bitten me, but I don’t see why not. We had aggravated it for a good 20 minutes and it was probably getting angrier as time went on.
If you work with kraits – don’t be lulled into the false sense of control that you don’t have. The krait can, at any time, turn one of your best days into the worst day of your life. There are rumors that if this krait or the many-banded krait (Bungarus multicinctus) bit you, and you went to the hospital – 50% chance you will STILL die from the venom. Not sure if that’s true – but, still – it’s damn strong, and nothing to mess with.
Please don’t hand-hold the kraits – ever.
Check out my youtube video page at
More info on Bungarus candidus here.
My “Thailand Snakes” Video Channel : Malayan Krait at Youtube:
Juvenile Blue (Malayan) Krait:
Another Adult Malayan Krait in Southern Thailand:
Note: About 50% of all bites from this krait results in human death – even with the administration of anti-venin. Death is the usual result if no treatment is given. The closely related Bungarus multicinctus is ranked 3rd in the world for toxicity of venom (terrestrial snakes). Do be careful.
Bungarus candidus (Malayan Krait or Blue Krait)
Thais say: Ngoo tap saming kla, or ngoo kan plong
Length: Max length about 1.6 meters in Thailand.
Range: All over Thailand and much of southeast Asia.
Notes: I’ve seen these dead on the side of the road near rubber plantations. Their head is not nearly as large as the yellow/black banded krait. Their body doesn’t have the high vertebral ridge like Bungarus fasciatus. Be careful around these snakes.
Habitat: Like flat country. Not found higher than 1200 m vertically often. Like to be close to water. Likes rice fields and rice dams. Likes to invade rat holes and use as a nest.
Active Time? The snake is mainly active at night and are not fond of the sunshine. They are shy and attempt to cover their head with their tails. They are active predominantly between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. At least that is when I tend to find them.
Food: Other snakes – primarily, but also lizards, mice, frogs and other small animals.
Defensive Behavior: Not usually very aggressive. Shy. They don’t tend to bite unless really provoked. Still, you should never hold one. I have only seen one in a dozen of these snakes attempt to bite, and it was the result of being grabbed with tongs near the head.
Venom Toxicity: Very toxic – even many times more so than the Naja kaouthia (cobras). Bungarus krait venom is neuro-toxic and attacks the human nervous system, shutting it down. Coma, brain death, and suffocation due to paralysis of the muscles necessary to breathe (diaphragm) are frequent causes of death. Death results usually 12-24 hours after a bite that is not treated. Little or no pain is usually felt at the bite location. The black/white kraits in Thailand are more toxic to humans than are the yellow/black kraits. The yellow-black kraits (Bungarus fasciatus) can still kill you easily.
Here’s a short overview of what happened to one victim of a bite by Bungarus candidus (black-white striped krait):
A patient bitten by Bungarus candidus (Malayan krait) developed nausea, vomiting, weakness, and myalgia 30 minutes after being bitten. One hour later, ptosis and occulomotor palsies as well as tightness of his chest were noted. Respiratory failure requiring mechanical respiration appeared 8 hours after the bite and lasted for nearly 96 hours. The two bite sites were virtually painless and resulted in slight transient erythema and edema. No specific antivenin was available, and treatment consisted of respiratory support and management of aspiration pneumonitis. Recovery was complete. (Department of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University Hospital and the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute of the Thai Red Cross Society, Bangkok, Thailand)
Handling: The banded and Malayan blue kraits are not known to bite during the daytime. However, at night time they bite rather easily, as evidenced by the numerous krait bites that occur at night to people usually laying down to sleep on the floor. Handholding the kraits for any reason seems rather absurd to me, yet snake-handlers across the globe do it regularly. The krait venom is so toxic, it’s just not worth the risk – however small.
Anti-venin / Antivenom: There is a specific krait antivenin that is given for krait bites. If you don’t have access to that antivenin you can ask the hospital if they have Tiger Snake antivenin – which can be used as a substitute for krait antivenin and works well.
Offspring: Lays 4-10 eggs. Juveniles are 30 cm long at birth. Hatch in June-July.
(Classified as Bungaris candidus)
The red-tailed pipe snake is a beautiful snake, though at first glance you might wonder if it is a snake at all! It has a very flat appearance for the tail region, and very black on the top. The head is so small you might think it’s a large fat worm. The eyes are very small. This snake spends a lot of time in the dirt looking for grubs, maggots, and very small larvae and things.
Cylindrophis ruffus ruffus (Red Tailed Pipe Snake)
Thais say: (ngoo kon kob)
Length: max about .9 meters (90 cm, 35.5 inches)
Range: All over Thailand on flat ground and at some elevation up to 1700 meters.
Notes: I had one of these red-tailed pipe snakes at my home to photograph and shoot video of for two days. They are beautiful snakes. Their top is black and has a radiance like a sunbeam snake – you know that rainbow appearance when the sunlight hits it? Beautiful. Then, on the underside the bands of black and white don’t line up – so it’s very different. The bands will turn red and black as the juvenile red tailed pipe snake ages. The head is very small and the eyes – almost impossible to see.
Habitat: The snake lives on the ground and in rat holes and termite mounds, under stumps or rocks and in other cool, damp places. I find them in a tangle of roots in the water sometimes.
Active Time? The snake is mostly nocturnal and is active at night.
Food: Brahminy blind snakes, insect larvae, small frogs and worms.
Defensive Behavior: This pipe snake hides the head under loops of it’s body and flips it’s red tail end up in the air – flattening it – as if like a cobra. Thais call this the 2-head snake because it wants you to think it has two. In an hour of handling this snake, it made no move to bite at all. That doesn’t mean it won’t, but they are not all that inclined to bite. Their mouth is VERY small and they’d have to catch you just right to bite you.
Venom Toxicity: None that affects humans.
Offspring: This snake has 5-10 young, born live, about 20 cm long (about 8 inches).
Red Tailed Pipe Snake’s Scientific classification
Species: C. ruffus
Classified by Laurenti in year 1768
Red Tailed Pipe Snake video:
These are yellow and black kraits. There are also “Blue Kraits“ which are black and white. And the red headed krait which looks nothing like either of them.
Bungarus Fasciatus (Banded Krait)
Thais say: (ngoo sam lee-um, or ngoo kan plong) This is a bit confused in Thailand where, in southern Thailand any viper is known as Ngoo sam lee-um. Lee-um means triangle, and so some people confuse triangle shaped heads of the vipers with triangle cross-section of the kraits.
Length: average 1.5m up to 2m (about 6.5 feet) In Thailand they don’t usually reach a full 2m.
Range: All over Thailand and most of Asia
Notes: I have yet to see a live banded krait in the wild, except a few dead on the roads – but I don’t go digging up ratholes or termite mounds. I may start if I don’t find one soon. I’ve been looking for three years to find a krait with yellow and black bands like these. At dinner last night I was looking around a small restaurant with many ponds, for snakes. I asked the owner’s son if they had seen any. He said, Ngoo Sam lee-um. SCORE. That’s the one! I’ll get their permission for some late night herping and try to bag one. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. This restaurant is located on a small hill close to sea-level in southern Thailand. There are many frogs at the ponds, and probably many snakes too.
Update 2015- I’ve been to that restaurant numerous times and not had a call from them about this krait. I am not sure they have been found in Krabi. I have found them on the road in Surat Thani, just north.
Habitat: The snake lives on the ground and in rat holes and termite mounds, under stumps or rocks and in other cool, damp places. Recently I saw photos of one in some limestone rocks here in Thailand. I’ve seen large 2 meter dead banded krait just on the outside of a rubber plantation in Surat. They prefer wide open areas. They have been found as high as 1,524 meters in Malaysia and about 2,300 meters in Thailand.
Active Time? The snake is mostly nocturnal and is quite active at night. Most bites occur at night, as the kraits move close to people sleeping – usually on the floor, and probably the person moves and the krait bites. More dangerous at night, during the day they are not biters. These kraits are common in the northeast Thailand provinces. Recently a six year old boy was bitten and could not be revived. The snake had come up into their home in Surin to escape some flooding.
Food: Other snakes almost exclusively – rat and cat (Boiga) snakes. One noted herpetologist states that kraits don’t like to eat water snakes. Will also eat rats, mice, frogs, lizards if snakes cannot be found.
Defensive Behavior: The banded krait is slow acting during the day, lethargic, and usually not interested in striking. However, it can protect itself quite well – it is a strong biter and has been recorded as killing a large type of cattle 60 minutes after a bite.
Venom Toxicity: Very toxic. Deadly. This yellow/black banded krait from Thailand is less toxic to humans than monocled cobra venom is, but still QUITE deadly. These snakes rarely bite during the day, but if they do, they can transfer enough venom to kill you. Literature shows someone dying in 30 minutes, another dying in 15 hours. A famous American herpetologist, Joe Slowinski, was killed by a baby krait (Bungarus multicinctus) in Burma while on a remote expedition. They can be quite deadly. The cause of death is that your muscles are paralyzed and your diaphragm can’t work any longer to pull oxygen into your lungs. Kraits are very deadly in this regard. However, if you are able to get to a hospital with a ventilator you will likely be OK. There is no specific antivenin for snake bites from this snake, but polyvalent venom is used – which can also treat bites from Naja kaouthia and Ophiophagus hannah.
Interesting to note… when fed on a live garter snake the krait venom acts instantly to cause death. Apparently krait venom is very efficient with snakes – the krait’s primary diet.
Handling: The banded and Malayan blue kraits are not known to bite during the daytime. However, at night time they bite rather easily, as evidenced by the numerous krait bites that occur at night to people usually laying down to sleep on the floor. I would never handhold kraits like the man is doing in the photo above. The krait venom is so toxic, it’s just not worth the risk – however small.
Anti-venin: Polyvalent. It is advised by experts to get antivenin in your blood stream for krait bites before you have symptoms because, once symptoms develop you may have lost nerve functioning that will not return.
Offspring: Mating in March-April and 4-14 eggs laid about 60 days afterward. The mother krait remains with the eggs for another 60 days before they hatch. Baby kraits are about 30cm long at birth, and have venom. I couldn’t find in the literature whether the mother left the eggs as they started hatching – so she didn’t eat them herself or not. The King Cobra does this instinctively because it also eats other snakes.
Banded Krait’s Scientific classification
Species: B. fasciatus
Classified by Schneider in year 1801
Photo of 2 Adult Banded Kraits:
Video of me with 3 Banded Kraits from Nakhon Si Thammarat, southern Thailand:
When I say the “Laotian Wolf Snake” is “not dangerous” I mean, it’s not going to kill you or send you to the intensive care unit of a Thai hospital. But, though this snake isn’t venomous it does have a biting problem. It bites very fast because it’s small and thin – and doesn’t give much warning when it strikes – unlike some other snakes – mangrove snakes, or monocled cobras.
Caution: There is another, highly venomous – and deadly, snake that looks similar to this harmless wolf snake. It is the yellow Banded Krait. It has thick yellow and black bands, and can grow to about 2 meters long. See this krait page >
There is another snake that you might think resembles this one. It’s called a mangrove snake. This is a type of cat snake, and it has some venom, and bites hard and deep. Here is video: Mangrove snake striking.
Lycodon laoensis (Laotian Wolf Snake)
Thai: (ngoo plong chanwan lao, or ngoo kan plong)
Length: Up to about .5 meters (50 cm, or 19 inches).
Range: All over Thailand.
Notes: These are ground dwelling snakes. They are rather shy and like to hide under things. They are easily eaten by predators because they have no strong defense (venom). Laotian Wolf Snakes prefer mountains and hilly regions but also can be found close to dwellings at times.
Active Time? Night & evenings cruising through leaf litter or just sitting on a porch curled up and waiting for a gecko to walk by.
Food: Small insects, frogs, small geckos.
Defensive Behavior: Pretty calm until they are scared or angry. They bite fast, and repeatedly. Their mouth is very small so you wouldn’t end up with much of a bite, but be cautious anyway.
Venom Toxicity: No venom that affects humans. But, as with any bite, if you’re bitten and it affects you – get to the hospital. You may be allergic to it.
Laotian Wolf Snake classification
Species: L. laoensis
Binomial classification: Lycodon laoensis
Laotian Wolf Snake video:
The Copperheaded Racer snakes are so named because their head is copper colored. Though much of the body of this snake is also copper colored, there are also more yellow and brown color variations among this species. These snakes have no relation to the highly venomous “copperhead” snakes of America, and elsewhere. Thailand’s Copperheaded Racers are large rat snakes that feed heavily on large rodents and are frequently found near houses and markets where a rat population exists. These snakes will rarely bite you if you are walking by, but if you are pursuing a copperheaded racer – it will turn and move toward you with many folds in it’s neck, ready to strike. See the video below of the large 2 meter + racer I found crossing a Thai highway in southern Thailand.
There is another rat snake – the Common Malayan Racer that is a much darker color, but very much resembles the Copperheaded Racer. It generally will not bite even if handled.
Coelognathus radiatus, usually referred to as the Copperheaded Racer, Rat Snake, or Jumping Snake
Thai: Ngoo tang ma-prow ly keet
Appearance: A copper colored head with black lines on the top and neck, leading into some lateral lines that run down some of the length of the body. This snake often looks yellow as the dominant color. Because this snake is rather large it has a large mouth to match.
Length: Up to 230 cm (about 7 feet maximum). They can get as thick as an adult male’s wrist. Obviously thicker if they just ate.
Range: All over Thailand and many countries in Southeast Asia.
Habitat: Copperheaded racers are ground-dwelling snakes and prefer to live where rats are. Anywhere rats are. These snakes can be found at some altitude (1500m) as well as sea-level.
Notes: These snakes bite at the slightest provocation. They strike repeatedly, but eventually tire. The Cobra show in Ao Nang, Thailand uses these snakes in a demonstration because they are great strikers. I’ve only seen these racers on the ground – not climbing anything.
Active Time? Diurnal – daytime. Occasionally found active at night.
Food: Rats, mice, lizards, frogs, birds.
Natural Enemies: King cobras seem to prefer these and other rat snakes, probably because the teeth are not large and they cannot inflict any damage on the cobras.
Defensive Behavior: They will come at you if you’re bothering them, with a raised head – vertically inflated neck, and open mouth. See video of one crossing road and coming at me. They love to strike, and the big ones can reach over a meter when striking. If they can’t deter the aggressor they roll over and play dead with their tongue hanging out. If they can get away they are very fast snakes on the ground.
Venom Toxicity: Venom in the saliva, but no means to deliver it with fangs – no fangs at all.
Offspring: No info.
Species: C. Radiatus
Binomial name: Coelognathus radiatus
Video: I Found a Baby Copperheaded Racer Crossing the Road:
Video: Large Copperheaded Racer Crossing the Road – Comes After Me!
Video: Copperheaded Racer Striking
Red Headed Krait (Bungarus flaviceps)
Thais say: Ngoo sam lee-um hoo-uh si dang
Length: These kraits grow to 1.9 to just over 2 meters, though most found are under 2 meters.
Range: In Thailand the red headed krait is only found in the southern Thailand provinces from Ratchaburi and southward. Across the globe they are most heavily concentrated in Malaysia, Borneo, and a couple other places. Recently I found a large 1.9 meter specimen in rainforest in the Trang province. I have also found them in Surat Thani, and Krabi provinces.
Habitat: Lowlands and hilly rain forest type habitat. The last four of these snakes I saw were all found at less than 200 meters elevation.
Active Time? Probably active both at night and day. Three of four of these snakes in our local area were found during the daylight. Probably they prefer the night time hours for hunting prey.
Food: Some say the red headed kraits eat more frogs, lizards, eggs, and rodents than other snakes. Probably they are opportunistic and eat whatever presents itself.
Defensive Behavior: Of the four snakes examined – none struck out, none attempted to bite at all. Note – all but one was handled during daylight hours.
Venom Toxicity: Venomous, and deadly. The venom has been shown to have an LD50 subcutaneous measurement of .35 mg/kg for Bungarus flaviceps, while Bungarus candidus (Malayan Krait) was .32 mg/kg, and Bungarus fasciatus (Banded Krait), .62 mg/kg and less than that in another study. This makes it one of the top venomous snakes on the planet and within the top three most venomous in Thailand. The black mamba is listed at the same .32 mg/kg by venom researcher, Dr. Bryan Grieg Fry at his site. (was, he pulled down his chart). Only 10 other terrestrial snakes in the world were listed with more potent venom. Little is known of the this venom’s effect on humans after a bite, though it is likely very similar to a bite from Bungarus candidus, I could find no treatment studies due to bites being quite rare by this krait species.
From the abstract of a recent (2/2010) venom study in Malaysia: Bungarus flaviceps (red-headed krait) venom presents an intravenous LD50 of 0.32 μg/g and exhibits enzymatic activities similar to other Bungarus toxins. ELISA cross-reactions between anti-Bungarus flaviceps and a variety of elapid and viperid venoms were observed in the current study. Double-sandwich ELISA was highly specific, since anti-B. flaviceps serum did not cross-react with any tested venom, indicating that this assay can be used for species diagnosis in B. flaviceps bites. In the indirect ELISA, anti-B. flaviceps serum cross-reacted moderately with three different Bungarus venoms (9-18%) and Notechis scutatus venom, but minimally with other elapid and viperid toxins. The results indicated that B. flaviceps venom shares common epitopes with other Bungarus species as well as with N. scutatus. The lethality of the B. flaviceps venom was neutralized effectively by antiserum prepared against B. candidus and B. flaviceps toxins and a commercial bivalent elapid antivenom prepared against B. multicinctus and Naja naja atra venoms, but was not neutralized by commercial antivenoms prepared against Thai cobra, king cobra and banded krait. These data also suggested that the major lethal toxins of B. flaviceps venom are similar to those found in B. multicinctus and B. candidus venoms.
Offspring: Two clutches from two adult female red-headed kraits were studied by Chula University scientists in Bangkok. One clutch was four eggs, and the other, six eggs. After 81-84 days in incubation at 26-27C and the other clutch at 30-32C eggs hatched. Less eggs hatched at the higher temperature incubation. Average hatchling length was 28.9cm +/- .8cm measured from snout to vent. Weight of each was 7.2 to 7.8 grams. Humidity in the incubation enclosures was 60-70%. After 7-10 days all snakes had shed.
Notes: I have seen four of these kraits, and they are quite incredible to find in the wild considering how rare they are. The Bungarus flaviceps has not been studied very well, and I suspect that most of the information on Wikipedia and other information sources has been generalized from other Thailand kraits like the Blue Krait (Bungarus candidus) and Many Banded Krait (Bungarus multicinctus) because the wording seems too similar to be by chance.
These snakes have not been studied well in captivity or in the wild, except for the previously mentioned study in which the kraits lived surprisingly long. Usually the red-headed krait dies quickly in captivity. These kraits are not known to bite during daytime, but, be exceptionally careful when handling them.
The venter (belly) at the tail is red, red-orange on this snake. The rest of the venter is creme colored.
Substrate: Best? Leaves and something large to hide under – wood is best, rocks, something solid.
Ways to differentiate Bungarus flaviceps from the Malayan Blue Coral Snake (Calliophis bivirgatus):
1. B. flaviceps has a triangle cross-section, while C. bivirgatus has more of a round cross-section.
2. C. bivirgatus has a venter that is all red/orange. B. flaviceps has red under the tail only.
3. B. flaviceps reaches about 2 meters while B. bivirgatus grows to just 1.4 meters.
4. B. bivirgatus has lateral lines on both sides of the body toward the venter, that are solid light blue or white.
5. With some video study you can see how their crawling pattern differs.
6. B. flaviceps has a more sizable head, a wider head, and larger mouth than the coral snake.
7/25/13 Update. At 11:30pm in a Thailand National Park in Trang Province, a friend and I found a large 1.9 meter long Bungarus flaviceps on the trail and photographed and shot video of it. Video #1 is of this snake. The photos on this page are all of the same snake.
Species: Bungarus flaviceps
Binomial name: Bungarus flaviceps
Classified by Reinhardt, in year, 1843
Photos of Bungarus flaviceps:
Video 1 – Large Red-Headed Krait caught in Trang Province, southern Thailand:
Video 2 – Red Headed Krait – Bungarus flaviceps caught in southern Thailand:
2nd Part of Red Headed Krait #2 Video:
These Red Tailed Racers are beautiful green snakes with a grey or reddish tail. They are non-venomous but big enough to give you a strong bite. These snakes live for about 15 years on average – if they don’t encounter a predator like the King cobra.
Gonyosoma oxycephalum (Red Tailed Racer)
Discovered by Boie in 1827
Thai: (ngoo kee-ow kub maak)
Length: Max length about 2.5m (7.5+ feet) They are thick like your wrist and very strong, muscled snakes.
Range: All over Thailand.
Habitat: Red Tailed Racers prefer lowland and up to about 750m above sea level in jungle, agricultural (farmed) land, mangrove forests. They spend most of their time in trees and bushes.
Notes: These are common tree snakes that are also found in caves. They have beautiful greens, with white and black mixed in to their main body color. Their belly scales are rough and ideal for climbing trees. Their top scales are smooth. Identified easily by the dark streak across the eyes, and, if you’re close enough – the blue tongue that flickers in and out when aggravated. The tail is not always or even usually red… the ones I’ve seen are grey. They don’t always do well in captivity and can strike at anytime, though usually much more when aggravated first.
Active Time? Daytime.
Food: Rats, mice, birds, bats and lizards.
Natural Enemies: King cobras love to eat Red Tailed Racer snakes!
Defensive Behavior: They flare up their body vertically – not horizontally like the cobras. They puff themselves up vertically and turn this part sideways to you so they can strike fear into you. They do bite when pestered. They can strike from nearly any position, head facing away from you too. Be careful they have strong jaws.
Venom Toxicity: No venom dangerous to humans.
Offspring: Red tailed racers reach sexually maturity at 4 years. Between September and January this snake deposits small clutches of 3-8 eggs that hatch 45cm long baby red tailed racer snakes in 91 to 112 days.
Species: G. oxycephalum
Binomial name: Gonyosoma oxycephalum
Video: Red Tailed Racer Eaten by King Cobra:
Up until yesterday I’ve only seen small sunbeam snakes – about 15 inches long. They are fat and can be found under plastic or other things in muddy water, or anywhere near water. I found one small sunbeam crossing the street at night during a rain in Sisaket – so I pulled him off the road and up into the brush. Yesterday I saw a 1+ meter snake at a friend’s. The big ones are really impressive. Thick, smooth like glass, and with an unbelievably cool rainbow iridescence that you must see.
Sunbeam snakes get their name because they beam in the sunshine… so to speak. Their scales reflect a luminescence – like a rainbow of colors – and it’s surreal to see a sunbeam snake in the bright sunshine (I have a video for you below, but it doesn’t give justice to the intensity of the rainbow of colors).
Xenopeltis unicolor (Sunbeam Snake)
Thai language: Ngoo sang ateet, Ngoo leu-um deen
Appearance: Sunbeam snakes are thicker than a large banana (with skin) as adults. Their scales are very smooth and the snake has a texture like rubber. Dirt doesn’t appear to stick to the scales. The head is like a shovel blade, tending toward flat. The eyes are small and designed for burrowing in dirt.
Length: Both male and female sunbeams are usually about a meter long with the female growing up to 1.3m for the maximum length (about 4 feet).
Range: All over Thailand. I’ve found them in Trang, Surat, Krabi and Nakhon Si Thammarat provinces. Also found all over Southeast Asia from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, to Burma (Myanmar), China, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Malaysian Peninsula and over to the Philippines.
Habitat: These snakes love the shallow water, muddy areas where they lie hidden under leaves or junk waiting for nightfall. They can be found close to human habitat as well as any lake or other body of water. They are fossorial – meaning, they hide under things – like leaves, dirt, just about anything.
Notes: These sunbeam snakes rarely bite. They do not do well in captivity and quickly die because they get stressed out. If you keep one – be sure to have soft substrate they can burrow (dig) into to cover themselves. They need cool shade and water. Don’t put them in the sun for long.
Active Time? Nocturnal – night.
Food: Frogs mostly, lizards, geckos, and other snakes. Sunbeam snakes kill prey by squeezing (constricting) it like a python.
Natural Enemies: King cobras and kraits would probably eat these snakes, though I don’t have evidence that they do.
Defensive Behavior: Curl tail. Rarely bite. Very low-key, mellow snakes if you’re not provoking them. They move very slow and their scales are good for water but not so great for street, rocks, and other hard smooth surfaces.
Venom Toxicity: None. No danger to humans except possibly a strong bite if you anger it. I’ve heard about only one person ever being bitten by this snake. It just doesn’t typically happen.
Offspring: Little is known. Tough to keep very long – they die quickly in captivity.
Binomial name: Xenopeltidae Xenopeltis
Classification by Reinwardt, 1827
Sunbeam Snake Photo:
My Sunbeam Snake Video:
The easy answer is just about everywhere.
Seriously, snakes in Thailand are all over the country from north to south, east to west. They are in the high elevation areas – mountains and hills, as well as the low elevation areas, and even inside caves (Ridley Racers). Snakes are as likely to be in the garbage area of your home as they are in a field.
Snakes are in the trees – vipers and tree snakes, cobras – including King Cobras, Mangrove Snakes, Oriental Whip Snakes are all in trees and bushes and like to be off the ground sometimes.
Snakes are in the water – though there aren’t many venomous types in the water, there is the sea krait and keelbacks love the water too.
Snakes are on the ground – the Malayan Pit Vipers and the Russell’s Viper are on the ground usually.
Snakes are in the AIR – This is kind of an exaggeration of course, but there are tree snakes that can jump from tree to tree or tree to ground, and cover long distances – as in tens of meters – or even hundreds of feet if they jump from a high enough place.
Snakes come into houses, apartments, and tents. Do be careful not to leave your doors or windows open without screens – especially at night.