All posts by Vern Lovic. Amateur herpetologist roaming about Thailand on field herping tours to find cobras, kraits, vipers, coral snakes, and other snakes native to Thailand. FYI - Thailand has around 200 snake species with around 60 of them venomous and dangerous to humans.
Thais say: In Thai language, it sounds like Ngoo how chang (literally “snake cobra elephant”, or ngoo chong ahng. There are many names for this snake.
Length: Max length about 5.8 meters. The presenter at the Saovabha Snake Farm in Bangkok said the largest king was caught in Nakhon si Thammarat in Thailand’s south, near Surat Thani province and it was around 19 feet in length (cannot recall exact length).
Range: All over Thailand and most of Southeast Asia.
Notes: I’ve seen a few king cobras in the wild. One I saw in a park in Krabi – just the tail as it crossed the road behind me. I’m guessing it was an eight meter long snake. I know it is probably impossible, but I’m not joking. The tail was absolutely massive, longer and thicker by nearly double that of other 5-meter kings I’ve seen many of. This was quite possibly the biggest King Cobra in the world.
Another king I saw on the island of Penang, in Malaysia. I was coming down a very steep hill and I saw this 3-4 meter king cruising through the dense underbrush. It was absolutely awesome to see it there when there were so many people climbing the hill (dozens).
Another time I saw a king about one-hundred twenty meters in elevation up a limestone mountain in Krabi province. This one rested on the steps of a popular temple – Wat Tham Seua and I had to move it away so people could come down the steps. A large four-meter long king that was very fast! Note to self – don’t try to move a king that is higher than you are (it was on steps up ahead of me and was very fast to come down to attempt to strike at me because it had the height advantage.
Kings are all over Thailand and can be found near houses, or really – just about anywhere. But they are not found often. They are tremendously strong and smart animals. Please give the snake a large space and do not poke it with a stick. They are very fast moving. Juvenile king cobras can also kill you. Their venom is every bit as toxic as adults.
Habitat: Like many types of habitat. Dense forest near water and open grasslands. Love bamboo thickets for a nest. Ideal cover is a web of small bamboo growing about a meter high with soft bamboo leaves underneath. The King I found last night was up a limestone mountain around 100 meters elevation. In Thailand they are often found wherever rat snakes might be found because they seem to prefer them.
Kings seem to prefer mountains. The other two I found were also at some elevation (200 m and around 500 meters).
King cobras are usually terrestrial, but have been found many times in trees.
Active Time? The snake is mainly diurnal – found active during the daytime, but can also be active also at night.
Food: King cobras eat other smaller snakes primarily, but also will eat monitor lizards. Occasionally they’ll eat other king cobras, pythons, lizards, birds, rodents. I saw a 5 meter long king attempting to eat a 2.5 meter reticulated python. The King appeared intimidated by the strength of the python – it’s no pushover. Here is a photo of a 3 meter king eating a 2 meter red tailed racer snake.
Defensive Behavior: Lifts its head off the ground sometimes by as much as 4-5 feet, and flattens out the neck. The hood of a King cobra doesn’t flare as wide… but, a big King will scare you much more because they can be 5 times as long as the monocled or other cobras! These snakes are not usually that afraid of people, and move slowly to ‘escape’ if they move away at all. Last night I moved a 4 meter king off some steps at a local temple so people could pass. It was not in ANY hurry to get away, and it came at me a couple of times. Impressive snakes, and be very afraid… I know a man personally, his brother was bitten on the chest and died in less than 10 minutes on the way to hospital.
Venom Toxicity: Very toxic, but monocled cobras (Naja kaouthia) and kraits (genus Bungarus) are more potent on the LD50 scale. The power of the King is in the volume of venom it can inject in one bite – maximum around 7ml! Kings can (and have) killed elephants with a good bite.
Antivenom: There is a specific antivenin for the king cobras manufactured by the Red Cross’ Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute in Bangkok, Thailand and available online for about $110 (May, 2015) for enough antivenin to counteract .8ml of king cobra venom. If the hospital you’re in does not have it in stock and cannot order it quickly from another nearby source, there is an alternative. Tiger snake antivenin can also work well. Online – www.snake-antivenin.com (no affiliation).
Offspring: Ophiophagus hannah is the only snake known in the world that creates a nest (usually of bamboo and other leaves). This snake lays eggs which they stay with in the nest until ready to hatch. When the eggs begin hatching, the female king leaves because it eats other snakes primarily – and would likely eat the young. The young are fast, and deadly from the time they hatch. Juvenile king cobras from Thailand have yellow bands across their black bodies and heads. They look radically different from adult king cobra snakes. There is a danger of mistaking them for mangrove cat snakes (Boiga melanota).
Young king cobras spend their early months, and possibly years in the trees.
Species: O. hannah
The kings in these photos are all beat up from bashing their faces against the cages at a snake show in Thailand. In the wild they are so beautiful… majestic… amazing snakes. I was so glad to see my first one in the wild last night. Even better to interact with it… Gotta love Thailand!
Video of a King Cobra breathing – you can hear it:
Update 5/23/2015 – I’ve seen a number of king cobras in the wild now over the years. Four of them have been hundreds of meters high on mountains. Many snake enthusiasts want to come to Thailand to see king cobras, and I have to tell them… the chance of seeing one is slight. I’ve lived in Thailand for ten years and I’ve seen only a handful, and I’m in the rainforest often. Your best bet is to come to the country and stay for a couple of months. Stay at PhanomBenchaMountainResort.com in a bungalow, and hike during the days around there. That’s my best advice.
Thais are a bit crazy about cobras – it is the most easily recognized snakes, and though I have met few people that can identify other snakes, most know what a cobra looks like. There are even amulet necklaces of cobras!
Description: This is a thin snake less than the thickness of a finger. It has a yellow mask and comes in one of two color pattern variations. Shown here is the pattern with a brown background and longitudinal stripes running from neck to tail. There is one along the vertebral ridge and one on each side. The eyes of this snake are rather large compared to the very small head. The head is slightly smaller than the neck of the snake. There are two very small rear-fangs seen upon inspection of the mouth. The head of this snake is not elongated in a long triangle like the Lycodon family of snakes – which is one way to tell the difference.
Range: Thailand’s southern provinces. This snake was found in Krabi province at 450 meters elevation at 2200 hours two meters high on a thick tree covered with moss (see photo below).
Habitat: Bushes, trees, and dwellings. This snake is not as common as the Laotian Wolf Snake, but likes the same kind of habitat. It searches trees and structures for geckos primarily. They are excellent climbers and love vines and light brush.
Active Time? Usually nocturnal.
Food: Small geckos and frogs primarily.
Defensive Behavior: I have yet to see this snake strike, even after handling a half-dozen of them. Usually they are very calm.
Venom Toxicity: Weak or none. Ineffective for humans if there is any venom. The fangs are quite small – less than the diameter of a regular stick pin.
Offspring: Nothing known about this area.
Notes: These are great snakes for first time snake hobbyists to handle for a short time in the wild. If they are striking initially, they quickly calm down when held for a short time. There is a very real danger of mistaking these harmless snakes with a Malayan, Many Banded, or Banded krait – all of which are deadly. Kraits can get bigger than 1 meter. This snake, and the other harmless black and white banded snakes – will not get over 70 cm generally.
It is May and the snakes are hatching all over the country. Where I live here in Southern Thailand we have some of the best herping in the country, and the world. I have to be reminded of that occasionally because I start to take it for granted sometimes.
I’ve been seeing hatchling and very juvenile C. rhodostoma and C. radiata on the roads fairly often. Those are the two I usually see as the snake herping season begins in Thailand. I’ve seen my usual share of rat snakes – P. korros primarily, and everywhere, and just one big P. carinatus at the top of a small mountain on top of a pile of fallen branches.
Frogs are out in full-force already. We’ve had one really good rain since the rainy season began back on Thai New Years (early May), and a number of smaller, spotty rains. They all help to get the frogs reproducing.
The hills are alive with the sound of Calotes emma scampering around the mostly dry leaves in the rainforest. I have definitely seen more this year than any year previously at this time. I’m taking that as a good sign. Flying lizards too. They seem to be everywhere I look, as abundant as house geckos on the outside of our home at night.
I spied one big tokay at head level and about one foot from my face stuck to a wall at the top of a Buddhist temple shrine on a mountain. It was kind enough to stick around while I studied its fascinating pattern. If you’ve never really looked intently at it – it’s mesmerizing!
This year I’ve decided to really expand my focus to include other wildlife that I didn’t pay much attention to – Tokays and other geckos, flying lizards – Draco, frogs, centipedes, scorpions, tarantulas, and bugs – insects of all kinds. Really opening it up, right? I guess I I get a bit bored mid- and late-season while just focusing on snakes. I tend to catch the same species’ over and over and it does get monotonous at times. If I had some more fauna to focus on, I’d be less bored. So this will be a new beginning for me.
So, needless to state it, but I’m wildly optimistic about this 2015 Reptile and Amphibian Herping Season. I’ve got a couple of field trips planned now. Sisaket in the Northeast of Thailand is my next stop. I even have to make a trip out to Laos, so I’ll take a look around while I’m out there and see if anything jumps out at me.
So, if you’re in Ubon, Sisaket, Savannakhet, or Mukdahan and know where the snakes are – let me know!
These snakes resemble black worms in Thailand. They have a lot of energy when you pick one up. You will likely find them in soil in your potted plants or climbing up through your drain in your restroom.
Brahminy Blind Snakes are completely harmless.
Ramphotyphlops braminus (Brahminy Blind Snake)
Thai: (ngoo din ban)
Length: Up to about 6 inches (15cm)
Range: All over Thailand and much of the world, native to Southeast Asia. Transported across the world in potted plants.
Notes: These are ground dwelling and burrowing snakes. They are shy. They are easily eaten by many other predators like birds, monitors, and other snakes. The Red Tailed Pipe snake eats these snakes often. The blind snakes have very small eyes covered with a thin skin that protects them as they burrow through the dirt.
Active Time? Anytime.
Food: Ant and termite eggs primarily.
Defensive Behavior: Trying to get away. The mouth is too small to inflict a bite on humans.
Venom Toxicity: No venom or means to inject it.
Offspring: An interesting twist here. Brahminy Blind snakes are all born female and need no males to continue the species. They are parthenogenetic. When they reach sexual maturity they lay fertile eggs – and hence, are fully self-perpetuating the species. If there is one – soon there will be more! These snakes have populated much of the western world and can be found in Hawaii, Louisianna, Boston, and other places in the USA now.
My Brahminy Blind Snake Videos:
Species: R. braminus
I was running up my favorite trail – a small mountain in Tub Kaak, Krabi province, when I saw my right foot coming down right in front of a Malayan pit viper. It was scary to know there was nothing I could do about it – I screamed out and pulled my foot away as fast as possible after landing, but with all my weight on it for a second, it wasn’t all that fast. The snake could have bitten me if it chose to.
But, luck was on my side and I’m walking around on both feet this morning. Lucky me! Watch this video so you can see just how important it is to watch where every footstep goes while hiking or running in the Thailand rainforest. These snakes and vipers in general are active at night and are also crepuscular, which means in the early morning and early evening. I have also seen them active during the daytime during and after a heavy rain.
If you have some time between when your ride leaves (like waiting for ambulance):
2. Clean wound with water. Be gentle, don’t scrub harshly especially if the wound burns intensely. If you know the snake that bit you was a viper – do not touch the wound site, just rinse with water.
3. This next part (#3a) is if you know what kind of snake it is. Go straight to #3b if you don’t know positively which snake bit you.
3a. If the snake that bit you is a pit viper – any green viper, or the brown Malayan pit viper or Russel’s Viper (Chain Viper), just rinse the area with water. Don’t touch it, just let it bleed out some if you can. If great amounts of blood – apply a light pressure to stop the bleeding, of course. Ideally you don’t want to wrap a viper bite with a compression bandage, it can cause more damage.
3b. If you do NOT KNOW what type of snake it was that bit you, Immediately apply a pressure bandage or wrap a piece of clean dry cloth around the bite site as well as above and below the bite by a few inches. This is essential for krait, coral, and cobra bites. Elastic wraps that you use for ankle sprains work well. Wrap it snugly, but you should still be able to put a finger under the bandage.
4. Stay as still as possible. Tell someone or write down what you can remember about the snake – color? thickness? pattern? Was it in a tree? On ground? Identifying the snake is very important so you get the right antivenin, if one is needed.
5. Antivenin is given after you start to have symptoms, not before. Some bites are “dry bites” and inject no venom.
Caution… anti-venin (also called anti-venom) OFTEN causes severe allergic reaction. This allergic reaction can be deadly in some cases. Get good advice on the necessity of anti-venin before it is administered. The doctors should do a test to see if you’re allergic to it first before full-scale administration of anti-venin. Insist on it.
Suck the poison out or use any devices to suck out the venom, it can cause more damage to tissue if it is a viper bite.
Use a tourniquet
Use ice over the wound
Drink alcohol, food, or use aspirin – Paracetamol is OK for pain, better if you take nothing before going to the hospital.
Use herbal remedies
Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Thai Red Cross Society,
Bangkok, Thailand (662) 252-0161-4; email@example.com
Some information was collected from various what we think are legitimate sources of emergency information regarding snake bite.
If you want to dispute these steps – please send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once you identify the snake that bit you – here is some more information by snake name – scientific classification:
Thailand has around 200 snake species considered non-venomous, or mildly venomous and not a threat to human beings. Though these snakes are not known to be dangerous to humans, that doesn’t mean that they are not. The red-necked keelback, for instance, was a snake kept in aquariums across the world for years before the first deadly bites occurred. Turns out that they have a very strong venom that can be delivered with prolonged or multiple bites. Do be careful with all snakes.
Chrysopelea ornata. Golden Tree Snake.
These snakes are very common and it is probably the most commonly seen snake among tourists and Thai locals. They are at home in the bushes and on the ground during the day. They are excellent climbers and prefer to eat the tokay geckos and other geckos. These snakes have a mild venom that can kill or disable birds and other small animals. It is not likely to affect your dog or cat, if bitten.
Paradise Tree Snake Video – Catching Chrysopelea paradisi from a Tree in Southern Thailand:
Ptyas korros. Indo-Chinese Rat Snake.
This rat snake is also very common no matter what type of weather or season. These are terrestrial (land-based) snakes with excellent climbing skills. They hunt lizards and other small animals on the ground during daylight hours. Rat snakes have no fangs, but their saliva is known to contain venom proteins. Nobody has been recorded in the literature as having been envenomated significantly by these snakes. Color varies from brown to grey or black.
A Juvenile Rat Snake – Brown with Light Banding Typical of Young Ptyas korros in Southern Thailand:
Coelognathus radiata. Copper-headed Racer / Radiated Rat Snake.
These rat snakes are common around trash bins, and anywhere rats and other rodents can be found. Though they are primarily terrestrial, I have seen one 3-4 meters up a palm tree raiding a bird nest of its young or eggs. These are strong, very fast striking snakes with a lot of nervous energy. Like the other rat snakes, it has no fangs with which to deliver venom.
Thailand has approximately 60 snake species that are considered venomous and potentially dangerous to human beings. Below are photos, videos, and links to more information on some of the most common snakes that fit this description.
Calloselasma rhodostoma. Malayan Pit Viper.
Very dangerous. Potentially deadly. This snake is active at night (nocturnal) and during dawn and dusk (crepuscular) and during rainy or very overcast weather.
The following is a video showing the color variations for the Malayan pit viper. These are all from Southern Thailand, so depending where you are in the country, yours may look similar or slightly different. The very triangle head shape and triangle pattern on the top back will not change.
1 Video – Malayan Pit Viper (Calloselasma rhodostoma) Color Variations:
Naja kaouthia. Monocled Cobra.
Very dangerous and potentially deadly. This snake is most active during the daytime, but is also sometimes found to be active at night. During some of the hottest days they can be seen regularly crossing the roads. Around 3 pm. seems to be a very active time for them.
2. Jackie, a Burmese National, Catching a Monocled Cobra in a Local’s Yard:
3. Tom (Dtom, Dtammy) After Bitten in Thigh by Monocled Cobra:
Rhabdophis subminiatus. Red-necked Keelback.
This colorful snake was often kept as a pet and hand-held before it was realized they pack a deadly bite. Their venom is as strong as a banded krait on the LD scale. They are active during daylight hours and are commonly found across Thailand.
Keep in mind, the smaller the snake, generally the more quickly it can strike.
There are a number of contacts you can call in Thailand if you need to have a snake removed from your home, yard, vehicle, whatever it is. The first call would probably go to the snake park guys in your area. They are happy to come and get whatever type of snake you have. Reasons are many, but primarily because the king cobras, monocled cobras, and kraits they keep for the shows eat a snake once a week. They are snake eaters and eat a lot.
Here are some phone numbers you can call for Thailand snake removal:
Bangkok, call Mr. Sompop Sridaranop at 089-0438455.
Chiang Mai’s Mae Sai Valley Snake Farm is about 15 km north of Chiang Mai. If they don’t want to come all that way to your home, they will know who to call instead: 053-860719
Phuket Kathu, Thalang, call the Wisarut Jaiton Kusoldharm Rescue Foundation: 076-246301 or 076-246599.