Rupert Lewis from the United Kingdom was out herping in Thailand a couple nights ago and came upon this little beauty. It’s Gonglyosoma balliodeira or possibly a subspecies. I say possibly because I can’t find any information about the snake online at all. A Google search on image and text of the name of the snake produces nothing but the name, classification and who first found it (Boie). I did find one report of this snake being found in Borneo at 2,000 feet elevation on Mt. Penrissen.
Rupert had an illustration he found in a book that identified it as Gonglyosoma, but that’s about all we know from information found in books or online.
The snake was caught at night in Krabi Noi rainforest (Krabi province, Thailand) after midnight on a half-moon night. The elevation was roughly 100 meters above sea level.
This snake is about 40 cm in length and under 5 cm in girth at its thickest. It is smooth-scaled and Rupert counted 8 diagonal scales to the vertebral column.
The snake was cooperative and did not attempt to bite.
This is a new range for this snake, as previously they have not been found in Krabi province. They are rare in Thailand at all, and have only been found in some of the southernmost provinces.
The photos are copyright 2013 Vern Lovic, with many thanks to Rupert Lewis for sharing this snake with me.
Snakes come in all different colors. Even snakes of the same species can have quite different coloration depending on region, or sometimes just living next to each other in Thailand’s wild.
This is a Burmese Python sent to me by a friend. Quite dark compared to most I’ve seen here in Southern Thailand.
Recently a reader sent me some photos of a snake that very nearly bit him on one of the islands of Koh Phi Phi. When I looked at it – it was unmistakable what it was – a mangrove pit viper. However, it was brown tinted – quite brown. The guy verified it was brown, and not just a camera quirk. I’ve only seen them in a purple shade and with some yellow. Never brown.
Goes to show you that it is very difficult to identify the 200 some snakes native to Thailand. It’s downright impossible many times from the photos I get. Even snakes I catch, some biologists cannot figure out what snake it is.
PLEASE… do not touch snakes if you are not 100% sure what it is – and only if it is non-venomous. There are many snakes that have venom in Thailand – but that are classified as non-venomous, because typically they are not dangerous to man. If you happen to be allergic to the venom though – guess what? You could be in anaphylactic shock before you know it.
Recently a “non-venomous” snake put a teenager in the Bangkok hospital in Phuket for 2 weeks with failing kidneys.
Be careful with snakes – all snakes – there are some that are quite obvious what they are, and there are others that I cannot figure out… and there are some that the biologists cannot figure out.
I am not 100% on this ID, it could also be a Common Bridle Snake or a Laotian Wolf Snake.
Length: 70cm – measured
Description: This is a thin snake the thickness of a finger. It has black blobs, that can almost be called stripes when looked at from overhead. From the side, as you can see in the image above, the black spots are more like circles stretched out across the body. Further down the snake’s body the stripes change substantially and are completely different in appearance – see 2nd photo below. 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 – so I’m going with Bridle snake. However, the striking behavior of these snake is identical to Lycodon – in particular the Laotian Wolf Snakes. So, possibility exists that it is that snake, and not a Malayan Bridle Snake.
Range: Thailand’s south and Malaysia. This snake was found in Krabi province.
Habitat: Bushes, trees, and dwellings. This snake is not as common as the Laotian Wolf Snake, but likes the same kind of habitat. Searches trees and structures for geckos primarily. They are excellent climbers and love vines and light brush.
Active Time? Mostly nocturnal.
Food: Small geckos and frogs primarily.
Defensive Behavior: Very inaccurate strikers. They strike almost randomly, just to scare off whatever is bothering them. I’ve been struck at repeatedly and never had her connect with teeth.
Venom Toxicity: Weak or none. Ineffective for humans if there is any venom. The fangs are quite minute – less than the diameter of a regular stick pin.
Offspring: Nothing known about this area.
Notes: These are great snakes, feisty at first, and then, as they get used to people – can be handheld without striking. 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 70cm generally.
Species: D. subannulatus
Mid-body photo of Malayan Bridle Snake to show the difference of the stripes in the tail. Here you can see more clearly the true color of the snake which is brown and white, not black and white as might be assumed from the other image.
Video of this Malayan Bridle Snake from Southern Thailand:
Length: Up to about 1.5 meters. The males are a bit more red on top, and slightly thinner.
Range: The Striped Bronzeback is found in southern Thailand through the Malaysian Peninsula, and to Singapore, Sumatra, Java, Borneo, and the Philippines. The snake shown here was caught in Tub Kaak, Krabi Province in southern Thailand.
Habitat: Forests and lowlands up to about 1,500 meters. They are found on trees primarily, and often on the ground too in search of prey.
Active Time? Diurnal – daylight.
Food: Frogs, lizards, some say small birds in the nest.
Defensive Behavior: A quick bite – coiled beforehand, or not. I was bitten when I grabbed his tail when I first saw him. I expected it. He caused a little blood on the top of my pointer finger by the big knuckle. There are a couple small bumps there now. I experienced no serious symptoms.
Venom Toxicity: No venom. No danger.
Notes: Striped bronzeback snakes are somewhat larger than the other bronzebacks, and can get up to about 1.5 meters. The one in the photo and video below was caught at about 300 meters elevation (900+ feet) on a fallen tree. I stepped over the tree and the snake fell to the ground and attempted to hide under another rotting tree stump. I had to decide in about 1 second whether the snake was venomous and whether I could step lightly on his tail to stop him from disappearing. I saw the tell-tale head shape and stripe down the side and knew it was a bronzeback, but there are about 6 species of bronzeback in Thailand. I hadn’t caught one of these until today.
These snakes are diurnal – active during daylight hours and are excellent climbers, as all bronzebacks are. They are twitchy snakes, and this one bit me when I first grabbed him. I had to pull him off my index finger slowly to prevent injuring him. He bit down hard for his tiny size (about 10 inches). These snakes love frogs and other small animals – geckos included.
This species of bronzeback has a black stripe on a light background running from it’s neck to it’s tail. The belly is white or yellowish. This snake does not have the stripe across the eye like some of the other bronzebacks. The top of the head is brown – bronze color as is the top of this snake’s back.
The eye is large, like a rat snake, and the head is long almost like a whip snake, but wider in comparison to the body. Unlike other bronzebacks, the vertebral scales are not enlarged but are narrow in shape. Its lower cheeks and lips are pale yellow with small black marks or stripes running vertically near the snout.
Species: D. caudolineatus
(Discovered by Gray in the year 1834)
Range: All over Thailand and most of Asia including: Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Laos, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Western Malaysia, and Singapore.
Habitat: Anywhere rats exist in abundance. They aren’t found on hills or in mountains, usually just the low-lying areas and where people and garbage are.
Active Time? Diurnal – active during daylight hours.
Food: Rats and other rodents, frogs and lizards. Much prefer rats. These are primarily rodent eaters and they vary little from their diet because there are usually plenty of rats available.
Defensive Behavior: Will flee very quickly if given the chance. If agitated, rat snakes bite quickly.
Venom Toxicity: No venom that is harmful to humans.
Notes: These are very common snakes, and are seen a lot because they prefer to be active during the daylight hours. They have very large eyes, which would make one think they can see well at night as well. These snakes can be held without striking (see video below).
Ptyas korros can be silver, grey, or brown – orange looking in color. Scales on the posterior part of the body and on the tail often yellow and edged with black. Underbelly is light yellow. Juvenile Indochinese rat snakes have a transverse series of round whitish spots or narrow yellow transverse bars.
Ptyas korros Scientific classification
Binomial name: Ptyas korros
(Classified by Schlegel in year 1837.)
My Indochinese Rat Snake Photos:
Another photo, showing same snake but darker exposure. It looks more brown toward the tail:
Length: Average length is less than 2.5 meters max. Usually smaller than 2 meters. the one pictured here is 1.7 meters. Adult Blood Pythons typically are 137-182 cm (4.5-6 feet) long. Females are slightly longer than males. These snakes weigh 5-9 kilograms (12-20 lb).
Range: In Thailand only on the island of Phuket and in the far south from Krabi province and southward. The pictured Blood python came from a rubber plantation near Tub Kaak, Thailand in province of Krabi. Found on the Malay Peninsula.
Habitat: Flat land & marshy forests. Blood pythons prefer to live near water. They are often found on rubber plantations, as this one was. They typically hide under leaves and brush, or you can find them in the water. These snakes don’t go far when hunting, instead they lay still waiting for rodents or other mammals to walk by.
Active Time? Nocturnal – active at night.
Food: Rats, mice, chickens.
Defensive Behavior: A short powerful strike from the s-position. As mentioned, they can easily twist out of a snake handler’s grip.
Venom Toxicity: No venom. Little danger. These pythons bite with provocation, but they have a very short strike. Though their strike is short – they pack a powerful bite.
Offspring: Oviparous, with up to 30 eggs being laid at a time. After the eggs are laid the female mother coils around the eggs and vibrates, or shivers, to produce heat (88 to 90 degrees F) which the eggs need to develop. She lays 12-30 large eggs 60-70 days after mating in the first couple months of the calendar year. The eggs are 14-16 cm long and weigh about one-hundred grams each. Young Blood Pythons have same coloring as adults and are 30-40cm at birth. First shed is 2-3 months. Blood pythons can reproduce at between 1.5 and 4 years. Breeding can be started by cutting down the daytime light to 8 – 10 hours and setting night temperature to the mid-70’s. Bring the female to the male’s cage. Misting the snakes with water can facilitate breeding. Female Blood Pythons typically shed 14-20+ days after ovulation; eggs are typically laid within 30 days of post-ovulation shed.
Blood Pythons may live 25 years in captivity.
Notes: We caught another wild blood python on a rubber plantation just like this one. When catching this species one must be sure about the grip from the time grabbed because as short as it is, it is full of muscle. Though this snake appears fat, it is muscle. It is exceptionally strong when pulling out of a hold.
This snake can change the color of it’s head from dark to light gray.
These snakes can have a temper if caught in the wild. They can settle down with daily handling and stroking. Babies born in captivity are usually more calm than adults. Eventually holding them is a possibility. The Thai-Malaysian Blood Pythons bite more quickly than do the Indonesian variety.
The skin of these snakes is highly prized and they are hunted because of it. Their numbers are shrinking because they are killed for their meat and skins. Over 60,000 blood pythons and short-tailed python skins are taken each year.
Substrate: Best? Newspaper. Cover the bottom of the cage with a thick pile of newspaper and crumple up some loose balls so the snake can hide under it.
Python curtus brongersmai
Species: P. curtus
Subspecies: P. c. brongersmai
Length: average just under 1 meter (about 37 inches)
Range: All over Thailand. Brown Kukri snakes were once thought to be native to only the southernmost Thailand provinces, however J. Bulian has found one in Pattaya and there have been others discovered farther in the northeast. Assume the Brown Kukri’s habitat is all over Thailand.
Habitat: These snakes prefer life in the forest and can be found at great elevations – about 1 mile high (1,600 meters). I have received numerous requests to identify this snake from readers who found them close to or inside their homes as well. The habitat is wide and varied for this species. Regardless where they are found, they enjoy living under brush, wood, rocks, and thick flora.
Active Time? Nocturnal, active at night and in the early morning as the sun rises.
Food: Frogs, lizards.
Defensive Behavior: If the brown kukris are bothered enough they will roll their body to the side and lift up their tail – perhaps to present it as a place to attack – leaving the mouth free to strike when the aggressor does go for the tail.
Venom Toxicity: No venom.
Offspring: Lay 6-12 eggs. A reader reported his snake had 8 eggs the first time and 10 the next. Eggs hatched after 60 days, incubated at 29 degrees C.
Notes: Though this snake is not venomous, it is keen to bite and can inflict deep wounds due to it’s large, curved teeth and strong bite. Michael Cota, researcher, says, “Appears that it might be an evolutionary link on the way to being venomous, since it is the only snake that I can think of that has “fangs” (enlarged pair of teeth), but no venom delivery system or ducts to the teeth. They are not dangerous, but will give you quite a bloody bite that takes a long time to heal. What makes them so difficult is that their head is not distinct; therefore, it is extremely difficult to grab behind the head and keep proper control of it. It maneuvers it head around on your grip and then uses teeth to bite – slash.”
You’ll need a tetatus shot if you are bitten, as with all snakes as a precaution.
Kukris are common and you might see one in Thailand if you live here.
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.
Offspring: Little is known. Tough to keep very long – they die quickly in captivity.
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 call these rat snakes their favorite food!
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.
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