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Photos of Common Thailand Snakes
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The Russell’s Viper or Chain Viper, Daboia viper snakes kill more people across the globe than any other snake. Their fangs are long, strong, and permit a lot of venom to be transferred in an instant.
ONE OF THE COMPLICATIONS OF A BITE FROM THIS SNAKE IS THAT A MAN’S TESTICLES MAY SHRIVEL (testicular atrophy), AND THERE MAY BE A LOSS OF PUBIC HAIR.
3 YEARS AFTER THE BITE!
(Source – WHO – World Health Organization publication, “Guidelines for the Clinical Management of Snake bites in the South-East Asia Region.”)
Needless to say, this is NOT a snake you want to be bitten by.
THAILAND LOCATION – This species is located in Central Thailand – meaning Bangkok and Pattaya areas. There is no reason it couldn’t be found outside that range because ranges often change as snakes are discovered in places they previously were not found.
This and other species of Daboia are also found across much of Asia.
CAUTIONS – The Russell’s viper is a primarily nocturnal snake that crawls along the ground. It is found on paths, sidewalks, in backyards, and really almost anywhere. Do not walk at night without a flashlight. Do not walk in high grass or plants where you cannot see clearly to the ground. This is the type of cover these vipers may be found in, day or night.
ANTIVENIN – monovalent, “Russell’s Viper Antivenin.” Developed at the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute in Bangkok, Thailand.
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Species: D. Russelii siamensis
Image Copyright ©2011 Tom Charlton.
Here’s a bit of news out of Krabi province. Just in the last month I’ve come across two people that were bitten by two of the worst snakes in the country, in all of the world really.
The first case was almost expected. I mean, you work with deadly snakes everyday, multiple times each day, and you’ll eventually slip up and one will get you. That’s what happened to a young 19 year old that works at a cobra show. He was doing the show with the king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah). He was on his knees and moving his head around to entice the snake to strike. He stopped moving for a brief second, and the snake struck at his shoulder. The bite was more of a scrape, but it definitely scraped the shoulder of the boy pretty deeply. His scar looks serious enough. To be bitten on the shoulder right there, near the heart and near some big blood vessels probably would not have resulted in a good situation had he been envenomated. But, he lucked out tremendously. The big cobra didn’t inject any venom. LUCKY OWEN!
As you probably know, king cobras have a venom that is not all that potent. I mean, it’s comparable with pit viper venom as far as cytotoxic damage it does, but it also has the neurotoxic component that renders muscle useless and stops the heart and breathing. The exceptional power of the king cobras bite is that it can transfer up to 7 ml of venom into the body of a victim. The usual amount is about .5 ml, and that’s enough to kill most people with a good bite.
The second case of snake bite in Krabi happened to a woman that was working in her garden at mid-day. There had been no rain at all for about two months prior to the bite incident. She kept her garden water on a lot during the day so she could water her plants. The snake, a Malayan pit viper, was coiled under some plants enjoying the cool water. She put her hand close to where it was, and ZAP. It tagged her with both fangs on the hand. She quickly wento to the hospital, but never did present any symptoms. Another dry bite! So, two-for-two here in Krabi.
Venomous snake bites result in a dry bite around 50% of the time. That means that you have a 50-50 chance that there will be no other complications other than the damage to your skin where the fangs penetrated.
Be careful in your garden, and walking around. May through December is the time in Thailand and many bordering countries where snakes are at their most abundant and most active. Be especially careful not to tread on or near the Russell’s Viper or Malayan Pit Viper. These are two vipers that are well hidden on the ground and don’t tend to move out of the way when someone is walking toward them. At night – use a flashlight (torch) to see where you’re putting your feet as you walk. You do NOT want to be bitten by a venomous snake in Thailand. Take care!
Here is some general information about snakes in Thailand to put your mind at ease about the danger of the venomous snakes in the country. There is little to be afraid of if you are coming to visit Thailand for a few days, even a month. You are not likely to see any snakes at all unless you are out specifically looking for them. Even then, sometimes when I go looking, I don’t find any snakes after hours of looking. A friend just north of me in Hua Hin told me that he and another two guys just went out for 6 hours the other night and found nothing. That is the way it goes sometimes.
Anyway, watch this video for information about Thailand snakes in general. If you have any questions, just comment or write me an email. Cheers!
Thailand Herping Report by David Frohlich (Acrochordus granulatus)
I decided to go herping in a mangrove forest near Pranburi, Thailand with a friend of mine, George. We arrived there at about 8:00 p.m. The weather during March was warm and the sky was clear. Surprisingly not many insects were calling. We found 3 Long-nosed Vine Snakes (Ahaetulla nasuta) in the first 30 minutes of the walk and we were very happy with that. But they were nothing compared to the next snake I spotted about 1 hour later at about 9:30 p.m.
I saw a black and white banded snake surfacing in mid-river for air. I immediately ran into the water to grab it! My first thought was that it’s a krait of some sort, but then quickly realized that its not. It turns out it was the rare Marine File Snake also known as the “Wart Snake” (Acrochordus granulatus)! These snakes grow to about 1 meter long and has black and white banding the entire length of the body. They are rather rare marine snakes that are active at night and are predominantly water dwellers. They eat small fish and saltwater eels. What a beautiful snake! I had never seen one of these before. The skin feels rough like sand, but at the same time very soft as well. Unlike any snake I have ever felt, very difficult to describe. The eyes are bright blue and the tail is slightly flattened into a paddle shape. Once I brought it out on land to get a good look at it, I felt 7 huge lumps in the snakes body in the back half of the body. I’m am assuming she is pregnant and those lumps are the juveniles, these snakes don’t lay eggs like most snakes, they give live birth. I am very happy to have found this truly awesome snake in Thailand.
The Marine File Snake is non-venomous and of no danger to humans. Acrochordus granulatus can be quickly identified by small blue eyes located on top it’s head, the lack of enlarged ventral scales, and loose-fitting skin with a gritty, sandy feel to it. On land, it is very sluggish and moves slowly. This snake is in the same Genus as the Javan File Snake (Acrochordus javanicus), which is brown in color, as thick as a human leg, and up to 3 meters in length.
Here is a short video of the snake:
Here are some photos of the Marine File Snake in the location found:
I was getting in one of my mountain climbing workouts and on the dead tree next to me was a small (50cm) dark green snake coming out of a hole where it looked like termites were munching wood. He was head down and just gliding slowly down the vertical trunk of the tree.
I ripped off my shirt and softly grabbed it. I’ve caught 3 of these same species of snake before, and none of them bit or struck, but I don’t take any chances when I don’t know what kind of snake it is.
I had my friend give me a plastic bag and I put the snake in there until I could drink all my water from a bottle and transfer the snake into the bottle. It was 10 minutes before I would find something to poke holes in the bottle. I let air in twice during that time. I’m always scared they don’t have enough to breathe.
I got home and tried to shoot some photos and video, but the light is horrible today and the snake was not cooperative at all. It is calm, but it is calm and full of energy. It never stops in one place so I can get a good photo. Hence the photos I’ll upload to this page are not perfect. Will work on getting better images tomorrow.
Also tomorrow I’ll try to get scale counts and some better video. It’s exciting to know that very few (or nobody) has seen this snake before. It isn’t described in the literature for Thailand. Maybe it came up the peninsula from Malaysia. Not sure. Anyway, enjoy the pics. Will post more as I get them.
I often receive email from people that are deathly afraid of venomous and other snakes in Thailand. Some people refuse to visit the country after finding a website like ThailandSnakes.com. They get the idea that snakes are rampant all over Thailand and that they are unavoidable. The truth is much different. You are not likely to see any snakes in Thailand during your visit. Even if you go looking for them, snakes are difficult to locate. The other night I went out for over three hours in the heart of snake country, and still didn’t find any snake.
Anyway, here is an email I just sent to someone to help allay fears of snakes in Thailand.
* * * * *
Snakes are really about the least harmful things you could ever come across for a couple of reasons…
1. They have no legs or arms. They are basically a long tail. They cannot move fast on the ground, I mean fast in comparison to humans. We can easily outrun any snake that exists.
2. Only the very large pythons in Thailand might target a human being as prey. Everything else gets away as fast as possible – even when confronted.
3. There are about 8 deaths per year due to venomous snake bite in Thailand. Probably every one of them are plantation workers that get bitten, apply some “magical salve” made of ground leaves and roots, and then, when they realize their foot or hand is gangrenous – go to the hospital too late. Occasionally a snake handler is bitten and dies – they tease the snakes mercilessly, day after day, and eventually a snake gets in a lucky bite.
4. You have to really piss snakes off before most of them will bite… or, be too close. So, don’t get close and don’t aggravate them.
I have never heard of a tourist, visitor, foreigner, being bitten by and killed by a deadly snake in Thailand. People have cobras in their yard, vipers, whatever else… the snakes do NOT want to see humans and will get away at every opportunity.
Just be cautious walking in grass outside. Don’t walk anywhere you cannot see where your feet are stepping.
If you see a snake in your yard – grab a photo, send it to me, and I’ll let you know if it was venomous. If so, and you see it again and can watch where it goes – call the EMS or police in your area, and they’ll know the snake guys that can come take it away for you.
If you’re bitten by a snake, stay calm and go to the hospital. Venom usually takes hours before you’re debilitated. Wait to see if symptoms even develop. A good portion of bites don’t include envenomation. They are dry bites, so to speak. Little or no venom is released through the fangs during a dry bite. There have been studies done with cobras and vipers that show that 30-50% of bites are dry bites, even when the snake is directly stepped on.
Hope this helps. I’ll repost it at the thailandsnakes.com site. Maybe it will help someone else relax a bit about snakes here.
This was interesting reading. I’ve not heard of something like this for a long time here in Thailand. Apparently Thailand’s National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department officials raided 3 different snake ‘farms’ – which really aren’t farms at all, they’re just snake shows for tourists.
Pythons, cobras, and other snakes were confiscated – some being taken to the Queen Saovabha Snake Farm in Bangkok, which really is a sort of snake farm. Not sure they focus on breeding, but they do venom collection and it is the best known snake facility in Thailand.
Just FYI – not sure anyone is interested in this…
I got a note from a woman that had spent some time in Thailand and she was terrified of snakes. Now that she made it through a successful stay without seeing one close enough to interact with – she is wondering how close she came to them, and whether the chance would be high of seeing one in the future. I’ll paste her note below…
* * *
I’ve just returned from a week living in the village of Huay Pakoot in the mountains north of Doi Intathon. My daughter and I were doing some volunteer elephant work with Global Vision International which involved trekking in the forest every day for 4-5 hours following the elephants. I’m absolutely terrified of snakes, and walking in the jungle was easily the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I’m still not over it.
I didn’t see a snake in the woods, only two on the road (one dead, one moving, but I think the car we were in killed it). The people we were with assured me that despite their best efforts, none of them had ever seen a snake either in the village or in the woods. I think that was just due to either inattention or lack of skill. Reading your site, it seems that snakes could have been in the village and were certainly in the forest.
I deliberately did not research this before I left, as I knew I wouldn’t have the courage to do it at all if I knew more about it. Now that it’s over, and I managed to both do it, and not make a fool of myself, how close did I come to snakes? Is there any way to know? I told myself that a snake with any sense at all would just get out of my way, and that’s what I’m assuming they did. But some of the snakes you describe as aggressive. What do you think? Was it just luck that I didn’t meet a snake? If I go back, what are the chances of running into one?
Thanks for your kind help.
* * *
I think fear of snakes is something that puts many people off visiting Thailand. My mother is one of those people that refuses to visit just based on this unfounded fear. In eight years I’ve seen a couple of hundred snakes. My wife of eight years, outside of those I brought home, has seen 3 crossing the road, and one I pointed out to her on a bush. That’s it, in eight years for her.
Why did I see so many? I’ve looked for hundreds of hours to find them. I look primarily at night in the jungle.
Tourists envision snakes coming out of every crack in the wall, up through the drains of their shower and sinks, and outside every door they step. It just isn’t true. There are 200+ species of snake in Thailand. 85% of them cannot hurt you even if they wanted to – and none of them want to except possibly a giant python – but attacks on humans moving around are very rare. Sometimes when sleeping out in the jungle – someone will be eaten. That happens once every ten years or so. It is not common. You are MUCH more likely to get bitten by a shark than you are a large python in Thailand.
Snakes fear everything they cannot eat. They have no reason to interact with anything they cannot eat, so they flee whenever they possibly can. The only snakes that can eat you in Thailand – are:
1. Burmese python
2. Reticulated Python
I have never once seen a Burmese python in the jungle. I have only seen a half-dozen Reticulated pythons in the wild – none of which were near the size (5 meters) to be able to eat me. Large snakes like that are very, very rare.
A snake’s natural instinct is to get out of the way when someone is coming. Very few snakes will just stay where they are when someone is coming close. Two of those snakes that don’t tend to move, and that are very dangerous are:
1. Malayan Pit Viper – a brown, tan, or pinkish triangle-backed patterned snake that lays in the grass or low cover and waits for mice or other rodents primarily. For some reason they are about the laziest snakes in existence – they just stay right there until someone steps on them or next to them – and then sometimes bite. Sometimes they release venom when they bite, other times they conserve it. If you are bitten by a venomous snake it doesn’t necessarily mean you were envenomated (have venom in the wound). This snake, along with the kraits – are responsible for the most deaths in Thailand. However, this would NOT be the case if everyone bitten went immediately to the hospital. Some locals favor a treatment of herbs, magic spells, and other nonsense – and die as a result of not getting quick medical attention. These vipers are found all over Thailand.
2. Chain Viper (Russell’s Viper) – another pit viper, with long fangs and larger, stronger than the Malayan Pit Viper. This snake is probably responsible for more deaths across the entire planet than any other snake. This snake only occurs near the east Bangkok and Pattaya areas, so it doesn’t have a very wide range.
Most people that handle snakes call some of them “aggressive”. I am at fault for this too. In truth, there are only two snakes in the entire country that might be considered “aggressive” – the aforementioned Burmese and Reticulated pythons that are looking at you as food and may attack you. Again, the chance of this is virtually zero – you can Google it and maybe find 3-4 cases of it – ever happening anywhere in the world. It is not a common occurrence.
Some snakes that I call aggressive are those that strike out often when handled. Now, if you think about it – the snake is acting entirely out of self-defense because it doesn’t WANT to be handled. It wants to be left alone. It wants to strike you so you let go and it will immediately go away. Many snakes, even when handled – do not strike out. Some of the most venomous snakes on the planet – the kraits – don’t seem to strike during daylight hours. I have never seen one do so. I have seen a Malayan krait turn and bite my snake tongs as I attempted to get a decent grip on him. It wasn’t aggressive, it was trying to get away.
Some snakes – and there are only a couple… will come toward a person for a short distance before striking, or before turning and trying to get away. The Copperheaded Racer and the King Cobra are two snakes that do this. Again, they are acting entirely defensively – and by moving toward you they are trying to get you to leave them away so they can turn around and disappear in the brush.
I have never seen a snake turn from what it was doing and move toward a person that is a good distance away (3+ meters). Never. I don’t think I will ever see that. I have never seen it on a video or heard about it in the literature. It just doesn’t happen. Snakes are not aggressive – with the exception of those that see you as food.
When you visit Thailand, the chance that you will see a snake is small. The chance that you will get bitten by a snake that can cause you harm is infinitely small. You are much more likely to encounter a scorpion, mosquito, jellyfish, or wayward vehicle that can cause you harm than you are likely to be bitten by any snake.
You can take these precautions:
1. Take flashlights with you and watch where you walk at night. There are more snakes out at night than during the day because Thailand days are very hot.
2. Watch your steps wherever you are. You are MUCH more likely to encounter a snake on the ground than anywhere else.
3. Do not walk through grass where you cannot see clearly what is there beside your feet.
4. Close your doors and windows at night – or use strong screens.
That’s about it. There are something like 15,000,000 visitors each year to Thailand. Maybe only a couple of percent see any snake at all. I haven’t heard of a tourist being bitten by a venomous snake in years. You are not likely to be bitten either. Relax, enjoy your Thailand vacation!
I have a banded krait video (click) up at Youtube and I had a guy respond with a comment that I didn’t know whether to take seriously or not. Apparently it is true, he was bitten by a banded krait in 1995 while enjoying a night out in a Bangkok bar on Soi Cowboy.
Some of the snake handlers at the cobra shows regularly ask members of the audience if they want to come out and play with the deadly snakes. Sometimes people do. It’s a rather thin line between letting audience members interact with the snake in a dangerous way – and just doing enough so they think they are. In this case they let this Swedish guy come down onto the floor with the snake. Well, here are his comments. I’ve edited them a bit to make it more understandable. It still might not be perfect, but, best I could do. He said English was his 3rd language. Pretty damn good for 3rd language!
His story below:
I got bitten by a banded krait 1995 in Bangkok, and it was during the night, at a Soi Cowboy bar with a Muay Thai boxing ring as the snake show platform. They had 3 cobras they played with for a while and then brought out the banded krait.
The snakeman invited me to come up on stage (I suppose he didn`t expect me to do it). He took it by the tail and swept it from side to side towards me. As the snake got aggravated and aggressive and attempted to strike, but the distance kept me safe until it pulled itself up and lunged – striking like a whip. It bit me on the arm, while everyone in the bar screamed as it reached from his hand all the way to my arm… pumping, as it seemed to have been doing so for long, as my reaction was to first see it attached to my arm, then I remembered the whip like attack. In my mind it was so much faster than human awareness could keep up with. Still, as I saw its eyes it made me think, “like a shark, with dead eyes”. I quickly realized that I could die and I grabbed it around the throat and squeezed very hard and ripped it off my arm. The head was angled and mouth still open. I hit it on the head full-force to kill it, and dropped it – yet it remained alive.
I picked a small tooth out of my arm, smaller than a kitten’s tooth. I bled from just one small spot where the tooth was embedded. Yet, it got enough venom in to fully envenomate me.
The effects of a such bite were far worse than I could have imagined, as I ended up in hospital and after a week or so, when I was about to leave the hospital, the doctor told me it would take around 5 years to recover – and it did.
The guy who was bitten has a Youtube account with username – Pasiorha.
Quite a story, right?
I have never seen one of these snakes try to bite… and I wasn’t aware they struck outward from the body like that. I thought they just twist around to bite. Learn something new all the time.
So, when the snake show guys ask you if you want to come down and play with the deadly snakes – will you?