Category Archives: Venomous

Blue Malaysian Coral Snake – Venomous – Deadly

Deadly snake, Calliophis bivurgatis flaviceps - blue Malaysian coral snake
Calliophis bivirgatus flaviceps. ©2012 Tom Charlton. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

The Blue Malaysian Coral Snake is a venomous elapid and is one of the most strikingly beautiful snakes you’ll ever see. I’ve been lucky enough to see one crossing the road in southern Thailand and I didn’t have any snake hook to grab him.

Calliophis bivirgatus flaviceps (Blue Malaysian Coral Snake, Blue Long-glanded Coral Snake)

3 Sub-species: C. b. bivirgatus in Java – lacks blue stripes on ventral.
C. b. flaviceps in Thailand, Burma, Laos, Cambodia (possibly, no records), Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Sumatra and various islands of the Riau Archipelago. C. b. tetrataenia in Borneo has a light yellow stripe on side, without blue stripe.

Thais Say:  ngoo bik thong dang

Length: Up to 180 cm, however usually around 140 cm

Range:  This beautiful coral snake is found from around Bangkok and south toward Peninsular Malaysia.

Habitat: Usually found at some elevation – over 400 meters, I have also found them at 100 meters asl. Calliophis bivirgatus prefers heavily wooded and wet areas of primary and secondary rainforest.

They seem to prefer living under and foraging under leaves and fallen trees to rocks. They are terrestrial, I’ve never seen one climb anything.

Active Time: These corals snakes are nocturnally active, but on rainy and cloudy days they can also be found, like many coral snakes.

Description: Medium sized, though large for a coral snake, this snake reaches 140 cm typically, and up to 190 cm have been recorded. The body is mostly deep blue with light blue or white stripes along the lower ventral side of the body. The head, venter (belly), and tail are usually brilliant red. The nose is blunt for foraging the leaf litter where it spends most of its time.

Defensive Behavior: Always avoiding man and other large threats, they can be very fast as they flip about almost spastically. When they are trapped and tailed, they may attempt to flip over on the dorsal side, exposing a brilliant ventral of red, orange, and pinkish color. During foraging these snakes are very slow moving.

Food: Prey includes other snakes, lizards, frogs, birds.

Danger: All coral snakes must be treated as the potentially lethal snakes they are. That said, many people free-handle these snakes at their own peril. Deaths have occurred as the result of envenomation by this snake. One man in Singapore was reported to have died within five minutes of envenomation. Do be exceptionally careful and never hand-hold any deadly snake.

Venom Toxicity: Neurotoxic venom which does not initially present with much pain at the bite site is immediately acting to block nerve impulses. The wound may become numb, and lips may also get numb. Difficulty in breathing occurs as the venom shuts down muscle contractions – the diaphragm and other major muscles.

Offspring: Oviparous and clutches of 1-3 eggs.

Notes: One of the most impressive snakes to see in the wild. Fairly common in deep Southern Thailand and Malaysia mountains. This snake is easily confused with Calamaria schlegeli in Malaysia, Singapore, Bali, Java, and Sumatra. The red-headed reed snake which is harmless. The reed snake has smaller scales and no red tail or venter. Venter is grey and white.

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Calliophis
Species: C. bivirgatus
Binomial name: Calliophis bivirgatus

(Friedrich Boie, 1827)

High Definition (1080p) Video of Calliophis bivirgatus flaviceps Found During Daylight in Singapore:

Brown-Spotted Green Pit Viper – Venomous – Mildly Dangerous

Brown Spotted Green Viper in southern Thailand. Cryptelytrops venustus.
Trimeresurus venustus. Brown-Spotted Green Viper. Small – 70 cm. Venomous. Mildly Dangerous. Found in Southern Thailand.

Trimeresurus venustus previously Cryptelytrops venustus(Brown-spotted Green Pit Viper, Beautiful Pit Viper)

Length: average 40-70 cm

Range: Chumpon to Krabi Province in Thailand. I have found them in Krabi and Surat Thani provinces.

Notes: I found this one in the picture on a small hill at a Buddhist temple on a hill next to some steps. These venomous snakes are active on the ground and in bushes. This one was in a bush about 1.3 meters high, right next to the path. It was non-aggressive and didn’t protest when I moved it away from the path with a stick.

Habitat:  I’ve found these vipers up to 300 meters elevation. This snake hunts almost entirely on the ground where it preys on frogs and lizards. They also enjoy jungle, limestone mountains, and rubber plantations. I kept one of these for three days to photograph and shoot video of. It spends most time suspended from a branch just a few inches off the bottom of the tank.

Active Time? The snake is mainly nocturnal. Active during the day only after heavy rainfall. I have found most of mine during daylight hours, but have also found them at night hunting prey.

Food: Mice, frogs, lizards. I had a good sized house gecko in the tank with this Trimeresurus venustus, but it left it alone. The pit vipers sense the heat of the animal and strike. The geckos are cold blooded so they are no hotter than their surroundings.

Trimeresurus venustus, the brown-spotted pit viper, aka: beautiful pit viper from Southern Thailand is one of the true vipers and is venomous but has not been shown to be deadly.

Defensive Behavior: The snake is very slow during the day and only bites if seriously aggravated. I ran into a reptile poacher in a Thailand forest and he was hand carrying one of these brown spotted green pit vipers in his left hand and had a large box turtle in his other hand. I told him – PIT! It means ‘venomous’ in Thai. He insisted “no, it wasn’t” and held it up to his face where the snake immediately bit him on the cheek a couple times and once on the lip. It let go after 1-2 seconds. He said – “See??” I promptly bought the snake from him, to keep him from further harm. Not sure what hospital he was at that night!

Venom Toxicity: Mildly toxic. Bites are painful and usually without significant effects. Probably this viper would need to bite down for a number of seconds to transfer enough volume of venom that it would be seriously detrimental. Bites are to be considered potentially deadly. Green Pit Viper Antivenin is available and manufactured by the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute in Bangkok, Thailand and is available at most public hospitals.

Offspring: The beautiful pit viper I have now is likely gravid, which contradicts some other info I’ve seen about them having offspring in the June/July time-frame. This is December. She is not overly gravid and looks to be in the beginning stages, but still – I think only a couple of months are required for gestation. She’ll have an early birth – April maybe? These snakes birth live offspring in a jelly-like bubble that breaks after coming out of the female snake. Typical numbers are 20-30 young that are colored and patterned same as the adults.

Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Viperidae
Subfamily: Crotilinae
Species: Trimeresurus venustus

I could find little information about this snake beyond my own experience and some of the snake identification books I have.

Monocled Cobras – Venomous – Very Deadly

Monocled cobra siblings. Deadly venomous snakes - Naja kaouthia - Thailand
Naja Kaouthia – Venomous – VERY dangerous and very common Thailand snake.

Naja kaouthia, the monocled cobra is one of Thailand’s most deadly snakes – with highly toxic (neurotoxic + cytotoxic) venom. One bite on your toe from one that jumps out from under your outdoor refrigerator can kill you. Monocled cobras seem to be everywhere in Thailand. I had a friend that found them in his kitchen often. I’ve seen them crossing the road (see video below), and there was a family of these cobras living under the office of my wife’s workplace – with many 18″ baby cobras.

I just heard about Grant Thompson, an 18-year-old man in Austin, Texas that was bitten on the wrist by a monocled cobra and died of cardiac arrest. Authorities are looking for the snake. Tips that might catch the snake 1. If cool in the mornings, the snake might be found in bushes sunning itself. These cobras prefer hot weather over 80°F. 2. They are most active during daytime, but can move at night. 3. N kaouthia will eat eggs, mice, rats, if no other snakes are to be found. They prefer snakes, but I don’t know what Grant fed his snake. It might be unable to stalk prey and feed itself and die within a month.

Thais respect (fear) this snake because many have friends or relatives that have been envenomated (bitten and venom injected) by this snake. They even make Buddhist amulets with cobra snake images.

I’ve worked with two hatchling monocled cobras, and even at 12-15 inches – they are fierce. One snake handler described monocled cobras as “spastic” – and I have to agree.

If you are bitten by any cobra – get to the hospital as fast as you can. Monocled cobra venom is on par or even more toxic than some of the Thailand kraits, and much more toxic than King Cobra venom when compared drop to drop. Even if the bite is a small one, a nick, a scrape, get to the hospital immediately. All it takes is a drop of venom to hit your blood stream for biological chaos to ensue.

Naja kaouthia (Thailand Monocled Cobra)

Appearance: Monocled cobras are easily identified by looking at the back of the hood – there is a monocle – or eye type shape there. They are light brown to dark grey to solid black. Most are very close to black.

Thais say: Ngoo how hom, Ngoo how mo (long o sound)

Length: Typical maximum length about 1.5 meters. Recently I saw one in a mangrove forest that was 2 meters long, a giant. They can get up to 2.2 meters – about 7.5 feet long.

Range: All over Thailand and most of Southeast Asia.

Notes: Neuro toxic venom affecting nerves, brain, and causing death very quickly without treatment. They are very fast strikers. The baby monocled cobras are every bit as deadly. Please be CAREFUL!

Habitat: Both flat and hilly regions. I’ve seen them on hills, but usually near people – under houses and in places rats and frogs are likely to be found. In the mornings they can be in trees and bushes – trying to get some sun to warm up. They love to hide under leaves, wood, anything really. Lifespan is around 30 years.

Deadly venomous Thailand monocled cobra (naja kaouthia) in strike pose.Active Time? The snake is mainly diurnal – active by day, but I have seen a number of them still active at night. In fact, in Thailand – I’ve seen five active at night – the rest, dozens of them, were active during daytime.

Food: Rodents, lizards, frogs, birds, eggs, other snakes.

Defensive Behavior: Lift head off ground and flatten out neck. The hood flares quite wide compared to the width of the body. When comparing the monocled cobra and the king cobra, the monocled cobras have a hood flare that is more extreme in relation to the width of their body and heads.

Monocled cobras are very active and ready to strike especially as the temperature climbs past 35C (about 95F). Do be very careful with them during this temperature range because they are very easily agitated and strike much more often.

Venom Toxicity: Very toxic, deadly. Even a small bite can kill you. See “neurotoxic and cytotoxic venoms” (link).

Offspring: Lays 25-40 eggs. Young are fully prepared to envenomate as they hatch. Mating takes place after the rainy season. Eggs incubate in about 2 months. Eggs hatch between April-June. Hatchlings are between 8 to 12 inches at birth.

Classification:
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Naja
Species: Naja kaouthia

Classified by: Lesson, 1841

Monocled Cobra videos:
My Two Recent Baby Monocled Cobras:

Finding a Small Monocled Cobra on the Street:

A Couple Juvenile Monocled Cobras in a Tank:

Green Keelback – Venomous – Not Dangerous

Rhabdophis nigrocinctus, Thailand. This is a venomous and poisonous snake with nuchal glands.
This Rhabdophis nigrocinctus was in Phuket, Thailand. ©2015 Elliot Pelling.

Rhabdophis nigrocinctus (Green Keelback)

Thai: (noo ly sab keow kwan dam)

Length: Up to 90 cm

Habitat / Range: Thailand and southeast Asia. Found in a range of areas, usually fairly close to water. This snake is terrestrial – ground based, and is very common in Phuket, Thailand.

Notes: These snakes are commonly found near water, lakes, ponds, and in gardens.

Active Time? Daylight hours, especially dawn and dusk near water.

Food: Frogs, poisonous toads, and fish.

Defensive Behavior: Rarely strike.

Venom Toxicity: Though this snake is not known to have caused medically significant bites with envenomation, it is closely related to the Rhabdophis subminiatus which has proven capable of deadly bites. Do be very careful and treat these snakes as venomous and potentially deadly.

Offspring: Nothing known.

Notes:

Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Rhabdophis
Species: Rhabdophis nigrocinctus

Red Necked Keelback – Venomous – Dangerous

Red Necked Keelback Snake, venomous, Thailand and southeast Asia.
A beautiful snake, usually under 1 meter, not very aggressive.

Rhabdophis subminiatus (Red-Necked Keelback Snake)

Thai: (ngoo lay sab ko dang)

Length: Up to 130 cm (1.3 meters). Usually smaller than 1 meter.

Range: Thailand and southeast Asia.

Notes: These snakes are commonly found near water, lakes, ponds, and in gardens. Recently a friend had one in his swimming pool in Krabi town, southern Thailand.

Active Time? Daylight hours. I’ve found them sleeping around 1 foot off the ground in bushes.

Food: Frogs, poisonous toads, and fish.

Defensive Behavior: Spread out the neck slightly to make themselves appear bigger. Not as dramatic as a cobra. Lift their head and neck off the ground 4-5 inches.

Some snakes of this species, and others in the genus Rhabdophis, have displayed a rather unique defensive behavior of exposing the back of their neck and secreting poison from their nuchal glands. This is not all that common, I for one have never seen this in the wild or with snakes in captivity and I’ve seen dozens of them.

One researcher, Kevin Messenger, claims that the R. subminiatus helleri he caught in Hong Kong actually sprayed a mist of the poison into the air from the back of the neck. Quite amazing, if true, right? Obviously more study is needed into the secret life of this fascinating snake. Other snakes in Rhabdophis genus with nuchal glands: R. nuchalis, R. tigrinus, R. nigrocinctus (in Thailand).

Here is an image of the snake expressing poison from the nuchal glands.

Nuchal gland poison from Rhabdophis subminiatus helleri
The liquid on the neck near the top of the red shade is poison acquired from eating poisonous toads.

Here is the description in a scientific journal about Kevin’s encounter.

Venom Toxicity: LD50 is 1.29 mg/kg for intravenous injection (source). That is about the same rating as the very deadly “Banded Krait (Bungarus fasciatus)”. It was previously thought these snakes were harmless. Some kept them as pets and were bitten. In one case the snake was left to bite for two entire minutes before removing it from a finger. Serious complications resulted requiring hospitalization and intensive care. Click for article. These snakes are rear-fanged and need to bite and hold on, or, repeatedly bite to have any effect on humans. Once they do either – there is the possibility of severe problems including renal failure and death. Recently a small boy of 12 years old was bitten by one he was keeping as a pet in Phuket, Thailand and he is currently being treated (11/5/10). Be very careful not be be bitten by these snakes. There is NO ANTI-VENIN available yet for these snakes in Thailand.

Another study in Japan ranked the venom as having an LD50 of 1.25 mg/kg for intravenous injection. (Japan Snake Institute, Hon-machi, Yabuzuka, Nitta-gun, Gunma-ken, Japan) V.1- 1969- Volume(issue)

In Japan they make limited amounts of antivenin, but it is specifically for their in-country use.

Update: The 12 year old boy bitten by the Rhabdophis subminiatus was treated for 2 weeks of intensive care, and released. He was bitten multiple times, the 2nd bite lasting over 20 seconds.

Offspring: I had a juvenile red-necked keelback I’ve taken photos and videos of and released into the wild. I cannot find anything much about offspring. Recently (mid-June) I found a DOR juvenile very recently hatched, so like most snakes in Thailand the time around June is when they are hatching out. The coloration of the juvenile is quite different from adults as you can see in the photo and video below.

Rhabdophis subminiatus Juvenile
A hint of red on the neck in the juvenile. A pronounced black banding at the neck and grey on the head is evident in juveniles.

Notes: These snakes can inflict a deadly bite when they are allowed to bite for longer than a couple of seconds. I know personally of two instances where a child was bitten for well over 20 seconds, and a man was bitten for about a minute. Neither wanted to hurt the snake to remove it forcibly, and both spent over a week in intensive care, with the possibility of renal failure and death. Do not play with these snakes. If you have one, do not free-handle it. Treat it like you would a pit viper or a cobra. The LD50 on this snake for intravenous was stated to be 1.29 mg/kg. That is VERY venomous.

As a precaution, any snake in the Rhabdophis genus should be treated with extreme caution. In Thailand we also have the diurnal Rhabdophis nigrocinctus, which probably can also inflict a medically significant bite if given the opportunity.

Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Rhabdophis
Species: Rhabdophis subminiatus

Red Necked Keelback video

Red Neck Keelback Snake ( <- click) video – This is another red-necked keelback (adult) that I had for a while. I’ve since let it go back into the wild.

Banded Mangrove Snake – Venomous – Mildly Dangerous

Mangrove cat snake at night in situ, secondary tropical rainforest in Southern Thailand's Krabi province.
One of the B dendrophila snakes I’ve found at night in the tropical secondary rainforest in Southern Thailand, Krabi Province.

Mangrove Cat Snake – Boiga dendrophila

Thais say: Ngoo plong tong

Length: Up to 250 cm

Description: This is a long, strong snake with a rather pronounced vertebral column. The head is black on the top with bright yellow supralabial scales which have black edges, producing a striking effect. The snake is black on the back and laterals with thin yellow bands extending from the venter to usually about mid-body. It is not common for the bands to meet at the top. Ventrals are very dark grey to black except where yellow from the bands. The eyes are large with vertical pupils. The chin and throat are bright yellow. The inside of the mouth is white. Tongue is dark grey to black. Juveniles of this species are same as the adults.

This snake is nocturnal and arboreal, but can often be found on the ground or in bodies of water as well.

NOTE – there is some danger of misidentifying this species with the deadly Bungarus fasciatus – the Banded Krait.

Range: Thailand-wide. Found in humid forests of all sorts, especially near or in trees above streams or other fresh or saltwater up to 610 meters. They can be found resting in branches in daytime above water in the mangroves or on mountain freshwater streams from 3 meters to 6 meters high.

Habitat: Trees, land, and water – salt and fresh. It sleeps in many different trees including the leaves of mangrove trees in the mangrove, and on large palm trees.

Active Time? Nocturnal.

Food: Frogs, lizards, eggs, fish, and other small animals. They can frequently be seen heading upstream along stream banks looking for frogs at night from dusk to midnight or so.

Defensive Behavior: These snakes curl up in a double-s shape before striking. They are rather quick to bite.

Venom Toxicity: Weak, but with some medically significant envenomations recorded in literature. No confirmed fatalities. B dendrophila is a rear fanged colubrid. The fangs are not large, and it isn’t easy to get a good bite on a human leg or arm where venom can be transferred.  Don’t attempt to hand-hold a snake that is prone to biting.

I know a Burmese man that worked in the snake show in Krabi for years, he was bitten many times by this species while on a boat collecting them in the mangroves. At times after being bitten repeatedly he reported getting a bad headache which relented after 20 minutes or so.

Offspring: Four to fifteen large eggs. Offspring of 35-43 cm hatch after ~12 weeks and strongly resemble adults in coloration and pattern.

Notes: These are great looking snakes with a lot of energy for striking. Unfortunately, their look and their energy make them perfect for use in the snake shows across Thailand. It is not uncommon for these snakes to die in captivity.

Scientific classification: Boiga dendrophila

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Subfamily: Colubrinae
Genus: Boiga
Species: B. dendrophila

Binomial name: Boiga dendrophila
(Boie, 1827)

Krabi rainforest mangrove cat snake (Boiga dendrophila)

Green Cat Snake – Venomous – Not Dangerous

Adult green cat-eyed snake, Boiga cyanea found in Southern Thailand

Green Cat-eyed Snake – Boiga cyanea

Length: Up to 186 cm

Description: This is a long, slender snake with a vertically compressed body (shallow vertebral ridge). It is overall green, with a blue tint to it. The eyes are large with vertical pupils. The chin and throat are blue-white. The inside of the mouth is black. Young snakes of this species are brown / red hued with a green head.

This snake is nocturnal and arboreal, but can often be found on the ground as well.

 

Range: Thailand-wide. Found in evergreen forests, but also found in housing developments. The first one of this species that I found was on my porch at midnight, using my motorbike to reach higher on the windows for geckos. When I followed it, it climbed a small tree and rested about 2.5 meters high until I left the area. Found in a variety of forest types up to 2,100 meters.

Habitat: Bushes and trees.  This snake is an excellent climber.

Active Time? Nocturnal.

Food: Geckos and other lizards appear to be its primary food source, but they will also eat small mammals, birds, eggs, other snakes, and frogs.

Defensive Behavior: I have not seen this snake strike often, they calm down with gentle handling very quickly. Usually they are very calm.

Venom Toxicity: Weak or none. Rear fanged, and the fangs are small and it is not easy for the snake to get a good grip to chew in the venom. That said, at least one instance of significant envenomation has been recorded. Don’t attempt to hand-hold a snake that is biting.

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 misidentification of a small non-venomous B. cyanea with one of the venomous green vipers.

Scientific classification: Boiga cyanea

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Subfamily: Colubrinae
Genus: Boiga
Species: B. cyanea

Binomial name: Boiga cyanea
(Duméril, Bibron & Duméril, 1854)

King Cobra – Largest Venomous Snake in World

Thailand King Cobra, Ophiophagus hannah, is the world's largest venomous snake, and is found across most of Southeast Asia, including this one found in Thailand.
Ophiophagus hannah. Venomous and potentially deadly. Grows to around to 6-meters. Eats other snakes primarily. If bitten, victim may die within 10-20 minutes.

Ophiophagus hannah (Thailand King Cobra)

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 5.85 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 19 feet 2 inches in 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 close by.

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. One study done by the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute in Bangkok showed that king venom is actually more toxic the younger the snake is.

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.

Another interesting bit of information is that the king cobra is said to be able to see as far as 100 meters during daylight.

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.

King Cobra Eats Red Tailed Racer Snake - Thailand

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 not to be taken lightly. I know a man personally, his brother was bitten on the upper arm/shoulder and died in less than 10 minutes on the way to hospital.

King cobra skull showing large teeth and thick, rather short fangs for injecting venom during envenomation.
King cobra skull showing large teeth and thick, rather short fangs for injecting venom during envenomation.

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 – 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 dendrophila).

Young king cobras spend their early months, and possibly years in the trees.

Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Ophiophagus
Species: O. hannah

Three King Cobras in Thailand
Notice the light band across the back of the mid-body (right) ? Until the King flares his hood you can tell it’s a king by those bands. In addition, the head is very distinctive, and large compared to any other snake except a Python.

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. 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 snake, 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!

More king cobra information and research here.

 

Malayan Bridle Snake – Non Venomous – Not Dangerous

Close-up of Dryocalamus subannulatus, the Malayan bridle snake.

Malayan Bridle Snake - Dryocalamus subannulatus in Thailand primary rainforest in Krabi province on the Malaysian Peninsula.

Malayan Bridle Snake – Dryocalamus subannulatus

Length: 70cm – measured

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.

Scientific classification: Dryocalamus subannulatus

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Subfamily: Colubrinae
Genus: Dryocalamus
Species: D. subannulatus

Photo taken in situ, Ngorn Nak Mountain, Tub Kaak Subdistrict of Krabi Province, Southern Thailand:

Dryocalamus subannulatus, in situ, Southern Thailand. Common name: Malayan bridle snake, striped color pattern.

Malayan Bridle Snake – second pattern (more common):

Malayan bridle snake - Dryocalamus subannulatus in banded pattern form from Southern Thailand's Krabi province.

Mock Viper – Venomous – Not Dangerous

Mock Viper - Non Venomous - Not Dangerous, native to Thailand
Mock Viper – Non Venomous – Not Dangerous

Psammodynastes pulverulentus (Mock Viper, Dusky Mock Viper, Common Mock Viper)

Thais say: ngoo mok

Length: average about 75 cm (28 inches)

Range: All over Thailand and southeast Asia including Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam – even getting over to Nepal and the other way, Taiwan.

Habitat: Typically the mock vipers enjoy hilly regions. I found one at a local Buddhist temple (the mock viper you see in the images on this page) at the bottom of a limestone mountain, with a skink it had just killed in southern Thailand. Mock vipers can also be found under leaves and brush. Apparently they like a variety of habitat.

Active Time? Nocturnal primarily, but as I mentioned I found mine during the morning about 10:30am. These Thailand snakes are terrestrial – preferring the ground to trees.

Food: Skinks and other lizards, and of course, frogs – like nearly every other snake in Thailand! This mock viper also, occasionally eats other small snakes.

Defensive Behavior: Slow to bite, they coil up as most snakes and strike. I handled mine repeatedly and didn’t get struck at but a couple of times.

Venom Toxicity: Not strong enough to hurt humans. Don’t let it bite down on you for more than a couple of seconds though.

Offspring: This species is ovoviparous, embryos develop inside eggs which remain inside the mother where they hatch. Mating has been observed occurring for over one hour in a tank for m/f mocks in captivity.

Notes: These are really beautiful snakes. Mock vipers have a thick, strong body. They are not really vipers, but they do possess a weak venom that doesn’t affect humans much. They are rear fanged. Female mock vipers are larger than the males on average at adulthood.

READ THIS: There is a chance you will confuse it with the highly toxic venomous snake, the Malayan Pit Viper. It has markings that are very similar, though it doesn’t have the giant triangular head of the Malayan pit viper – it is pretty close. I thought I had a mutant Malayan pit viper when I first found this species.

Mock Viper top and head, Thailand venomous snake
Very distinct markings, not similar to a Malayan Pit Viper when looked at closely
Mock Viper with Dead Skink Meal
He regurgitated that skink as some tourists poked him with a stick before I arrived.

Mock Viper Video – One I caught in southern Thailand:

Common Mock Viper Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Psammodynastes
Species: P. pulverulentus
Binomial name: Psammodynastes pulverulentus
(classified by H. Boie, in year 1827)