Thanks to Robert Abrams for permission to post these photos and story. Amazing Thailand.
Click images to enlarge.
Robert Abrams sent me some photos of a snake he said washed over Menora waterfall he was relaxing at, the location is about 40 km outside of Ampur Muang, Phattalung province, southern Thailand. It was none other than the ultimate venomous snake, the king cobra.
In his words -
“It was raining very heavy that day. Some friends and I went swimming at a waterfall outside the town where we teach. All the sudden it was swept down into the pool where we were sitting. It was pretty stunned, i think it was in shock because the water was abnormally cold. It also had a break in the scales along its side. It was still alive at the time. It almost managed to make it out of the water, a friend and I tried to get a stick but by the time we found one it had been swept further down stream. It may well have survived, but i doubt it. I think enough time in that cold water and the beating it took going over waterfalls would eventually finish it off.”
Amazing! Some people never get to see a king cobra in the wild – and this one almost dropped in Robert’s lap.
I’m glad he didn’t reach it with a stick like he was trying to. Originally he thought it was a rat snake, which is harmless.
It looks to me like the snake was probably run over by a motorbike or other vehicle and went back into the wilderness to try to mend itself. It was likely ready to die though. That looks like a wicked injury.
Length: Average length of 60 cm. Male smaller than female. Female maximum length at 100 cm.
Range: Southern Thailand south of Khao Sok National Park, Suratthani province. Other countries: West Malaysia; Indonesia; Philippines. There is a concentration of them on the island of Phuket, Thailand.
Habitat: Behaviour/habitat: Elevations up to about 1,200 meters but most abundant at elevations up to about 600 meters in lowland primary forest, secondary forest and jungle – especially coastal mangrove. During the day these vipers rest in the trees 2-3 meters off the ground.
Active Time? Mainly nocturnal, but occasionally found during the day, especially during or after rain. Crepuscular in nature, they are more often active during dusk and dawn, or on an unusually dark day during heavy rain.
Food: Birds – especially baby birds in the nest; rodents; lizards; frogs.
Defensive Behavior: Coil back into s-shape and strike. Strike is typically less than .3 meters in distance. Mouth wide open exposing fangs and white tissue. Can strike in succession rather quickly. Their strike is not very fast in comparison with some of the other vipers. The heat-sensing pits between the eyes can sense temperature difference as little as 0.003 degrees Celsius.
Venom Toxicity: Potentially deadly. Strong venom that usually does not result in death to humans. Victims experience a strong burning sensation upon envenomation, and swelling, necrosis of tissue.
Notes: Though these snakes are said to be exclusively arboreal and nocturnal, I found one on a mountain recently during the middle of the day, on the ground, during a rain shower.
These snakes have a wide variety of colors and patterns.
This photo comes from a reader that was writing postcards in her bungalow on the island of Koh Phi Phi, in Thailand’s Krabi province when she noticed a Mangrove Pit Viper (Cryptelytrops purpureomaculatus) near her foot!
This is not the snake you want near your foot, as they are heat-sensing, and some are known to be strike-happy.
Luckily she was able to move away in time. This snake is so beautiful. They come in yellow, brown, purple, and black colorations. Awesome to get a photo of this one. Thanks Céline Borel!
Here are a couple photos of pit vipers from southern Thailand. These are both wicked fast biters, and I never get close enough to have one tag me. That means I never grab them by the back of the head. I’m not force-feeding them, or removing eye-caps, so I don’t get involved in touching them. I need all the flesh and bone in my fingers because I type a lot on the computer every day.
Wagler’s pit vipers have a variety of colors and patterns evident. This one is from Krabi, Thailand. It is gravid, so I’m hoping to get some good photos and videos of the juvi’s when they pop out.
Over a month ago one of my friends from a neighboring province in Thailand – Nakhon si Thammarat, wrote me to tell me of some eggs he found and that he was incubating. Turns out they were from the Malayan pit viper! He promptly relocated them from inside his house, to out the back door in the forest! Malayan pit vipers do not play nice. They are strong vipers, with exceptionally strong venom. In fact, some state that this snake kills more people in Thailand than any other. The reason, of course, is that Thais and Burmese, Laotian, Khmer, workers in the fields don’t seek immediate treatment at a hospital. If you make it to a hospital – you’ll likely live after a bite.
Length: These kraits grow to 1.9 to just over 2 meters, though most found are under 2 meters.
Range: In Thailand the red headed krait is only found in the southern Thailand provinces from Ratchaburi and southward. Across the globe they are most heavily concentrated in Malaysia, Borneo, and a couple other places. Recently I found a large 1.9m specimen in the Trang province.
Habitat: Lowlands and hilly rain forest type habitat. The last 4 of these snakes I saw were all found at less than 200 meters elevation.
Active Time? Probably active both at night and daytime. Three of four of these snakes in our local area were found during the daylight. Probably they prefer the night time hours for hunting prey.
Food: Some say the red headed kraits eat more frogs, lizards, eggs, and rodents than other snakes. Probably they are opportunistic and eat whatever presents itself.
Defensive Behavior: In the 4 snakes examined – none struck out, none attempted to bite at all. Note – all but one was handled during daylight hours.
Venom Toxicity: Venomous, and deadly. The venom has been shown to have an LD50 subcutaneous measurement of .35 mg/kg for Bungarus flaviceps, while Bungarus candidus (Malayan Krait) was .32 mg/kg, and Bungarus fasciatus (Banded Krait), .62 mg/kg and less than that in another study. This makes it one of the top venomous snakes on the planet and within the top three most venomous in Thailand. The black mamba is listed at the same .32 mg/kg by respected venom researcher, Dr. Bryan Grieg Fry at his site. Only 10 other terrestrial snakes in the world were listed with more potent venom. Little is known of the this venom’s effect on humans after a bite, though it is likely very similar to a bite from Bungarus candidus, I could find no treatment studies due to bites being quite rare by this krait species.
From the abstract of a recent (2/2010) venom study in Malaysia: Bungarus flaviceps (red-headed krait) venom presents an intravenous LD50 of 0.32 μg/g and exhibits enzymatic activities similar to other Bungarus toxins. ELISA cross-reactions between anti-Bungarus flaviceps and a variety of elapid and viperid venoms were observed in the current study. Double-sandwich ELISA was highly specific, since anti-B. flaviceps serum did not cross-react with any tested venom, indicating that this assay can be used for species diagnosis in B. flaviceps bites. In the indirect ELISA, anti-B. flaviceps serum cross-reacted moderately with three different Bungarus venoms (9-18%) and Notechis scutatus venom, but minimally with other elapid and viperid toxins. The results indicated that B. flaviceps venom shares common epitopes with other Bungarus species as well as with N. scutatus. The lethality of the B. flaviceps venom was neutralized effectively by antiserum prepared against B. candidus and B. flaviceps toxins and a commercial bivalent elapid antivenom prepared against B. multicinctus and Naja naja atra venoms, but was not neutralized by commercial antivenoms prepared against Thai cobra, king cobra and banded krait. These data also suggested that the major lethal toxins of B. flaviceps venom are similar to those found in B. multicinctus and B. candidus venoms.
Offspring: Two clutches from two adult female red-headed kraits were studied by Chula University scientists in Bangkok. Once clutch was four eggs, and the other, six eggs. After 81-84 days in incubation at 26-27C and the other clutch at 30-32C eggs hatched. Less eggs hatched at the higher temperature incubation. Average hatchling length was 28.9cm +/- .8cm measured from snout to vent. Weight of each was 7.2 to 7.8 grams. Humidity in the incubation enclosures was 60-70%. After 7-10 days all snakes had shed.
Notes: I have seen 4 of these kraits, and they are quite incredible to find in the wild considering how rare they are. The Bungarus flaviceps has not been studied very well, and I suspect that most of the information on Wikipedia and other information sources has been generalized from other Thailand kraits like the Blue Krait (Bungarus candidus) and Many Banded Krait (Bungarus multicinctus) because the wording seems too similar.
These snakes have not been studied well in captivity or in the wild. They are not known to bite during daytime, but, be exceptionally careful when handling them.
The belly at the tail is red, red-orange on this snake. The rest of the venter is creme colored.
Substrate: Best? Leaves and something large to hide under – wood is best, rocks, something solid.
Ways to differentiate Bungarus flaviceps from the Malayan Blue Coral Snake (Calliophis bivirgatus):
1. B. flaviceps has a triangle cross-section, while C. bivirgatus has more of a round cross-section.
2. C. bivirgatus has a venter that is all red/orange. B. flaviceps has red under the tail only.
3. B. flaviceps reaches about 2 meters while B. bivirgatus grows to just 1.4 meters.
4. B. bivirgatus has lateral lines on both sides of the body toward the venter, that are solid light blue or white.
5. With some video study you can see how their crawling pattern differs.
6. B. flaviceps has a more sizeable head, wider head, and larger mouth than the coral snake.
7/25/13 Update. At 11:30pm in a Thailand National Park in Trang Province, a friend and I found a large 1.9m Bungarus flaviceps on the trail and photographed and shot video of it. Video #1 is of this snake. The photos on this page are all of the same snake.
Length: Average 50 cm though females can get considerably longer at 130 cm (reference – http://www.afpmb.org/content/venomous-animals-c#Calliophismaculiceps)..
Range: These small coral snakes are found all over Thailand and some other countries in Asia. I have seen a half dozen of these snakes in southern Thailand, usually found by people in their potted plants outside.
Habitat: These snakes enjoy the leaf litter, loose dirt, and cool areas under rotting trees and other foliage. They are very rarely found during the daytime, and one scientist said they are usually only seen during September and October. I’ve seen them year round.
Active Time? Nocturnal – active almost exclusively at night.
Food: Very small snakes like the Brahminy blind snake, worm snakes, worms, and probably termite, ant, and other insect eggs.
Defensive Behavior: They curl up their bright red, white and black spotted tail as a defense mechanism. These snakes have little else for defense, as they don’t even attempt to bite. The mouth on the Calliophis maculiceps is very small.
Venom Toxicity: This is a coral snake, so, the potential for life-threatening envenomation does potentially exist. Their venom is neurotoxic. There are places on the human body where this snake could get a good bite in, given the chance. Between the fingers and toes is an ideal piece of skin to bite. Just be very careful with these, and all coral snakes. Just because a snake has not been known to cause significant envenomation in the past, doesn’t mean it won’t happen. If you keep this snake as a pet – be very careful not to get too comfortable holding it – it is potentially a deadly snake.
Offspring: One scientist noted a clutch of just 2 eggs.
Notes: These are remarkably beautiful snakes, and yet so small that they could be mistaken for a worm of some sort if. Body patterns can differ slightly. Some, like this juvenile exhibit black stripes and spots. Some have just spots. Some are almost uniformly brown with very few or light spots. The body of this coral snake is round, without a pronounced vertebral ridge. The belly is bright orange, and the tip of the tail has white and black. When the tail is raised, it is quite stunning. These snakes are common, and are kept as pets across the world.
Recently 2 adult and 13 juvenile eastern green mambas escaped from a house located within the flooded area in Bangkok, Thailand.
Some were caught, some killed, and apparently nobody bitten (yet) by one. They did import some antivenin and have many vials available, at what I think was 300,000 THB – per vial. Yes, about $10,000 USD per vial. If bitten you might need many vials – so stay far away from any green snake in Bangkok for the time being.
Mambas are so dangerous for their speed and extra long strikes. Not to mention the complete absence of antivenin for the species in Thailand prior to this. Mambas are excellent climbers and are very fast. Do not try to kill or capture one, you will almost definitely be bitten, and probably die from it – if a good bite. Mambas strike fast, often, and unpredictably, and not just once, but many times, if threatened.
Eastern Mamba venom is rated at 3.05 mg per kilogram as a lethal dose to 50% of mice given subcutaneous injections. These mice were of the same size and species. Venom is rated like this so we can compare venoms of different snakes. In the real world whether you get a subcutaneous injection, intra-venous, or intra-muscular, is all up to fate – and they have different results. It’s likely that your bite would be subcutaneous in most cases.
In comparison, there are other Thailand snakes with more potent venom on the subcutaneous LD-50 scale than the eastern green mambas:
Bungarus multicinctus – Many-banded Krait
Bungarus candidus – Blue krait, or Malayan krait
Naja kaouthia – Monocled cobra
Ophiophagus hannah – King cobra
Daboia russelli russelli – Russell’s Viper
Just to name 5.
I didn’t look up the other cobras, but their venom is likely also more toxic than the venom in mambas loose in Bangkok.
Here are some recent tweets about snakes from the twitter stream, searching “thaifloodeng snake”:
veen_NT veena T.
Public Health Minsitry: 127 ppl have been bitten by snakes, 17 of which by cobra and 53 by green snake viper. TR @satien_nna #Thaifloodeng
12 hours ago Favorite Undo Retweet Reply
Crocodile and snake dangers in Bangkok floods – ABC Australia (25 Oct) youtu.be/lmrBYERz0y0 #ThaiFloodEng #YouTube #VDO
21 hours ago
E22NXL NADIT LIAM YAEBDEE
[4/11,17.21] Green Mamba snake anti serums already arrived Thailand. (via @thaiflood) #ThaiFloodEng #FB
rubinasi Rubina S.
2m snake found in my sister’s moo ban (neighborhood) at sukhumvit 71. Ahh! #thaifloodeng twitpic.com/7aosrt
seacorro Zoe Daniel
Strike force formed to hunt escaped Green Mambas from flooded Nonthaburi snake farm at Pakkret #thaifloodeng
williereid Rowan Reid
Whoa, your turn to do the dishes MT @RichardBarrow: Be careful of snakes, caught a 2nd snake in my house #ThaiFloodEng pic.twitter.com/NT38YTn0
RT @RichardBarrow: Do be careful of snakes outside #ThaiFloodEng pic.twitter.com/EE8lw7Fa Is it the real snake?Look like fake
RichardBarrow Richard Barrow
Do be careful of snakes outside their normal habitat. Caught a 2nd snake in my house #ThaiFloodEng pic.twitter.com/be9xhJw5
lollylollz NooNY P
Wonder where the Green Mambas got their names. Are they great dancers or something? #snake #thaifloodeng
E22NXL NADIT LIAM YAEBDEE
★ Somphop, the snake hunter. Capture snakes for free (24/7) ★ ☎ 089-043-8445 (via @thaiflood) #ThaiFloodEng #FB
msnkkii Nikki Citybitch
SNAKE ALERT: Green Samba (extreme poisonous) has gone missing from flooded house in Pak Kred area. Nearby residents, beware. #ThaifloodEng
georgebkk George Thaivisa
2:39pm Snake hunter! Mr.Somphop ☎ 0890438445, free service for 24hrs ~ @thaiflood #thaifloodeng
E22NXL NADIT LIAM YAEBDEE
★WARNING★ African Green Mamba snake. If you see, Call 1362 (via @SiamArsa) #ThaiFloodEng #FB yfrog.com/kjw0omvj
RT @Nancreative: RT: If you see this kind of snake “Green mamba” Pls Call 1362 or @js100radio 02-7119160 # ThaiFloodEng
steviegell steve gell
#ThaifloodEng “@veen_NT: RT @DrJoop: How to identified the green mamaba snake. #snakeattack bit.ly/uYIj1P”
anneusm Barfie B.
Keep this number just in case: Snake-hunter Uncle Sompop, free snake catching service (24 hr) 089 043 8445 via @acesir #Thaifloodeng
8td Thanyarat Doksone
My 1st snake encounter during the floods. He/she was caught at a temple in Bang Phlat yesterday. #ThaiFloodEng pic.twitter.com/ApDCr0w7
steviegell steve gell
@bkkbase @lisavale I’m hoping for a big snake. Something about skinning 1 of those things that brings a community together #ThaifloodEng
One friend I have said, out of all the snakes in Thailand (about 200) – he likes the monocled cobras the best.
I asked – why?
They are always angry and ready to bite! They never chill out. They never relax. They are always ready to serve up a plate of death for you – if you’re dumb enough to get too close.
He has yet to be bitten by the monocled cobra, but he works with snakes everyday and he’s right – these snakes were born to kill. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 12 inch juvenile Naja kaouthia – like this one in the photo is – they are ready to kill you if you make one mistake.
I’ve kept the smaller monocled cobras for a short time – two weeks at most. I find that I have to watch them very, very closely. Every second I’m working with them – my eyes are on them and aware of what they are doing and what they could do. I don’t take any chances with these snakes. I have seen first-hand the damage their venom does. It is not pretty stuff.
He asked me too – what is your favorite snake?
I do like the King Cobra – and that’s what I answered, since I couldn’t think fast enough. Even now – if you ask me – I’m not sure. The Malayan kraits are very interesting snakes… as are the monocled cobras, and the king cobras. I definitely like Ridley’s Racer as well – the one that lives in caves and catches bats in mid-air. That’s a cool snake. Some of the big rat snakes are very cool – a lot of energy and wicked fast.
All in all – you know, it might just be the king cobra!
What is your favorite snake? Have you caught one before? Seen one before?
Length: Males are about 1/2 meter and females are typically just over 1 meter.
Description: Short stubby snakes with large (in comparison to body and neck) triangular heads.
Range: Thailand, on the far west coast from far north to the very far south along the peninsula. Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Taiwan, Vietnam, Tibet.
Habitat: The mountain pit viper pictured above was found at the base of a waterfall on damp ground covered with small round rocks. These snakes can also be found up over 2,000 meters in altitude. They seem to prefer tea plantations and other areas with a lot of vegetation. They have also been found in homes.
The exact location of the snake here was Ton Pariwat Waterfall in Phang Nga, Thailand.
Active Time: The literature says nocturnal, but this snake was found in bright sunshine in the middle of the day.
Food: Mice and other rodents and small mammals, lizards, insectivores. One guy that keeps these snakes posted in a forum that his mountain viper bites the prey and constricts it too and wonders why the overkill when most vipers will bite and hold, or bite and follow until the prey dies. I think this probably has something to do with the mountain viper not being all that mobile. I couldn’t imagine it going fast through brush to chase something down that wasn’t dead yet. Especially the males of the species – they look like slugs – short and fat.
Defensive Behavior: These snakes hiss loudly and strike quickly. We don’t have information about fang-length, but the head resembles the Malayan Pit Viper which has very long fangs. As usual with venomous snakes, great care should be taken when in close proximity.
Venom Toxicity: The venom has been known to cause fatalities. The rating by Toxinology.com was mid-scale, meaning moderate to seriously toxic.
Bite Treatment: Bite victims of the Malayan mountain pit viper will be painful, swell, have blistering and minimal or no necrosis, bleeding and shock may result.
Antivenom: There is no antivenom
Notes: The snake shown here was found by a 6 year old boy who was kicking it. He thought it was a stick that was bouncing back at him when he kicked it. Turns out the snake was striking repeatedly. The boy was not bitten, his mother saw him and stopped him. These are slow moving snakes, terrestrial and primarily nocturnal the literature reads – but this snake was found in the sunshine in the heat of the day.
Species: O. m. convictus
Binomial name – Ovophis monticola convictus, classified by Günther in the year 1864.
It’s a sensational headline, but I thought it was important that you read this if you handle venomous snakes at all – and even if you don’t. (King cobra video below)
I got a call from my friend this morning. He told me they caught a 2+ meter king cobra at a palm plantation the night before. He said it was super fast.
King Cobras are fast when young…
Well, my first thought was – when they’re young and smaller like that – under 3-4 meters – yeah, they are quite quick. The juveniles up until about 2 meters are usually fast. I have yet to work personally with a king cobra less than 2.5 meters. I want to – but, will respect their speed a lot more. The juvenile king cobras are like a completely different snake than the big ones. They move differently – darting their heads around constantly, and very fast and short motions. The bigger kings are more deliberate in their movements and are much slower, even when straight from the wild. Not to call them slow – but, you can work with them to some degree without dying.
I took the motorbike over to see the snake after lunch. My friend was sleeping on a bench. I woke him up with a clamp down on his foot – as if a snake bit him. He didn’t jump or anything, so I was disappointed my trick didn’t work. No matter – he woke right up and showed me the beast.
He told me it had eaten 2 red tailed racers that morning, both of which were about 2 meters in length – but thin. I figured the king would be a bit slow and conserving energy as it digested all that food. I was so wrong.
This king cobra was black with light bands – very light, I wouldn’t call the bands yellow- they were more like a yellow/green. It was under 2.5 meters and over 2.0. It had a very long hood – and was really gorgeous to look at. My friend always goes the extra mile… when he opened up the gate and showed him his face we got a big surprise from this snake.
See the video of this super fast Ophiophagus hannah below:
This king came up that tree stump faster than any snake I’ve ever seen. Not that I’ve seen it all – however, I have seen many fast snakes – rat snakes of all sorts, tree snakes, big, small, thin and fast… and no snake has ever pulled one of these maneuvers on me.
I wanted to post this to give you an idea that you “think you know a snake” – but then one will do something you’ve never seen before. This has happened to me often as I learn more about monocled and king cobras. I’ve probably spent 100 hours working with them and studying them – watching other people work with them. I learned a whole lot in the first 50 hours and still, I’m always learning new behaviors and what these snakes are capable of.
Every snake species has a range of behaviors that they can exhibit. Snake handlers know, in general, what a snake is capable of – because it’s a certain species. However, there are snakes within the species, that, for whatever reason – learned behaviors that are different from most of the other snakes – and when they exhibit them – it can surprise the hell out of you.
Be careful with venomous snakes of all sorts – and never take them for granted.