Got a call from my favorite Thai friend this morning…
Me: How’s it going man?
Friend: Good. I have 3 kraits.
Me: SCORE! What time can I come to see them?
Friend: 3pm is good
Me: Excellent – see you then, thanks man.
This guy is well-connected in the Thailand snake world, and he’s had an “order” in for some of these kraits for a long time now. I guess with all the rain, and probably some night herping – these guys were able to find three kraits. I’ll find out what exactly they have today at 3pm. There’s a good possibility I’ll be getting one as I’ve told this guy repeatedly – I’d like to have one or two.
This krait call was such a rush… it goes right along with last night eating dinner at one of my favorite restaurants. I started herping around and looking for snakes there. There weren’t any other customers – just us, and the place had a marsh in back of it and numerous small ponds with frogs all over the place. It’s snake central over there – I’m sure.
I asked the owner’s son whether they found many snakes and told him that I collect the venomous snakes. He said – Ngoo Sam Lee-um in Thai – it’s a Bungarus Fasciatus. I said, YEAH! I probably scared the poor kid. He told me where he’s seen it before. I’ll go back for some night herping as soon as I get up the strength for some night herping. Maybe wait for a group to come herping with me as I’m sure that place holds more than just Bungarus.
These are yellow and black kraits. There are also “Blue Kraits“ which are black and white. And the red headed krait which looks nothing like either of them.
Bungarus Fasciatus (Banded Krait)
Thais say: (ngoo sam lee-um, or ngoo kan plong) This is a bit confused in Thailand where, in southern Thailand any viper is known as Ngoo sam lee-um. Lee-um means triangle, and so some people confuse triangle shaped heads of the vipers with triangle cross-section of the kraits.
Length: average 1.5m up to 2m (about 6.5 feet) In Thailand they don’t usually reach a full 2m.
Range: All over Thailand and most of Asia
Notes: I have yet to see a live banded krait in the wild, except a few dead on the roads – but I don’t go digging up ratholes or termite mounds. I may start if I don’t find one soon. I’ve been looking for 3 years to find a krait with yellow and black bands like these. At dinner last night I was looking around a small restaurant with many ponds, for snakes. I asked the owner’s son if they had seen any. He said, Ngoo Sam lee-um. SCORE. That’s the one! I’ll get their permission for some late night herping and try to bag one. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. This restaurant is located on a small hill close to sea-level in southern Thailand. There are many frogs at the ponds, and probably many snakes too.
Habitat: The snake lives on the ground and in rat holes and termite mounds, under stumps or rocks and in other cool, damp places. Recently I saw photos of one in some limestone rocks here in Thailand. I’ve seen large 2m dead banded krait just on the outside of a rubber plantation. They prefer wide open areas. They have been found as high as 5,000 feet in Malaysia and about 2,300 meters in Thailand.
Active Time? The snake is mostly nocturnal and is quite active at night. Most bites occur at night, as the kraits move close to people sleeping – usually on the floor, and probably the person moves and the krait bites. More dangerous at night, during the day they are not biters.
Food: Other snakes almost exclusively – rat and cat (Boiga) snakes. One noted herpetologist states that kraits don’t like to eat water snakes. Will also eat rats, mice, frogs, lizards if snakes cannot be found.
Defensive Behavior: The banded krait is slow acting during the day, lethargic, and usually not interested in striking. However, it can protect itself quite well – it is a strong biter and has been recorded as killing a large type of cattle 60 minutes after a bite.
Venom Toxicity: Very toxic. Deadly. This yellow/black banded krait from Thailand is less toxic to humans than monocled cobra venom is, but still QUITE deadly. These snakes rarely bite during the day, but if they do, they can transfer enough venom to kill you. Literature shows someone dying in 30 minutes, another dying in 15 hours. A famous American herpetologist, Joe Slowinski, was killed by a baby krait (Bungarus multicinctus) in Burma while on a remote expedition. They can be quite deadly. The cause of death is that your muscles are paralyzed and your diaphragm can’t work any longer to pull oxygen into your lungs. Kraits are very deadly in this regard. However, if you are able to get to a hospital with a ventilator you will likely be OK. There is no specific antivenin for snake bites from this snake.
Interesting to note… when fed on a live garter snake the krait venom acts instantly to cause death. Apparently krait venom is very efficient with snakes – the krait’s primary diet.
Handling: The banded and Malayan blue kraits are not known to bite during the daytime. However, at night time they bite rather easily, as evidenced by the numerous krait bites that occur at night to people usually laying down to sleep on the floor. I would never handhold kraits like the man is doing in the photo above. The krait venom is so toxic, it’s just not worth the risk – however small.
Anti-venin: There is a specific krait anti-venom. If the hospital you are at does not have it there is another anti-venin from a “Tiger snake” that can be used instead – it is also effective. It is advised by experts to get antivenin in your blood stream for krait bites before you have symptoms because, once symptoms develop you may have lost nerve functioning that will not return.
Offspring: Mating in March-April and 4-14 eggs laid about 60 days afterward. The mother krait remains with the eggs for another 60 days before they hatch. Baby kraits are about 30cm long at birth, and have venom. I couldn’t find in the literature whether the mother left the eggs as they started hatching – so she didn’t eat them herself or not. The King Cobra does this instinctively because it also eats other snakes.
Banded Krait’s Scientific classification
Species: B. fasciatus
Classified by Schneider in year 1801
Photo of 2 Adult Banded Kraits:
Video of me with 3 Banded Kraits from Nakhon Si Thammarat, southern Thailand: