Tag Archives: Thailand reptiles

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)

Thailand Snakes 2013

Well, 2012 was a great year for herping, and I found a lot of snakes to add to the list of new species I’ve seen. I enjoyed the year quite a bit, and I was able to get out during the day a lot more than I have previously. I have to say, the daytime snakes, with the exception of the King Cobra, and Monocled Cobras, are not all that worth going out in the heat for. I much prefer night time snake hunting.

During the night you can find not only the most interesting group of snakes, but many lizards, geckos, spiders, scorpions, bats, owls, centipedes, and other beasties. Night time is the right time for looking for snakes in Thailand.

I’ve had a number of requests from readers of the site and from Youtube viewers, to go herping this year that I just couldn’t manage. I have to say, I got dozens of requests this year to join people for herping, and for those that look at me as a tour guide to introduce them to the basics of snake hunting.

I have to say honestly – I’m not interested in joining beginners for herping in Thailand. I don’t enjoy the responsibility. I haven’t enjoyed in the past, people that couldn’t follow the few safety guidelines I gave them before we started. I am interested in herping with experienced herpetologists and amateurs that know something already about snakes – whether native to Thailand or some other spot in the world. If I’m not learning anything during the excursion, then it isn’t really worth it for me. I enjoy teaching people about snakes, but my time is so limited, I’ve got to be getting something out of it in the way of education, or it probably just isn’t worth it to me.

In the previous year I had over 800 requests for identification of snakes – through the online form there in the upper right side of the all web pages on the site. That’s pretty amazing. I wish I had the time to respond within 24 hours to each request I get, but again, time is at a premium and it usually takes me a few weeks, and even months, to respond to requests there. Eventually I do respond, so if you have a non-urgent snake ID request, submit it there and I’ll get to it as time permits.

If you have photos – just send them immediately to: info@thailandsnakes.com and I can usually respond within minutes. I am on the computer much of the day, and when I see a request with photos come over the email – I answer immediately. I answer fast because I don’t want the snake to be killed, if there is a chance of that. Secondly, and of course more importantly, I don’t want anyone to mess with dangerous snakes, so I want to ID it quickly and let people know if the snake might be deadly or dangerous.

In 2013 I hope to finally publish a free ebook I’ve been working on for a couple of months, Snakes of Thailand. This will be a book you can put on your mobile phone, iPad, computer, whatever electronic device you have – so you can identify some of the snakes you see. I’ll list some information in the book, but mostly it will be full of photos and some quick facts about whether it is deadly or not – along with some key identifying features to distinguish between snakes that look similar.

I have not posted many photos from viewers that sent them to be posted on the site in 2012. I have hundreds that I just didn’t have the time to post. I’m tremendously busy with some other pursuits, and expect to have little free time in 2013 for fun stuff involving snakes.

If you want to write any articles about Thailand snakes, or any Thailand wildlfe or environmental concerns – whether it includes snakes or not, send it to me by email. I may be open to posting it, depending on the content.

Have a great 2013…

Cheers,

Vern

Night Herping in Southern Thailand – Video

Every few days when I either have some free time, or just reach a point in my snake herping addiction where I MUST GO, I romp around the forest in southern Thailand and try to find cool stuff.

This was a perfect Thailand night. The air was cool and there was even a breeze. The air was not thick and wet, and I wore a long-sleeved shirt and military issue cammies, socks, and running shoes – all things I NEVER wear in southern Thailand unless herping and trying not to be eaten by mosquitoes.

It was very dark on this night – and I think that was a reason for my success. It started out with a small snake slithering off the bank and into the water – very fast, and very small – maybe 8 inches long. In another 10 minutes i saw a 2 meter mangrove snake swimming across one of the small pools of water.

It was ALMOST within reach with my 40 inch tongs – but I just missed him twice. I grabbed slowly and didn’t want him to know I was grabbing at him. He didn’t pick up speed or alter his course – so I think he had no clue something was grabbing for him behind…

He went to the bank – covered with greenery, and just inched up in there and sat. I ran around the lake on the sidewalk and then very slowly crept down to spot he was. I just watched and waited for movement. Nothing. I waited 10 minutes. Nothing. I started pulling apart the vines and water plants that were hiding him. Very slowly. Nothing. I stayed for 10 minutes and pulled up everything around. Nothing. Apparently he slipped under the water and safely away. They are great underwater swimmers, and he must have known I was after him. Bummer. Still, it’s a great feeling to see a 2 m snake swimming in the pitch black night air.

I walked further… in 5 more minutes I saw another 2 meter mangrove snake climbing a wall and ready to ease itself into the water. I waited until his head went forward, just over the water, and grabbed with the tongs – GOT HIM.

Unfortunately I couldn’t film the snatch, and now I’m desperate for a goPRO video camera I can strap to my head. This DSLR stuff is for the birds while herping by myself. I asked two guys to come, and neither were interested. WTF! Irrational fears…

Anyway – you see a bit of the snake on video.

Later that night I saw about 4 nice leopard gecko type beasts – catching 2 to show friends. They freeze when the flashlight is right on them – probably totally blind – and they are easy to grab.

I saw a couple of small owls.

I heard a heavy movement on the hill next to the water. I stopped and listened… it was HEAVY, breaking big twigs loudly. WTF? It had to see me – and yet, it was moving to me, not away.

Initially I thought – big monitor. But I heard no footsteps.

Then I guessed – big reticulated python or Burmese python. Maybe it was looking at me as a meal, or maybe didn’t see me – just saw the flashlight.

There are bears in Thailand – but probably not right there where I was. There are some wild cats – but I don’t think it would be stalking me.

Ok then – enjoy the video.