These snakes resemble black worms in Thailand. They have a lot of energy when you pick one up. You will likely find them in soil in your potted plants or climbing up through your drain in your restroom.
Brahminy Blind Snakes are completely harmless.
Ramphotyphlops braminus (Brahminy Blind Snake)
Thai: (ngoo din ban)
Length: Up to about 6 inches (15cm)
Range: All over Thailand and much of the world, native to Southeast Asia. Transported across the world in potted plants.
Notes: These are ground dwelling and burrowing snakes. They are shy. They are easily eaten by many other predators like birds, monitors, and other snakes. The Red Tailed Pipe snake eats these snakes often. The blind snakes have very small eyes covered with a thin skin that protects them as they burrow through the dirt.
Active Time? Anytime.
Food: Ant and termite eggs primarily.
Defensive Behavior: Trying to get away. The mouth is too small to inflict a bite on humans.
Venom Toxicity: No venom or means to inject it.
Offspring: An interesting twist here. Brahminy Blind snakes are all born female and need no males to continue the species. They are parthenogenetic. When they reach sexual maturity they lay fertile eggs – and hence, are fully self-perpetuating the species. If there is one – soon there will be more! These snakes have populated much of the western world and can be found in Hawaii, Louisianna, Boston, and other places in the USA now.
My Brahminy Blind Snake Videos:
Species: R. braminus
Note: About 50% of all bites from this krait results in human death – even with the administration of anti-venin (antivenom). Death is the usual result if no treatment is given. The closely related Bungarus multicinctus is ranked 3rd in the world for toxicity of venom (terrestrial snakes). Do be careful.
Bungarus candidus (Malayan Krait or Blue Krait)
Thais say: Ngoo tap saming kla, or ngoo kan plong
Length: Max length about 1.6 meters in Thailand.
Range: All over Thailand and much of southeast Asia.
Notes: I’ve seen these dead on the side of the road near rubber plantations. Their head is not nearly as large as the yellow / black banded krait. The body doesn’t have the high vertebral ridge like Bungarus fasciatus. Be careful around these snakes.
Habitat: These snakes appear to favor flat country. Not found higher than 1,200 m vertically often. Prefer proximity to water. Likes rice fields and rice dams. Invades rat holes and use as a nest.
Active Time? The snake is mainly active at night and is not fond of the sunshine. They are shy and attempt to cover their head with their tail. They are active most consistently between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. At least that is when I tend to find them.
Food: Other snakes – primarily, but also lizards, mice, frogs and other small animals.
Defensive Behavior: Not usually very aggressive. Shy. They don’t tend to bite unless really provoked. Still, you should never hold one. I have only seen one in a dozen of these snakes attempt to bite, and it was the result of being grabbed with tongs near the head.
Venom Toxicity: Very toxic – even more so than the Naja kaouthia (cobras). Bungarus krait venom is neurotoxic and attacks the human nervous system, shutting it down. Coma, brain death, and suffocation due to paralysis of the muscles necessary for crucial functions like the diaphragm, and or heart, are frequent causes of death. Death results usually 12-24 hours after a bite that is not treated. Little or no pain is usually felt at the bite location. The black/white kraits in Thailand are more toxic to humans than are the yellow / black kraits. That said, the yellow-black kraits (Bungarus fasciatus) can still kill you easily.
Here’s a short overview of what happened to one victim of a bite by Bungarus candidus (black-white striped krait):
A patient bitten by Bungarus candidus (Malayan krait) developed nausea, vomiting, weakness, and myalgia 30 minutes after being bitten. One hour later, ptosis and occulomotor palsies as well as tightness of his chest were noted. Respiratory failure requiring mechanical respiration appeared 8 hours after the bite and lasted for nearly 96 hours. The two bite sites were virtually painless and resulted in slight transient erythema and edema. No specific antivenin was available, and treatment consisted of respiratory support and management of aspiration pneumonitis. Recovery was complete. (Department of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University Hospital and the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute of the Thai Red Cross Society, Bangkok, Thailand)
Handling: The banded and Malayan blue kraits are not known to bite during the daytime. That doesn’t mean they don’t, it just means they don’t do it commonly. At night these snakes bite rather easily, as evidenced by the numerous bites that occur at night to people usually laying down to sleep on the floor. Handholding the kraits for any reason seems rather absurd to me, yet snake-handlers across the globe do it regularly. The krait venom is so toxic, it’s just not worth the risk – however small.
Anti-venin / Antivenom: There is a specific krait antivenin that is given for krait bites. If you don’t have access to that antivenin you can ask the hospital if they have Tiger Snake antivenin – which can be used as a substitute for krait antivenin and works well.
Offspring: Lays 4-10 eggs. Juveniles are 30 cm long at birth. Hatching occurs in June-July in Thailand.
One of the top 10 most toxic terrestrial venomous snakes in the world resides in Thailand, and it is second behind the Bungarus multicinctus in strength of venom, according to LD50 charts for subcutaneous venom injection (in mice), is the Malayan Krait, also called the Blue Krait (Bungarus candidus).
I’ve been looking for one of these snakes in the wild for a couple of years. I don’t herp at night all that much so it was really unlikely that I saw one for a bit of time – but I was due to see this one.
Update 2015 – I’ve seen around one dozen of these snakes. They seem to be active most from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. cruising the ground along sidewalks or rocks. They are not big biters, and I’ve only seen one bite the tongs as I picked it up. These are relatively common snakes in Krabi province.
Here’s the story I put on Youtube about how it came to be that I caught this beautiful krait…
This is the mack daddy of all snakes in Thailand, for me. I’ve seen king cobras in the wild. I’ve caught monocled cobras and maybe 30 other kinds of snake. Last night I hit the jackpot by catching the lovely Malayan Krait – the black / white banded snake you see in the video.
I was herping with a guy from the UK, Michael. He found a red-necked keelback about 30 minutes before. We were herping HARD all over this great wildlife area and I was fully prepared to find nothing more. It was hard herping.
I stopped on the sidewalk for a second and was shining my flashlight (9pm) on the greenery just below the sidewalk (and next to it).
I couldn’t mistake the black/white pattern as the blue krait moved just inches from Michael’s feet.
I said loudly – KRAIT KRAIT! Move back, move over here!
My first instinct, before I opened my mouth was to grab that sucker with the tongs and bag him.
As I moved to do that I realized Michael might get a good bite!
It was funny to see in hindsight how my mind worked. I’m glad I thought of him – right? You know how you get so excited you just act? That’s jsut about where I was. I’d looked for years and years for one of these kraits. Finally there it was – 1 foot from me, and I had all the equipment I needed to catch it if I was fast enough…
Anyway – after he moved a safe bit away I gave the initial squeeze with the tongs and pulled it up where we could see it. It was a beauty. I held it for a while as Michael searched through my backback for the snake bag. The krait got loose because I didn’t want to squeeze too hard… I found the bag – and re-found the krait who was already half under a large rock that I couldn’t have moved if I wanted to.
I slowly pulled it out with the tongs and we bagged it.
Today we took this video in the morning.
She was calm… slow for a bit, then woke RIGHT up. You don’t want to miss this video if you handle or plan on handling kraits. They do have the potential to move VERY fast in whatever direction they choose. I was shocked (horrified!) that it came right at me in an instant.
I never felt as alive as in those few seconds, I can tell you truthfully.
Though we tailed it – and were able to handle the krait a little bit – I never felt comfortable with it – and would never hold one, day or night. Least of all night-time.
Come to Thailand and herp – and see what we can find!
The video is below. You don’t want to miss the video because just after I say something like, “This snake kills a few people a year in Thailand” the krait comes at me totally unexpectedly and I freak out trying to move my feet out of the way and get back. Just by pure luck I filmed it coming at me.
That was one of the scariest moments of my life – and yet my body still reacted to get out of the way. It was totally unexpected – and yet I was able to move fast enough. I don’t know whether it would have bitten me, but I don’t see why not. We had aggravated it for a good 20 minutes and it was probably getting angrier as time went on.
If you work with kraits – don’t be lulled into the false sense of control that you don’t have. The krait can, at any time, turn one of your best days into the worst day of your life. There are rumors that if this krait or the many-banded krait (Bungarus multicinctus) bit you, and you went to the hospital – 50% chance you will STILL die from the venom. Not sure if that’s true – but, still – it’s damn strong, and nothing to mess with.
The red-tailed pipe snake is a beautiful snake, though at first glance you might wonder if it is a snake at all! It has a very flat appearance for the tail region, and very black on the top. The head is so small you might think it’s a large fat worm. The eyes are very small. This snake spends a lot of time in the dirt looking for grubs, maggots, and very small larvae and things.
Range: All over Thailand on flat ground and at some elevation up to 1700 meters.
Notes: I had one of these red-tailed pipe snakes at my home to photograph and shoot video of for two days. They are beautiful snakes. Their top is black and has a radiance like a sunbeam snake – you know that rainbow appearance when the sunlight hits it? Beautiful. Then, on the underside the bands of black and white don’t line up – so it’s very different. The bands will turn red and black as the juvenile red tailed pipe snake ages. The head is very small and the eyes – almost impossible to see.
Habitat: The snake lives on the ground and in rat holes and termite mounds, under stumps or rocks and in other cool, damp places. I find them in a tangle of roots in the water sometimes.
Active Time? The snake is mostly nocturnal and is active at night.
Food: Brahminy blind snakes, insect larvae, small frogs and worms.
Defensive Behavior: This pipe snake hides the head under loops of it’s body and flips it’s red tail end up in the air – flattening it – as if like a cobra. Thais call this the 2-head snake because it wants you to think it has two. In an hour of handling this snake, it made no move to bite at all. That doesn’t mean it won’t, but they are not all that inclined to bite. Their mouth is VERY small and they’d have to catch you just right to bite you.
Venom Toxicity: None that affects humans.
Offspring: This snake has 5-10 young, born live, about 20 cm long (about 8 inches).
Red Tailed Pipe Snake’s Scientific classification
Species: C. ruffus
Binomial name Cylindrophis ruffus
Classified by Laurenti in year 1768
When I say the “Laotian Wolf Snake” is “not dangerous” I mean, it’s not going to kill you or send you to the intensive care unit of a Thailand hospital. But, though this snake isn’t venomous it does have a biting problem. It bites very fast because it’s small and thin – and doesn’t give much warning when it strikes – unlike some other snakes – mangrove snakes, or monocled cobras.
Caution: There is another, highly venomous – and deadly, snake that looks similar to this harmless wolf snake. It is the yellow Banded Krait. It has thick yellow and black bands, and can grow to about 2 meters long. See this krait page >
There is another snake that you might think resembles this one. It’s called a mangrove snake. This is a type of cat snake, and it has some venom, and bites hard and deep. Here is video: Mangrove snake striking.
Lycodon laoensis (Laotian Wolf Snake)
Thai: (ngoo plong chanwan lao, or ngoo kan plong)
Length: Up to about .5 meters (50 cm, or 19 inches).
Range: All over Thailand (and Laos!).
Notes: These are ground dwelling snakes. They are rather shy and like to hide under things. They are easily eaten by predators because they have no strong defense (venom). Laotian Wolf Snakes prefer mountains and hilly regions but also can be found close to dwellings at times.
Active Time? Night & evenings cruising through leaf litter or just sitting on a porch curled up and waiting for a gecko to walk by.
Food: Small insects, frogs, small geckos.
Defensive Behavior: Pretty calm until they are scared or angry. They bite fast, and repeatedly. Their mouth is very small so you wouldn’t end up with much of a bite, but be cautious anyway.
Venom Toxicity: No venom that affects humans. But, as with any bite, if you’re bitten and it affects you – get to the hospital. You may be allergic to it.
Laotian Wolf Snake classification
Species: L. laoensis
Binomial classification: Lycodon laoensis
Laotian Wolf Snake video:
If you were looking for snakes of Laos – try this report of snakes found during field-herping trips in Laos.
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, toads, and fish primarily
Defensive Behavior: Spread out their neck slightly to make themselves appear bigger. Not as dramatic as a cobra. Lift their head and neck off the ground 4-5 inches.
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.
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)
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 have a juvenile red-necked keelback I’ve taken photos and videos of and will release in the wild tomorrow morning. I cannot find anything much about offspring.
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.
Up until yesterday I’ve only seen small sunbeam snakes – about 15 inches long. They are fat and can be found under plastic or other things in muddy water, or anywhere near water. I found one small sunbeam crossing the street at night during a rain in Sisaket – so I pulled him off the road and up into the brush. Yesterday I saw a 1+ meter snake at a friend’s. The big ones are really impressive. Thick, smooth like glass, and with an unbelievably cool rainbow iridescence that you must see.
Sunbeam snakes get their name because they beam in the sunshine… so to speak. Their scales reflect a luminescence – like a rainbow of colors – and it’s surreal to see a sunbeam snake in the bright sunshine (I have a video for you below, but it doesn’t give justice to the intensity of the rainbow of colors).
Xenopeltis unicolor (Sunbeam Snake)
Thai language: Ngoo sang ateet, Ngoo leu-um deen
Appearance: Sunbeam snakes are thicker than a large banana (with skin) as adults. Their scales are very smooth and the snake has a texture like rubber. Dirt doesn’t appear to stick to the scales. The head is like a shovel blade, tending toward flat. The eyes are small and designed for burrowing in dirt.
Length: Both male and female sunbeams are usually about a meter long with the female growing up to 1.3m for the maximum length (about 4 feet).
Range: All over Thailand. I’ve found them in Trang, Surat, Krabi and Nakhon Si Thammarat provinces. Also found all over Southeast Asia from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, to Burma (Myanmar), China, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Malaysian Peninsula and over to the Philippines.
Habitat: These snakes love the shallow water, muddy areas where they lie hidden under leaves or junk waiting for nightfall. They can be found close to human habitat as well as any lake or other body of water. They are fossorial – meaning, they hide under things – like leaves, dirt, just about anything.
Notes: These sunbeam snakes rarely bite. They do not do well in captivity and quickly die because they get stressed out. If you keep one – be sure to have soft substrate they can burrow (dig) into to cover themselves. They need cool shade and water. Don’t put them in the sun for long.
Active Time? Nocturnal – night.
Food: Frogs mostly, lizards, geckos, and other snakes. Sunbeam snakes kill prey by squeezing (constricting) it like a python.
Natural Enemies: King cobras and kraits would probably eat these snakes, though I don’t have evidence that they do.
Defensive Behavior: Curl tail. Rarely bite. Very low-key, mellow snakes if you’re not provoking them. They move very slow and their scales are good for water but not so great for street, rocks, and other hard smooth surfaces.
Venom Toxicity: None. No danger to humans except possibly a strong bite if you anger it. I’ve heard about only one person ever being bitten by this snake. It just doesn’t typically happen.
Offspring: Little is known. Tough to keep very long – they die quickly in captivity.
Length: up to 2.5 meters. I have caught eight of these, all of them under 2.25 meters.
Range: Chumpon, Thailand, south to border of Thailand-Malaysia
Habitat: Usually caves, though at times found outside caves. Recently I found a number of them in a bungalow at a nature resort and an empty wooden cabin in a rubber plantation. Then someone wrote me to ID one that was climbing around the limestone cliffs in Krabi.
Active Time? The snake is mainly nocturnal. They are active during the day only after heavy rainfall, or inside caves.
Food: Bats, birds, and maybe even rats if they happened to be on the ground.
Defensive Behavior: These Thailand snakes are calm and move slowly unless provoked substantially.
Venom Toxicity: None. Member of rat snake group – so their saliva probably contains venom, but they have no venom injecting fangs in the front or rear. They have rows of teeth in the upper jaw, but very small – less than 1/4th inch long.
Offspring: Nothing known – still updating this article.
Notes: These are often found in Thailand caves, they are excellent wall climbers. A Buddhist monk walked me through some pitch black caves at a temple with a cave in Southern Thailand and showed me this amazingly colored Ridley’s Racer pictured above. This non-venomous snake, part of the rat snake family was calm and let me take video with the camera just 12 inches from her head. Ridley racer snakes hang on cave walls and snatch flying bats out of the air.
Thais say: Thai language sounds like Ngoo how chang, or ngoo chong ahng. There are many names for this snake.
Length: Max length about 5.8 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.
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 a 8 meter King. I know it is probably impossible, but I’m not joking. The tail was absolutely massive, long 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 (dozens).
Another time I saw a king about 120 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 4 meter 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 and probably felt fearless.
Kings are all over Thailand and can be found anywhere near houses, or really – 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.
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.
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.
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 be very afraid… I know a man personally, his brother was bitten on the chest and died in less than 10 minutes on the way to hospital.
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 kill elephants with a bite.
Antivenom: There is a specific antivenin for the king cobras, but if the hospital you are at does not have it there is an alternative. Tiger snake antivenin can also work well.
Offspring: Lay eggs which they stay with in the nest until ready to hatch. When the eggs start to hatch the mother 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).
Species: O. hannah
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 last night. Even better to interact with it… Gotta love Thailand!
Video of a King Cobra breathing – you can hear it:
Update 3/13/2015 – 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 very little. 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 snakes, and though I have met few people that can identify other snakes, most know what a cobra looks like. They even sell amulet necklaces of cobras!
There is nothing quite like a bite from a snake, when you’re completely not expecting it. I’ve caught a number of these “Puff Faced Water Snakes” – Homalopsis buccata, and while one bit the tongs, none has ever attempted to strike at me. That changed the other night while on a herping trip with Courtney from North Carolina in the states.
I grabbed it fine the first time, and it death-rolled so fiercely I thought it was going to break it’s own neck. I let it go back on the ground by the pond I’d just picked it up at.
The flashlight was shining right in his face – and I was coming up on the approach from behind, but, in hindsight – a bit too much to the side, and he could still see my hand coming. He twisted and struck backward and sideways to grab my middle finger fiercely. I did the twitch, you know, where you jerk your arm in an exaggerated fashion, twirling the snake around like a circus baton, by the mouth on your finger – putting the teeth MUCH deeper than they were originally? Yeah, I did that.
He was NOT letting go, so I asked Courtney to gently put the snake hook point through the jaw between my finger and the joint. Eventually the top opened enough, and then I snuck the bottom finger out. No re-bite, which I was thankful for.
This was a juvenile, but these snakes have powerful jaws, and 26 teeth (I counted the puncture marks on my finger). I was bleeding good, and Courtney got a few pics. Will put one up when she sends me one.
Though a snake is not “known” to bite… do not take it for granted. Practice the same techniques as always to keep from getting bitten. Twenty-six teeth in your finger is not a good feeling… more importantly, you could break some of them in your finger – harming the snake.
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