Thailand has around 200 snake species considered non-venomous, or mildly venomous and not a threat to human beings. Though these snakes are not known to be dangerous to humans, that doesn’t mean that they are not. The red-necked keelback, for instance, was a snake kept in aquariums across the world for years before the first deadly bites occurred. Turns out that they have a very strong venom that can be delivered with prolonged or multiple bites. Do be careful with all snakes.
Chrysopelea ornata. Golden Tree Snake.
These snakes are very common and it is probably the most commonly seen snake among tourists and Thai locals. They are at home in the bushes and on the ground during the day. They are excellent climbers and prefer to eat the tokay geckos and other geckos. These snakes have a mild venom that can kill or disable birds and other small animals. It is not likely to affect your dog or cat, if bitten.
Paradise Tree Snake Video – Catching Chrysopelea paradisi from a Tree in Southern Thailand:
Ptyas korros. Indo-Chinese Rat Snake.
This rat snake is also very common no matter what type of weather or season. These are terrestrial (land-based) snakes with excellent climbing skills. They hunt lizards and other small animals on the ground during daylight hours. Rat snakes have no fangs, but their saliva is known to contain venom proteins. Nobody has been recorded in the literature as having been envenomated significantly by these snakes. Color varies from brown to grey or black.
A Juvenile Rat Snake – Brown with Light Banding Typical of Young Ptyas korros in Southern Thailand:
Coelognathus radiata. Copper-headed Racer / Radiated Rat Snake.
These rat snakes are common around trash bins, and anywhere rats and other rodents can be found. Though they are primarily terrestrial, I have seen one 3-4 meters up a palm tree raiding a bird nest of its young or eggs. These are strong, very fast striking snakes with a lot of nervous energy. Like the other rat snakes, it has no fangs with which to deliver venom.
Length: Usually less than 1 meter. Female Malayan Pit Vipers are the larger and fatter snakes. Males of the species don’t make it to 1 meter long.
Range: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Java, Sumatra, Malaysia, Vietnam, Burma, and China.
Notes: These vipers are similar to North American “copperhead” snakes. They prefer dry, flat areas. They are known as lazy snakes. They may not move out of the way at all if someone is walking right toward them. After they bite they are known to remain in the same location. There are thousands of bites per year in Malaysia and Thailand from this snake.
These snakes are so dangerous when handled because they are not consistent with their behavior. One day they will be calm. The next, or the next 10 minutes – they will violently strike out lightening fast. Their preferred habitat is under dry leaves, wood, or rocks. They are active during the night mostly, especially during rain.
Nickname: Finger rotters – given by Al Coritz, Viperkeeper on YouTube. If they get you in the finger – you’ll likely lose part of your finger, hand, or arm without immediate care.
Habitat: Forests, rubber plantations, bamboo patches, farmland, grassland. Often lies in the short or long grass. These are terrestrial snakes that I’ve never seen climb anything.
Active Time? Day if cloudy and/or rainy, and night.
Defensive Behavior: Partially coiled with neck in an “S”. Their strike is very fast. Their fangs are long – and in the front of the mouth. Some strikes are short, others involve the whole body as it “jumps” at the same time it strikes. Don’t underestimate the distance this snake can reach when striking. Also, this snake is VERY good at striking behind its head. Watch the video.
Venom Toxicity: Very toxic. Venom is cytotoxic – it destroys all cells it comes in contact with – red blood cells, muscle, ligaments, and bone. With a quick hospital visit after a bite you may just lose part of your finger, or some tissue where the bite occurred. Most people don’t die if they go to the hospital. Deaths occur when bite victims delay seeking medical treatment. There is antivenom for this snake.
If you are bitten by this snake, do NOT wrap a tight band around the bite location. That will stop the venom from moving, from being diluted, and the tissue will suffer much more destruction.
Offspring: Lay eggs. Female guards them. Young are about 9 inches long and fast and thin. They are fully able to bite, and have full strength venom.
The Copperheaded Racer snakes are so named because their head is copper colored. Though much of the body of this snake is also copper colored, there are also more yellow and brown color variations among this species. These snakes have no relation to the highly venomous “copperhead” snakes of America, and elsewhere. Thailand’s Copperheaded Racers are large rat snakes that feed heavily on large rodents and are frequently found near houses and markets where a rat population exists. These snakes will rarely bite you if you are walking by, but if you are pursuing a copperheaded racer – it will turn and move toward you with many folds in it’s neck, ready to strike. See the video below of the large 2 meter + racer I found crossing a Thai highway in southern Thailand.
There is another rat snake – the Common Malayan Racer that is a much darker color, but very much resembles the Copperheaded Racer. It generally will not bite even if handled.
Coelognathus radiatus, usually referred to as the Copperheaded Racer, Rat Snake, or Jumping Snake
Thai: Ngoo tang ma-prow ly keet
Appearance: A copper colored head with black lines on the top and neck, leading into some lateral lines that run down some of the length of the body. This snake often looks yellow as the dominant color. Because this snake is rather large it has a large mouth to match.
Length: Up to 230 cm (about 7 feet maximum). They can get as thick as an adult male’s wrist. Obviously thicker if they just ate.
Range: All over Thailand and many countries in Southeast Asia.
Habitat: Copperheaded racers are ground-dwelling snakes and prefer to live where rats are. Anywhere rats are. These snakes can be found at some altitude (1500m) as well as sea-level.
Notes: These snakes bite at the slightest provocation. They strike repeatedly, but eventually tire. The Cobra show in Ao Nang, Thailand uses these snakes in a demonstration because they are great strikers. I’ve only seen these racers on the ground – not climbing anything.
Active Time? Diurnal – daytime. Occasionally found active at night.
Food: Rats, mice, lizards, frogs, birds.
Natural Enemies: King cobras seem to prefer these and other rat snakes, probably because the teeth are not large and they cannot inflict any damage on the cobras.
Defensive Behavior: They will come at you if you’re bothering them, with a raised head – vertically inflated neck, and open mouth. See video of one crossing road and coming at me. They love to strike, and the big ones can reach over a meter when striking. If they can’t deter the aggressor they roll over and play dead with their tongue hanging out. If they can get away they are very fast snakes on the ground.
Venom Toxicity: Venom in the saliva, but no means to deliver it with fangs – no fangs at all.
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 1.9 meter specimen in rainforest in the Trang province. I have also found them in Surat Thani, and Krabi provinces.
Habitat: Lowlands and hilly rain forest type habitat. The last four of these snakes I saw were all found at less than 200 meters elevation.
Active Time? Probably active both at night and day. 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: Of the four 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 venom researcher, Dr. Bryan Grieg Fry at his site. (was, he pulled down his chart). 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. One 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 four 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 to be by chance.
These snakes have not been studied well in captivity or in the wild, except for the previously mentioned study in which the kraits lived surprisingly long. Usually the red-headed krait dies quickly in captivity. These kraits are not known to bite during daytime, but, be exceptionally careful when handling them.
The venter (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 sizable head, a 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 1.9 meter long 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.
These Red Tailed Racers are beautiful green snakes with a grey or reddish tail. They are non-venomous but big enough to give you a strong bite. These snakes live for about 15 years on average – if they don’t encounter a predator like the King cobra.
Gonyosoma oxycephalum (Red Tailed Racer)
Discovered by Boie in 1827
Thai: (ngoo kee-ow kub maak)
Length: Max length about 2.5m (7.5+ feet) They are thick like your wrist and very strong, muscled snakes.
Range: All over Thailand.
Habitat: Red Tailed Racers prefer lowland and up to about 750m above sea level in jungle, agricultural (farmed) land, mangrove forests. They spend most of their time in trees and bushes.
Notes: These are common tree snakes that are also found in caves. They have beautiful greens, with white and black mixed in to their main body color. Their belly scales are rough and ideal for climbing trees. Their top scales are smooth. Identified easily by the dark streak across the eyes, and, if you’re close enough – the blue tongue that flickers in and out when aggravated. The tail is not always or even usually red… the ones I’ve seen are grey. They don’t always do well in captivity and can strike at anytime, though usually much more when aggravated first.
Active Time? Daytime.
Food: Rats, mice, birds, bats and lizards.
Natural Enemies: King cobras love to eat Red Tailed Racer snakes!
Defensive Behavior: They flare up their body vertically – not horizontally like the cobras. They puff themselves up vertically and turn this part sideways to you so they can strike fear into you. They do bite when pestered. They can strike from nearly any position, head facing away from you too. Be careful they have strong jaws.
Venom Toxicity: No venom dangerous to humans.
Offspring: Red tailed racers reach sexually maturity at 4 years. Between September and January this snake deposits small clutches of 3-8 eggs that hatch 45cm long baby red tailed racer snakes in 91 to 112 days.
Species: G. oxycephalum
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 my long stick.
Habitat: The snake lives almost only on the ground where it hunts 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 all of mine during daylight hours.
Food: Mice, frogs, lizards. Predominantly mice. I have a good sized house gecko in the tank with this Cryptelytrops venustus, but so far she has shown no interest in it. I’ll go get some small mice here shortly. The pit vipers sense the heat of the animal and strike. The geckos are cold blooded so they are no hotter than their surroundings.
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 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.
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.
I could find little information about this snake beyond my own experience. Joachim Bullian at siam-info.de had some useful information which I’ve added to this article. As I said, I currently have one of these lovely snakes for a couple of days and will be adding info here to this fact sheet as I do updates.
Seriously, snakes in Thailand are all over the country from north to south, east to west. They are in the high elevation areas – mountains and hills, as well as the low elevation areas, and even inside caves (Ridley Racers). Snakes are as likely to be in the garbage area of your home as they are in a field.
Snakes are in the trees – vipers and tree snakes, cobras – including King Cobras, Mangrove Snakes, Oriental Whip Snakes are all in trees and bushes and like to be off the ground sometimes.
Snakes are in the water – though there aren’t many venomous types in the water, there is the sea krait and keelbacks love the water too.
Snakes are on the ground – the Malayan Pit Vipers and the Russell’s Viper are on the ground usually.
Snakes are in the AIR – This is kind of an exaggeration of course, but there are tree snakes that can jump from tree to tree or tree to ground, and cover long distances – as in tens of meters – or even hundreds of feet if they jump from a high enough place.
Snakes come into houses, apartments, and tents. Do be careful not to leave your doors or windows open without screens – especially at night.
These Golden Tree Snakes are also known as Flying Snakes. They glide very well, perhaps the best of any snake in the world, and even better than some squirrels and lizards. Golden Tree Snakes are a lime green and black checkered type patterned snake. They are tree dwellers but can climb anything, even walls. They appear to have a favorite food – the Tokay Geckos that reach sizes of 12 inches long in adulthood. They are frequently seen eating Tokays.
Chrysopelea ornata ornatissima (Golden Tree Snake)
Thai language: Ngoo kee-ow ly dok mak
Appearance:Chrysopelea ornata in Thailand is lime green with some black and green cross hatches. This snake’s head is rather flat with a thin neck and atypical blunt nose, large eyes which sometimes are red depending on the angle.
Length: Up to 140 cm (almost 5 feet). They only get about as thick as 2-3 fingers held together.
Range: All over Thailand and many countries in Southeast Asia.
Habitat: Golden Tree Snakes can be found just about anywhere – in an apartment in Bangkok, or climbing bushes at 500 meters vertical elevation. Typically I see them at sea-level crossing the roads, or laying flat out along the stem of a low-lying palm tree branch.
Notes: If you’re trying to catch one of these snakes it can be very difficult. They are excellent escape artists and once they get into a clump of bushes or up a tree – forget it. Go look for something else, you won’t catch it. They can disappear in trees so fast it’s hard to believe.Occasionally you can find these in caves – they eat bats too.
Active Time? Diurnal – daytime.
Food: Small geckos, lizards, large Tokay geckos, rodents, bird eggs, insects, another snake occasionally, and bats. Golden Tree Snakes kill by squeezing the neck of their prey, crushing it.
Natural Enemies: King cobras and Kraits will eat these snakes when they can catch them. When they are small, birds eat them.
Defensive Behavior: Golden Tree Snakes (flying snakes) bite quickly when played with. As adults they may not lose that temperament. As babies – I have one now for some photos and video, they lose it quickly – and are OK with being held. They are very fast snakes when escaping.
Venom Toxicity: Rear fanged mildly venomous snake – but the venom is not known to be dangerous to humans. Just the same, don’t let it bite down on you more than a second or two before you remove it. Don’t give this snake a chance to inject a lot of venom and you’ll likely be just fine if no allergies to it. There have been no confirmed cases of medically significant envenomation with Golden Tree Snakes.
Offspring: Little is known about the breeding habits of these snakes because nobody can seem to get them to mate while captive. Being oviparous it lays 6-12 eggs in May-June and they hatch in June. Baby snakes are 11-15cm long (4-6″)
Yesterday I went to the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute created by the Thai Red Cross Society in Bangkok, Thailand. Doesn’t sound like it has anything to do with snakes – does it?
It’s all about snakes in Thailand actually. This institute is located on the or next to the Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital – a very prestigious hospital in Thailand.
Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute
The Thai Red Cross Society
1871 Rama IV Road, Phathumwan
Bangkok, Thailand 10330
Tel: 022.520.1614 or 1617
The cost was 200 Thai baht to get in and see the snakes. There is an outdoor display area where there were a couple of non-native snake species like a python from South America. The king cobra exhibit was under renovations. There were some green anacondas, also native to South America. I’ll use some of the photos of the Javan File Snake and striped keelbacks on the appropriate snake pages inside the site here. In total, outside were about 12 types of snakes.
Inside the snake institute were snakes in glass tubes that were dead and illuminated with light. The colors of the snakes were all washed away due to the chemicals used to preserve them. That wasn’t so helpful. The red-necked keelback, a very common Thailand snake, was in one of these bottles and was white. These are one of the most colorful snakes Thailand has in the country. It was sad to see them as white and void of color. Misleading quite a bit too if you don’t know all the white snakes have a lot of color.
On the second floor of the institute building were some educational displays designed to teach people the basics about Thailand snakes.
The best part of the visit to the “snake farm” as it’s called on signs there, was the snake handling for a small crowd of about thirty of us. There were many children in the audience and they had a good time touching the snakes and holding a Burmese Python that was tame – captive bred, and didn’t bite at all.
The snake handlers showed us banded yellow kraits, a spunky king cobra, the Burmese Python, a green white-lipped pit viper, and a monocled cobra – a large specimen.
The presenter spoke constantly in Thai and good English to give as much information as possible in the 30 minute show. It was a good experience and I learned something… pythons are bigger than anacondas. See, everyone can learn something…
I recommend you visit this snake farm if you have a chance in Bangkok. It is not really as nice as I expected, and there is a limited number of live snakes in the displays – maybe 30 types? They say there are more than 200 species of snake in Thailand and over 60 of them are venomous. Why do they only show about 30 of them? I guess I wanted this place to exceed my expectations and have all the snakes of Thailand represented. Sounds like something someone should do at some point.
Thailand has a lot of amazing snake species which you can find out a lot about by visiting this center, and other snake places across the country. And, don’t forget this site, of course.
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 of your outdoor refrigerator can kill you. I just wrote a story about that on ThaiPulse.com/blog/. 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.
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.
Currently I have two baby 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 bit 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 Thai kraits, and much more toxic than King Cobra venom when compared drop to drop. Even if the bite is a very small one – get to the hospital immediately. All it takes is a drop of venom to hit your blood stream for biological chaos to ensue.
(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. The two I have now, and the two I had before were almost 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 or larger. 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.
Active Time? The snake is mainly diurnal – active by day, but I have seen a couple moving around at night. In fact, in Thailand – I’ve only seen three 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 – versus that of the king cobras, which don’t flare out that widely.
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 ‘extra-bitey.’
Offspring: Lays 25-40 eggs. Young are fully prepared to envenomate as they hatch. Mating takes place after the rainy season stops. Eggs incubate in about 2 months. Eggs hatch between April-June. Hatchlings are between 8 and 12 inches at birth.