Categorized | front-fanged

Red Headed Krait – Bungarus flaviceps – Deadly

Deadly and Beautiful, the red-headed krait is one of the rare and very venomous elapids living in Thailand's rainforests.

Deadly and Beautiful, the red-headed krait is one of the rare and very venomous elapids living in Thailand’s rainforests.

Red Headed Krait (Bungarus flaviceps)

Thais say: Ngoo sam lee-um hoo-uh si dang

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.

Bungarus flaviceps

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Bungarus
Species: Bungarus flaviceps

Binomial name: Bungarus flaviceps

Classified by Reinhardt, in year, 1843

Photos of Bungarus flaviceps:

Tailing the red-headed krait, Trang Province, Thailand.

Tailing the red-headed krait, Trang Province, Thailand.

After a krait stops trying to get away, you will be lucky to get a little peak before it covers its head.

After a krait stops trying to get away, you will be lucky to get a little peak before it covers its head.

The tail is unmistakably krait. The high-vertebral ridge is one of the differentiators between this snake and the similar in color, Blue Malayan Coral Snake.

The tail is unmistakably krait. The high-vertebral ridge is one of the differentiators between this snake and the similar in color, Blue Malayan Coral Snake.

Video 1 – Large Red-Headed Krait caught in Trang Province, southern Thailand:

Video 2 – Red Headed Krait – Bungarus flaviceps caught in southern Thailand:

2nd Part of Red Headed Krait #2 Video:

About Vern Lovic

All posts by Vern Lovic. Amateur herpetologist roaming about Thailand on field herping trips to find cobras, kraits, coral snakes, and other snakes native to Thailand. Thailand has over 200 snake species with many of them venomous.

This post was written by:

- who has written 183 posts on Thailand Snakes | Venomous | Photos | Videos | ID.

All posts by Vern Lovic. Amateur herpetologist roaming about Thailand on field herping trips to find cobras, kraits, coral snakes, and other snakes native to Thailand. Thailand has over 200 snake species with many of them venomous.

Contact the author

11 Responses to “Red Headed Krait – Bungarus flaviceps – Deadly”

  1. Chris says:

    I recently caught a red headed krait snake in Pai, Mae Hong Son Thailand (north). I released it after cature and have seen it 3 times in the last 5 months. I also caught a white spitting Cobra and yesterday caught a red neck keelback.

  2. Moke says:

    Vern:

    We’ve chatted before and I lived in Satun for a while where I enjoyed snake watching. The most common was Ngu Kappa Samblium, or the Malayan Pit Viper as we all know. But my girlfriend Ping told me of a snake named Ngu Gappa Fai. I had thought it was the red necked keelback but I guess not. Have you or your wife heard of this snake? Ping never really explained how it looked and several Thais had heard of it but didn’t know how it looked.

    Moke

    • Vern says:

      You know, I never listen to what Thais say about snakes. I just disregard everything. I’ve heard so much nonsense, and very little fact about any of them. What one calls Ngu Sam Liam, someone else calls something different. There are VERY FEW Thais educated about snake species in the country. There are some, but unless I hear from one of the guys I know, it goes in one ear and out the other. :)

      • Moke says:

        Thanks for the reply Vern. I am in total agreement but still believe there is a Ngu Gappa Fai, Yet it may be an old term that is not used now. I guessed that Fai means electricity and a snake with red or yellow around the head, plus venom might be it.
        I any case I think Thais are not experts on snakes except for having lived with them and knowing people who have been bitten and killed. One teacher sent me a picture of a Blue Krait in her yard and told me it was a Ngu Prong Tong ( Mangrove Cat Snake ). A second teacher told me an Oriental Whip Snake I took a picture of was a very venomous one and if bitten on a finger it must be cut off. My learning comes from internet research while theirs comes from stories meant to keep them safe. Though I feel sorry for the snakes I can’t blaming the Thais for wanting to kill them all due to fear.

        Moke

        • Vern says:

          Yeah, i get why Thais kill everything. There are 200+ species of snake in their country, there are few that can know what all is dangerous and what isn’t. The problem isn’t people killing tree snakes at their house, it’s the Thais that hunt and sell king cobras and other snakes. In a couple years there will be VERY few king cobras in the wild. Even just here in Krabi, I’ve seen hundreds come and go to sale to bkk for Chinese to eat, well, and probably Thais too.

          • Moke says:

            I must say Vern that the YouTube you made of the King Cobra that leaped up the tree root to tower over your friend was scary. Nevertheless I would like to see one in the wild. I spoke to a Vietnamese guy who told me as a kid there were lots of snakes but now not so many. That’s sad because they were killed by people. Here in Canada the fur trade is almost dead. 30 years ago a trapper could get $600.00 for a lynx but today they get only $100.00 The reason is that the world has turned against fur. So the animals can survive trapping. My delight in Satun was to see so many snakes, both alive and dead on the roads around rubber plantations. There may be hope.

            Moke

          • Moke says:

            Vern, my friend in Satun said she had Ngu Dang at her home. What do you think it was? I saw a few red necked keel backs there but never anything else with red.

            Moke

          • Vern says:

            The Boiga nigriceps is down that way. There is the Blue Coral Snake – which has a red head in addition to Bungarus flaviceps. But they have obvious blue/black mid bodies between the red heads and tails. There is an Oligodon that is orange or maybe another shade. Google Oligodon cinereus with image search. Some of those look reddish.

        • Moke says:

          Thanks Vern. It could be any of them I guess. The red cat snake might be called Ngu Dang by some I suspect. I’ll need to ask her which parts were red. She’s really used to snakes I’m sure because Satun is quite wild in terms of vegetation.

          Moke

Trackbacks/Pingbacks


Leave a Reply

 
FREE EBOOK - GET IT!

Free EBook - just for signing up for free newsletter.


Click Here.

 

Join for the Free Ebook

* indicates required
Vote Up on Google+ Cheers!
 
 
Thailand Snakes

 

Cobras in the HOUSE!

Welcome to Thailand Snakes…

Thailand has 200+ snake species with over 60 of them - venomous. I created this site as a way to educate Thais and visitors to Thailand about snakes. Many people kill the snakes they see in Thailand, while in many cases - they are non-venomous and completely harmless. With this site I hope to give people a better idea what is harmful and what isn't.

Browse the many snake photos and videos here so you can identify snakes you see on your porch, in your bed, or underfoot.

If you have been bitten by a snake - go to a hospital FIRST. Don't waste time looking it up on the internet. With some snakes you need to have medical help as fast as possible. With others you have some time. I know a Thai man whose brother died in less than 10 minutes from a snake bite.

There are venomous (some say 'poisonous' erroneously) snakes everywhere in Thailand. Friends have had cobras in their kitchen, and others had kraits in the garage. Vipers love bushes and trees near water and walkways.

Bookmark this site so you can quickly identify snakes you have seen. Notice the variety of venomous and non-venomous snakes in Thailand - and realize that they come in all sizes, shapes, colors, and patterns.

Email - info@thailandsnakes.com

Thailand’s Deadly Snakes