All posts by Vern

All posts by Vern Lovic. Amateur herpetologist roaming about Thailand on field herping tours to find king cobras, kraits, vipers, coral snakes, and other snakes native to Thailand. FYI - Thailand has over 200 snake species with more than 70 of them venomous and dangerous to humans.

How To Find a King Cobra in Thailand?

King cobra in freshwater stream in Krabi, Thailand.
A three meter king cobra found in Krabi province through persistence and luck.

Many people are trying to find a king cobra in Thailand, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and elsewhere.

How Do You Find a King Cobra?

When I first got into the hobby eight or so years ago, I thought there was some sort of formula I could use to find snakes I was targeting. This was my mentality back then because I was an addicted kayak fisherman who was on the ocean every weekend and a fair number of weekdays floating around and catching gator trout, snook, redfish, and other amazing species. I figured catching snakes was just like catching fish. Target them with the right equipment, time, weather, and bait, and I could catch whatever I was focused on.

I’ve since learned that snakes and fish are radically different.

To start with, there are very few snakes you can target and catch repeatedly. Here in Southern Thailand I can usually target a Homalopsis buccata (puff-faced water snake) and have a good chance of catching one because I know where they generally are. Generally. Sometimes I cannot find them. Where they go is anyone’s guess, maybe to the deeper water during the dry season – because at the moment they are very difficult to find in the shallow pools I’ve been looking in.

Anyway, back to the King Cobra and how to catch one.

There are people who come over to Thailand and are lucky enough to find a snake during their vacation. One fell over a waterfall for a guy who sent me a photo of him standing beside one floating in a pool of water. Then, there’s everybody else.

Thailand king cobra fell over a waterfall in Thailand.
Thanks to Robert Abrams for permission to post this photo of a king cobra which washed over a waterfall while he was swimming.  Amazing Thailand.

Finding a king cobra comes down to just two things. Persistence, and luck. That’s it really. You can try to go out during daytime hours, or limited daytime hours. You can go out early evenings only. You can target patches of bamboo. You can go out during mating season. You can go out in areas where they are known to have been previously. You can rub captive king cobra feces all over your pants and walk around the forest. To my knowledge, it is only people who are persistent and who get lucky, that will find king cobras.

I’ve found four of them now. I live here in Thailand full-time and I am always looking around for them on the road, in open fields or wherever I am. I go looking for snakes in the forest a couple times a month on average. I can’t remember when I found the first one – there are two that were fairly close together. One was on step 357 of 1,200+ steps leading up a mountain at a Buddhist temple. People were screaming and a friend of mine ran down the steps and ran right into me.

Him: Hey Mr. Vern! Snake! You catch snakes, right?

Me: Sure, uhm, what kind of snake?

Him: Cobra! Big!

Me: How big?

Him: I don’t know, 4 meters maybe?

Me: No, I don’t catch 4 meter cobras!

I did however go up and touch the tail and poke it with a stick a couple times to move it off the steps. It was a real beauty – light brown, yellowish and in perfect shape. Very strong, and definitely the top of the reptile food chain in the area.

So, I wasn’t looking for snakes, and there she was – a real mindblower!

The next time was while looking half-heartedly for snakes and standing on a road that goes up a mountain. I was looking one way, turned around in time to see a massive tail of a king cobra disappearing into the thick brush. I mean massive as in twice the size and thickness of any other king cobra I’d seen at the snake show I used to visit a few times per month. It was ridiculously large. Apparently it just crossed the road behind me with no fear at all. I was only maybe 10 meters away.

Another time I found one on Penang Hill in Malaysia while running down a forest trail.

The last time, and this was one of the best for sure – was when I was herping with Tom Charlton, and he found one in the early evening as we herped some man-made pools I’d been to over 100 times before. I’d never seen a king cobra anywhere near there before. Still, there he was – 3 meters of absolute reptile perfection!

Tom had been coming to Thailand and Malaysia for 12 years and hadn’t found a king cobra before last week. They are NOT an easy species to target. You probably shouldn’t pay for a herping trip – a wildlife tour that promises to find you a king. In Indonesia they are actually promising you can find a wild king, but they’re putting them in bags and releasing them in front of the tourists that just paid stacks of cash to see one in the wild. It’s nuts!

There are two parts of the equation for finding kings – persistence and luck. Really, only luck is necessary – you don’t even have to go looking for king cobras to find them. You just need a lot of luck!

Good luck to you!

Oriental Whip Snake – Venomous – Not Dangerous

Oriental Whip Snake, Ahaetulla prasina, from Thailand
Oriental Whip Snake – Venomous – Not Dangerous

The oriental whip snake is a very common rear-fanged venomous snake found here in Thailand’s rain forests. You can find these snakes in the trees during the day, I have even seen them crossing my path twice on trips up a small local mountain in southern Thailand.

The beauty of these snakes is legend. There are green, yellow, or grey phases of this snake, all of which are spellbindingly beautiful. The juvenile whip snakes are often brown or yellow.

Ahaetulla prasina (Oriental Whip snakes)

Thai Language: ngoo kee-ow hoo-uh jing joke pa

Length: Up to 190 cm. Girth: Body is finger thin, tapering to a very thin pencil-width neck. The head is spear shaped and bright green.

Range: All over Thailand. The species ranges from India to China and throughout Southeast Asia.

Habitat: During the day you can find these snakes in trees and bushes usually. Occasionally they will be at ground level hunting frogs and small lizards. I have seen these snakes in all kinds of habitat, but usually in trees and leafy bushes. At night these snakes sleep in the same environment.

Active Time? Diurnal – active during the daylight hours.

Food: Frogs, small birds, small lizards.

Defensive Behavior: The oriental whip snake can spread it’s neck area to increase by double in size as a defensive technique designed to scare attackers. It is quite beautiful when either solid green, or with the green, white and black checkered pattern displayed in full defensive posture. Sort of comical is what the snake does with it’s tongue when molested. It sticks the tongue out and holds it there for some seconds, or minutes.

Venom Toxicity: Weak. Although this is considered to be a rear-fanged and venomous snake it is not very dangerous to humans due to it’s non-aggressive nature and weak venom characteristics. The venom would need to be injected into the wound with time – with a chewing motion. Not many people bitten are going to let a snake hang off them for any amount of time. Some do, and they may have severe complications and require hospitalization.

Offspring: In Thailand the Ahaetulla prasina can mate during either of two times. Usually between April and July, and then also between December and January. Gestation period: ~ 6 months. Number of births: 4-10. Lengths at birth of offspring: 400 – 500 mm.

Notes: These are wonderful little snakes to catch and let go. These snakes do not do well in captivity and many die within days of being kept in an enclosure. They are as beautiful as snakes get, but please resist the urge to capture one to keep as they are very sensitive and die easily.

We have not been bitten by these snakes, but in the wild when catching them they will attempt to strike at times. They are fast and have a short striking range. What is really amazing about these snakes is the way they effortlessly glide down a hill or through trees like on ice. They can climb extremely fast and disappear before you have a chance to grab them. See video below!

These snakes are not often confused with other snakes here in Thailand because they are quite distinctive. Their head is long and to a fine point. They are very thin at the neck before the head unless they have flared up in defense.

Ahaetulla prasina

Oriental Whipsnake (Ahaetulla prasina)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Subfamily: Colubrinae
Genus: Ahaetulla
Species: Ahaetulla prasina

Binomial name: Ahaetulla prasina
(Classified by Shaw, in the year 1802)

Photo of a brown hued Ahaetulla prasina shot by Tom Charlton – shown here with permission:

Brown Oriental Whip Snake - Ahaetulla prasina from Thailand
Sometimes they are brown. Juveniles are usually brown.

Photo of an Ahaetulla prasina Ahaetula mycterizans, very similar to A. prasina I found on a hike:

Oriental Whip Snake, Ahaetulla prasina, venomous, rear-fanged snake from Thailand
Ahaetulla mycterizans – Venomous – Not Dangerous

Oriental Whip Snake Videos:

Another of the same type of snake – just further up the trail, different day:

Thailand Snake Note – Bitten by Snake?

If you are bitten by a snake in Thailand or anywhere in Southeast Asia:

1. Lay down on the ground and be calm. Many bites – around 50% – are “DRY” bites, meaning, there is no venom transferred during the bite.

2. Find someone to help you get to the hospital immediately – don’t wait for symptoms to begin, and don’t drive yourself.

Emergency Numbers:

  • 1155 – Tourist Police – English speaking
  • 191 – Thai police nationwide
  • 1669 – Ambulance nationwide
  • 1646 Bangkok ambulance

3. Stay as still as possible. Tell someone or write down what you can remember about the snake – Color? Thickness? Pattern? Was it in a tree? On ground? Identifying the snake is very important so you get the right antivenin, if one is needed.

4. Rinse the snakebite site with water if someone can bring it to you. Don’t get up to get water, stay laying down. Do not touch the bite site, or massage it, rub it, cut it open, or do anything to the site at all.

IF YOU KNOW WHICH SNAKE BIT YOU:

1. If the snake that bit you is a Pit Viper – any green or brown viper, just rinse the area with water and get to the hospital as soon as you can. Pit viper bites can take many hours and even days to become life-threatening. Pit Viper bites may burn and possibly throb at the bite site. Do NOT wrap a Pit Viper bite.

2. If the snake was a Krait or Coral Snake, you can apply an elastic wrap (or strips of any cloth) to the affected arm or leg, starting at the fingers (toes) and working your way up. Go directly over the bite site. The tension in the wrap should be firm, but a finger should be able to go under the wrap.

Snakes of this type have venom that is primarily neurotoxic, and affects nerve connections. You probably have at least a couple hours before severe effects begin. Wrap the limb and get to a hospital quickly.

3. If the snake was a Cobra, you should not wrap the bite site unless you begin having symptoms of envenomation. Some symptoms are: vomiting, dizziness, severe headache, weakness, slowing of heart rate and/or breathing. Cobras have venom which is both neurotoxic and necrotoxic, meaning it can severely damage tissue at the bite site – especially when wrapped.

If you begin having any serious symptoms soon after a Cobra bite, immediately apply a snug pressure wrap starting at the foot or hand of the bitten limb and moving up the limb. Get to a hospital immediately – having someone take you in a car, truck, or sitting between between two people riding a motorbike. DO NOT DELAY.

IF YOU DO NOT KNOW WHICH SNAKE BIT YOU:

1. If you do NOT KNOW what type of snake it was that bit you, you must wait for symptoms to develop to know what treatment is required. Ideally you will be at a hospital within an hour of being bitten, and they can monitor symptoms. If you have a severe burning or throbbing at the bite site, do not wrap the bite with anything – it is likely to be a Pit Viper or Cobra bite.

2. At the hospital, antivenin is given AFTER you start to have symptoms, not before. Some bites are “dry bites” and inject no venom. 

Caution… antivenin (also called antivenom) can cause severe allergic reaction which sometimes results in anaphylactic shock – a potentially deadly complication. Get good advice on the necessity of antivenin before it is administered. The doctors should do a test to see if you’re allergic to it first before full-scale administration of antivenin.

Insist on it!

Here is how the test for sensitivity to antivenin is administered (from Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, Bangkok): “Since the antivenin is prepared from horse serum, sensitization to heterologous protein may occur in some individuals. To avoid serious allergic reactions, skin test should be performed prior to the administration by injection of 0.02 ml of 1:100 antivenin dilution intradermally. It should be noted that the skin test may not predict the anaphylaxis nor delay serum sickness reactions.”

Do Not:

  • Suck the poison out or use any devices to suck out the venom, it can cause more damage to tissue if it is a viper bite.
  • Use a tourniquet, electro-shock, or massage
  • Use ice over the wound
  • Drink alcohol, food, or use aspirin or drugs or medicine of any kind.
  • Use herbal remedies – ingested or applied to the bite site.

Sources:

Information for this article was collected from legitimate sources of emergency information regarding snakebite treatment.

If you want to dispute these steps – please send email to: [email protected]

Once you identify the snake that bit you – here is some more information by snake name – scientific classification:

AFPMB – Database of Venomous Animals and Plants (click)

Here is the database listing venomous snakes by country:

AFPMB Database of Snakes by Country (click)

2015 Recap and 2016 Ideas for ThailandSnakes.com

Well, 2015 went out with a slow crash of everything I have going online to provide income. In a way it’s good because it shocks me into doing something bigger. In a way, it’s bad because I was enjoying not having to work for the past eight years – just being on my own schedule without having to worry about money issues. I don’t have any income related to snakes, but I have at times asked for a donation for Snake Identification services and received some.

Everything cycles around… good times, bad times, and that’s OK. I’m ready for 2016.

In 2015 I wasn’t much focused on snakes until the latter part of the year. I herped sporadically in June and July – the best months for finding snakes, and I focused more on other pursuits like getting my foot healthy after a 5th metatarsal stress fracture. Now that’s healed up pretty well and I’m on track for running a 30 mile race through the mountains here in Thailand at the end of 2016.

Over the past eight years I’ve asked myself whether I could make a living doing something with snakes and other reptiles. Being in Thailand is great for the opportunities I have to see and interact with wildlife of all sorts. It isn’t so good for straight- up business opportunities unless well-funded. Which I’m not.

I thought for years about how great it would be to create a sort of wildlife zoo for people to come and experience snakes, lizards, geckos, turtles, and all sorts of other bugs and other things – in a very natural environment – like a large tented biosphere, almost like a butterfly enclosure you see at some parks. I have a lot of ideas about how to make it zoo-like, but not a zoo at all. I don’t believe in having captive animals – but I’ve come up with a way to organize it so we don’t have animals rotting in cages for years until they die.

So, I’ve been thinking about that. That’s a rather long-term goal. Could happen within a year if I met the right people.

I think about bringing groups of Thais and visitors to Thailand to some place like this to see wildlife instead of all we have – dilapidated “King Cobra Snake Shows” where the snakes are tormented day after day for no reason except a couple hundred thousand Thai baht each month going into the pockets of the owners. People attending shows learn next to nothing because the Burmese and Thais giving the shows don’t speak English well enough to communicate in the language. Not to mention a good portion of the information given out is entirely incorrect.

I’ve been looking at selling snake-related products like books, ebooks, tongs, hooks, traps, video training modules for kids wanting to learn more about reptiles and other animals we have all around us here. I’ve considered setting up a non-profit where people could donate tax-free.

I’ve been thinking about sort of going along the same lines as Rom Whitaker in the India Gats. He has setup a program to study king cobras by radio-chipping them, and following them extensively through the forest as they go about doing what they do on a daily basis. He did it without a degree in biology. He just established his little group and started doing it. I think he eventually got grants, and today he charges volunteers for staying there.

Anyway, so I’m thinking about a lot of things – even more than mentioned here, but I’m not fully convinced that getting started with a number of these projects is worthwhile, or sustainable. Few people across the world care at all about reptiles. I’ve looked at Kickstarter and Indiegogo.com – where people can raise funds (crowd-source) for various ideas, causes, animals, etc. There are very few having to do with reptiles at all. Those that have been tried – haven’t received hardly any donations.

The sad fact is that most people don’t really care about snakes all that much – the general population is just too afraid of them. Many people think that snakes are better off dead. Trying to survive by working with reptiles on donations – is going to be rough, if not impossible.

Still, somehow I’d like to make it work. There are those of us that are passionate about doing something to help stop the slaughter of thousands of king cobras being sold to China as dinner, or python and cobra skins for shoes and bags.

There are some really amazing animals in the rainforests of Thailand, but a lot of them are going to go away because locals see them as easy money.

Just yesterday I changed the name of our Facebook page from “Thailand Snakes” to “Thailand Snakes and other Reptiles.” I might start to branch out to cover lizards, geckos, turtles – wildlife people are maybe more likely to care enough about to donate for.

So then, I have a lot of ideas for 2016, but not sure how much will get started. It depends mostly on figuring out some sort of sustainable funding.

If you or someone you know has a real passion about reptiles and you have an idea how I could go about funding some of these ideas, please get in touch with me.

Don’t forget about our June 2016 Thailand Field Trip event – it will creep up on us faster than you think. There are still a few spots open if you’re thinking about joining us. Start HERE to register.

I’m almost finished with another ebook – not entirely sure of the title yet, but it will be something along the lines of, “Is That Snake In Your Yard Deadly?” I got some great photographers to contribute, so it should be a nice resource for anyone living in Thailand. I will send an email out and write a note here when I release it.

If you haven’t joined the email list – join HERE to get information I sometimes don’t release here through the website.

OK, have a GREAT NEW YEAR! If you’re up to something with snakes or reptiles in Thailand, or anywhere, feel free to share with me using the CONTACT page.

Cheers!

Vern L.

2016 Snake Related Goals

Marc with Gonyosoma oxycephalum.
Marc with Gonyosoma oxycephalum (Red-tailed Racer). These non-venomous snakes are fairly common and grow to 2.4 m.

Here are some things I’ve been thinking about lately as the year ends. These are my snake-related goals and ideas for the new year.

  1. Less handling of snakes, more photos and videos of them in their natural habitat.
  2. More night herping video.
  3. Less use of the tongs at all. I rarely use them now, but I’d like to almost eliminate their use except for high in the tree grabs of species I have yet to record.
  4. Create an internship of some sort. Maybe 1-week here herping and learning about Thailand’s snakes and other reptiles / amphibians.
  5. More detailed logging of snake and other reptile finds. I’m really interested in finding some patterns that might indicate when certain snakes are more likely to be found than others.
  6. Less handling of king cobras over 2 meters. Scary snakes!
  7. Find a juvenile king cobra in the wild.
  8. Check off some other species I haven’t found: Bungarus fasciatus, Boiga jaspidea, Daboia. russeli, Calliophis bivirgatus especially.
  9. No venomous bites.
  10. A successful 2016 Herping Event.

You have any goals for the new year?

December 2015 Snake Note

It’s the end of the herping season for 2015 – not only is the year winding down, but there is a real dearth of snakes in the usual areas. I made it a goal to herp more during the latter part of the year because usually from about November through April you can’t find me in the forest at night looking for reptiles and other wildlife. I wanted to find out if I was missing out on something.

This year I went out at night a number of times during October, November and December. I, and those that came with me, found 40+ snakes during this time. I have to say that is about half or less of what can typically be found during a similar effort in the June – July time period. So it’s less productive for sure, but if you’re itching to get out there and find something cool to look at – it’s worth going. There were a couple of “one snake nights” and probably there was even a no-snake night, but I try not to remember those.

This morning I’m sure the air temperature was down to 24°C (75°F) as I took my daughter to school on the motorbike. That was the coldest air I’ve felt in a year!

I’ve had some discussions with other friends about why the herping declines so harshly at the end and beginning of the year.

There are a number of features in play – mainly the temperature and the humidity – both of which change pretty drastically toward December. Twenty-five degrees C is not cold by any means, and snakes can surely move around in that temperature, but when the average temps are closer to 28-32, I think 25 becomes quite cool for them too. It’s likely well outside their ideal range.

The humidity also plunges during these dry months without rain. Snakes prefer a certain humidity level to thrive – and probably the low levels of the dry season make the snakes take a little break when it nose-dives.

The other factor, and this might be a bigger one than both those already mentioned, but tied to them, is there are very few frogs, lizards, skinks and other prey walking around during the dry season. There are some frogs, there is the occasional gecko or lizard, but maybe they aren’t the preferred species? Maybe we see fewer kraits (snake eaters) because the smaller fossorial snakes are curled up in a ball in a hole in the dirt somewhere, riding out the dry season. Could be that too.

All these factors seem to have some effect, serving to make November through April – poor herping season in the country. Other evidence that supports this is I get far fewer requests to identify snakes at my online service. I also see far, far fewer snakes DOR (Dead On Road) or crossing the road.

Whether there are less snakes to find during the daytime, is something I cannot really comment on other than DORs and those crossing the road. I don’t go looking specifically for snakes during the daylight hours, so I’m not sure whether their numbers drop so much during the dry season.

Anybody have any idea on that?

Thailand Anaconda

Just a quick note here to clear something up. We get some searches for people looking for anacondas in Thailand – Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Pattaya.

There are no anacondas in the country of Thailand. At least not natively. There are PYTHONS here.

We have mostly reticulated pythons, but then there are also Burmese pythons and Blood pythons.

Reticulated pythons get as long as an anaconda, but not as thickly muscled, nor do they weigh as much. The biggest reticulated python I’ve seen in the country was about 6.5 meters (21.3 feet). Supposedly they reach 30 feet.

Cheers!

Vern

Snake Bite – Red-Necked Keelback – Rhabdophis subminiatus

A couple months back I received an email from a concerned father whose son was bitten by a red-necked keelback (Rhabdophis subminiatus) he had found in their neighbor’s garden.

“My son is suffering from non clotting, severe swelling, and paralysis and is now in ICU, where his vital and neuro signs are ok, but blood not good.”

These snakes have, in the past, not been identified as a dangerous snake. Many people have them as pets, and free-handle them with bare hands. Sometimes these snakes bite, but once they are handled a bit they usually calm down and rarely bite. There have been some cases in the literature where bites have resulted in hospitalization, and there has been a push to identify these snakes as what they are – venomous, and dangerous.

Colubrids, rear-fanged snakes, are nearly all venomous. Venom is modified saliva that helps the snake kill and break down the body of their chosen food.

I was excited to have a response from the father of this boy that spent 2 weeks in a Thailand hospital after suffering 2 bites from this snake.

Here’s what I learned after some questions by email…

1. Can you tell anything about how the bite occurred? Was the snake typically calm – and then, out of the ordinary behavior – it bit your son?

Calm, he was showing off to his friend’s that he can handle snakes, this was a wild one not a pet. He has a constrictor, a corn snake and a python as pets, all fairly placid, but the keelback he had no understanding of.

2. Approximately how long did the snake bite down on your son’s hand? Was it less than 1 second? 1-3 seconds? 3-5? 10? 60 or more? This is the most important question because in the past we haven’t seen enough venom transferred from quick bites, or even repetitive quick bites…

Between 30-40sec I believe, wouldn’t let go

3. Did the snake bite more than once that day?

Bit him twice within a few minutes.

4. Did the snake routinely bite your son – often?

First time.

5. Can you tell me approximately how long was the snake? Do you have any photos of it? Can you please send if you do?

No photo’s I’m afraid, he didn’t mention how long it was, but he will be back from school at the weekend, and I’ll fish more info out of him.

6. Did you get the snake in Thailand? There in Phuket, or where?

Wild snake in his friend’s garden (Phuket).

*******

So, here again – the snake bit down for an extended period of time – 30+ seconds, and had time to squeeze a lot of venom into the boy’s hand.

There is no known antivenin for the Rhabdophis subminiatus as it is here in Thailand. In Japan there is a small amount of antivenin produced for their local species. To my knowledge there has been nobody treated with this antivenin outside of Japan, and I’m sure they would not be all that interested to give up some of their small supply to export to another country.

More information on venom toxicity and treatment after bite by this snake: R. subminiatus.

Venom Characteristics (from http://www.afpmb.org/content/venomous-animals-r#Rhabdophissubminiatus)

Mainly procoagulants, which can cause renal failure; plus mild neurotoxic factors. Envenomation does not always occur. Bite may be almost painless w/ minimal local swelling. Symptoms of envenomation may include local numbness, headache, nausea, & vomiting; in severe cases renal failure has caused human deaths. No known antivenom currently produced.

LD50 for intravenous injection – .125 to .129 mg/kg. That is extremely venomous, in the same category as Bungarus candidus (Malayan Krait), Naja kaouthia (Monocled Cobra), and O. hannah (King Cobra).

One WHO (World Health Organization) publication about the management of venomous snake bites in Southeast Asia mentions the antivenin for Rhabdophis tigrinus in Japan as having some effect on the venom of R. subminiatus. I am not sure if this is strictly for R. subminiatus found in Japan, or not. Worth a try though if you can get them to send you some antivenin. Otherwise, there is no other option – there is no monovalent antivenin specifically for R. subminiatus.

Japan Snake Institute
Nihon Hebizoku Gakujutsu Kenkyujo
3318 Yunoiri Yabuzuka
Yabuzukahonmachi Nittagun Gunmaken 379-2301
Tel 0277 785193 Fax 0277 785520
[email protected]
www.sunfield.ne.jp/~snake-c/
Yamakagashi (Rhabdophis tigrinus) antivenom. Also effective against rednecked keelback (R. subminiatus venom)

I have some time today, and I’m curious what their response will be. I’ll write them to see whether they could, in an emergency, be able to send some antivenin here to Thailand to treat a bite by R. subminiatus or R. tigrinus.

OK, I’ve written them, lets see if they respond…


 

Update 2/11/2016 – No, they did not respond at all. Nothing. Today I was thinking about the topic and decided to write more people to see if I could get some vials of Rhabdophis tigrinus antivenom from Japan to try in treating patients with complications from bites of R. subminiatus. The following is the letter I’m sending to a number of researchers, scientists, and again, to “The Japan Snake Institute.”
Dear Toru Hifumi,

Greetings from Thailand! I am a snake enthusiast from the USA, living in Thailand for the past 11 years.

I read your paper, “Effect of antivenom therapy of Rhabdophis tigrinus (Yamakagashi snake) bites​.”

I have been researching the subject of Rhabdophis envenomation because I have had a few experiences here, helping young (

In two cases the victim was a young male child. One was 12 years old, and the other was only 9 years old. In both cases the boys had kept the snakes as pets and thought them to be harmless.

Both were admitted to hospital intensive care for 10-14 days with bleeding from various orifices and ultimately renal failure.

I have read that your antivenom may help particularly in cases of renal failure.

On two occasions I emailed staff at “The Japan Snake Institute” about possibly purchasing some antivenom to help these boys recover. Unfortunately, I never received any reply from them at all.

I am hoping you will reply favorably after reading this note!

As you know, Thailand has not made antivenom for any snake in the Rhabdophis genus. R. chrysargos and R. nigrocinctus are also found in Thailand, and they may have similarly toxic venom.

I anticipate more emergency situations involving children in the coming year(s) and I must try to help in any way I can.

I am asking you if I can purchase some of the R. tigrinus antivenom for experimental use by hospital staff when patients in Thailand are envenomated by this snake.

We are not seeking to make any profit from this venture, the antivenom will be provided to Thailand hospitals on a case-by-case basis, and at cost (no markup).

As I understand your article to read, each vial of freeze-dried R. tigrinus antivenom, Equine (lot #0001) is able to neutralize the coagulant activity of about 4 mg of R. tigrinus venom.

If we were able to purchase just 10 vials, or even 5, that could be a significant help to patients here in Thailand who need it – especially children.

Would you please respond favorably to this request?

Thank you for your time and concern about what will most certainly be in the near future – a life and death matter.

With highest regards,

Vern J. Lovic
ThailandSnakes.com

Blue Necked Keelback Envenomation

Blue-necked Keelback. Macropisthodon rhodomelas. Copyright R. Subaraj. Email: serin@swiftech.com.sg
Blue-necked Keelback – Macropisthodon rhodomelas. Copyright R. Subaraj.

This is a snake found in deep southern Thailand that I’ve not written anything about, but some conversation last night reminded me to put something about online as a warning to others that might encounter or even keep this snake in captivity.

The Blue-Necked Keelback, Macropisthodon rhodomelas is a small colubrid snake that looks innocuous enough, but is one that has the potential to cause some serious damage. I was reading a scientific paper from a man in Singapore that had one captive, that bit down on his finger and chewed for a bit before releasing him. This 120 kg man (264 lbs) fell to the floor a minute after being bitten by this snake. Here is the complete paper on PDF. It would be great if you’d share this page with anyone that you know who keeps snakes, as this snake is frequently regarded as harmless, like the Rhabdophis subminiatus (Red-necked keelback) once was.

Blue Necked Keelback Paper (click)

Here’s a paper about a venom study of Macropisthodon rudis, a closely related species in the same Genus.

Cheers,

Vern