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 60 of them venomous and dangerous to humans.

King Cobra – Largest Venomous Snake in World

An adult king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) in southern Thailand, resting on a branch.

KING COBRA (Ophiophagus hannah – Thailand King Cobra)

In Greek, ‘snake eater.’ Sometimes called ‘Hamadryad.’ Discovered and described by Danish naturalist, Theodore Edward Cantor in 1836. The species name, hannah reflects the snake’s arboreal habits, from Greek mythology it refers to tree dwelling nymphs of the same name.

IDENTIFICATION

Ophiophagus hannah occupies its own genus, Ophiophagus. This is different from other cobras in the Naja genus which have multiple species within the genus. There has been talk about breaking up the genus into a number of species, as differences exist in coloration, scalation, and in comparison, king cobras can be easily distinguished by the shape and size of the neck hood. Kings have a longer, thinner hood. Other cobras grow to maximum length around two meters in length – much smaller than king cobras. The king cobra has chevrons lighter in color than the body color, on the neck and body that may be very pronounced, as in kings from China, or muted, as we see on melanistic king cobras here in Southern Thailand. A technical difference between Ophiophagus hannah and all other cobras is the existence of a pair of scales on the top and rear of the head called, ‘occipital scales.’ They are located adjacent to each other behind the usual 9-scale arrangement typical of colubrids and elapids.

King Cobra Scalation Reference Chart
King Cobra Scalation Reference Chart

Image from Creative Commons – Wikipedia. Link here.

THAI LANGUAGE

In Thai language, it sounds like Ngoo how chang (literally “snake cobra elephant”, or ngoo chong ahng. There are many names for this snake.

AVERAGE AND MAXIMUM LENGTH

Max length about 5.85 meters. The presenter at the Queen Saovabha Memorial Snake Institute in Bangkok said the largest king was caught in Nakhon Si Thammarat in Thailand’s south, near Surat Thani province and it was 19 feet 2 inches in length.

RANGE

All over Thailand and most of Southeast Asia.

Thailand King Cobra, Ophiophagus hannah, is the world's largest venomous snake, and is found across most of Southeast Asia, including this one found in Thailand.
Ophiophagus hannah. Venomous and potentially deadly. Grows to around to 6-meters. Eats other snakes primarily. If bitten, victim may die within 10-20 minutes.

NOTES

I’ve seen a few king cobras (hamadryad) 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 an eight meter long snake. I know it is probably impossible, but I’m not joking. The tail was absolutely massive, longer 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 close by.

Another time I saw a king about one-hundred twenty 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 four-meter long 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.

Recently Tom Charlton and I found a 3-meter king cobra in Krabi and got some great shots and video of it. Facebook photo of it here.

Kings are all over Thailand and can be found near houses, or really – just about 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. One study done by the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute in Bangkok showed that king venom is actually more toxic the younger the snake is.

KING COBRA HABITAT

Kings 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.

Another interesting bit of information is that the king cobra is said to be able to see as far as 100 meters during daylight.

ACTIVE TIME

The snake is mainly diurnal – found active during the daytime, but can also be active also at night.

FOOD (PREY)

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.

King Cobra Eats Red Tailed Racer Snake - Thailand
King Cobra eating a Red-tailed Racer (Oxycephalum gonyosoma) Snake – Thailand.

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 not to be taken lightly. I know a man personally, his brother was bitten on the upper arm/shoulder and died in less than 10 minutes on the way to hospital.

King cobra skull showing large teeth and thick, rather short fangs for injecting venom during envenomation.
King cobra skull showing large teeth and thick, rather short fangs for injecting venom during envenomation.

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 (and have) killed elephants with a good bite. More information on venom constituents and treatment for king cobra snakebite here.

O. HANNAH ANTIVENOM

There is a specific antivenin for the king cobras manufactured by the Red Cross Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute in Bangkok, Thailand and available online for about $110 (May, 2015) for enough antivenin to counteract .8ml of king cobra venom. If the hospital you’re in does not have it in stock and cannot order it quickly from another nearby source, there is an alternative. Tiger snake antivenin can also work well. Online: Snake-Antivenin.com (no affiliation).

OFFSPRING

Ophiophagus hannah is the only snake known in the world that creates a nest (usually of bamboo and other leaves). This snake lays eggs which they stay with in the nest until ready to hatch. When the eggs begin hatching, the female king 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 dendrophila).

Young king cobras spend their early months, and possibly years in the trees. However, recently (Spring 2016) I have found two hatchling king cobras dead on the road in Krabi. Did they attempt to cross the road immediately after hatching while in search of a proper tree to climb? Not sure. Would love to find out. If you have any insight – do let me know!

From Luke Yeomans: “A female usually deposits 20 to 40 eggs into the mound, which acts as an incubator. She stays with the eggs and guards the mound tenaciously, rearing up into a threat display if any large animal gets too close, for roughly 60 to 90 days. Inside the mound, the eggs are incubated at a steady 28 °C (82 °F). When the eggs start to hatch, instinct causes the female to leave the nest and find prey to eat so she does not eat her young. The baby king cobras, with an average length of 45 to 55 cm (18 to 22 in), have venom which is as potent as that of the adults. They may be brightly marked, but these colours often fade as they mature. They are alert and nervous, being highly aggressive if disturbed.”

CONSERVATION STATUS

The IUCN Red List publishes information about the conservation status of reptiles across the globe. Here is what they had to say about King Cobras:

Ophiophagus hannah has been assessed as Vulnerable. This species has a wide distribution range, however, it is not common in any area in which it occurs (with the apparent exception of Thailand, and there only in forested areas), is very rare in much of its range, and has experienced local population declines of over 80% over 10 years in parts of its range. Pressure on this species from both habitat loss and exploitation are high throughout this snake’s range, and while no quantitative population data is available, it can be conservatively estimated that the population size has declined globally by at least 30% over an estimated three-generation period of 15-18 years. More detailed population monitoring in the more poorly-known parts of this snake’s range may reveal that this is a conservative estimate.

I mentioned earlier having seen many dozens of king cobras run through the snake show here in our local area. That is just one King Cobra Show out of perhaps a dozen in the country. If every show caught and disposed of 50 king cobras annually, that’s 600 adult king cobras yearly that are being depleted from the forests just here in Thailand. Kings mate once per year and their eggs are highly vulnerable to predators like monitors, other snakes, rats, and weather phenomena like high humidity and monsoon rains. Kings lay eggs just before the rains start.

My best guess is that king cobras are disappearing from the wild at a frightening rate. We only mentioned snake shows here, but what about all the king cobras that are found and killed across southeast Asia for food, or out of fear? There must be hundreds more, perhaps thousands per year more that are killed by people that come across them.

I hope the IUCN Red List updates their listing for Ophiophagus hannah and assigns a label more serious than “Vulnerable.” Something drastic is needed to save the country of Thailand’s wild king cobras before they disappear like they did in Penang, Malaysia.

CLASSIFICATION

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Ophiophagus
Species: O. hannah

Three King Cobras in Thailand
Notice the light chevron across the back of the mid-body (right) ? Until the King flares his hood you can tell it’s a king by those bands. In addition, the head is very distinctive, and large compared to any other snake except a Python.

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. Even better to interact with it. Gotta love Thailand!

King Cobra's forked tongue is purple, red, and black.
King Cobra’s colorful tongue

An adult king cobra showing classic threat response, hooding and preparing to strike as it senses danger. Large adult king cobra showing hood and round pupils

This page is focused on King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) snakes because their demise is imminent here in Thailand, and already in most countries they are not found in near the numbers they once were. On the island of Penang in Malaysia, it is said that kings can only be found very occasionally on the mountain. They used to be common. I was lucky enough to see one there on a very steep section of the hill while descending. It was three to four meters long and much thicker than my forearm. It was in the underbrush, moving slowly, perhaps thinking it was unobserved. That was two years ago, and maybe that snake has been a meal for someone by now. It’s entirely possible.

In Thailand I’ve watched just one snake show take over fifty king cobras each year out of the wild. They ‘rescue’ them from homes, yards, businesses, gardens, and farms. The kings spend a couple weeks or months rubbing their faces raw and bleeding against the fence trying desperately to escape. Some of them are put in the king cobra show – where they are teased mercilessly three to ten times each day for tourists that are interested in seeing snakes, but don’t really understand the state of the kings that are held there.

I cannot imagine that king cobras as a species have more than another few years of existence in Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Laos, Singapore, and Taiwan. The IUCN Red List site lists king cobras as ‘Vulnerable.” Kings are being collected and sold in great numbers to buyers in Bangkok who cook them up as a meal, or send them on to China for the same purpose.

It wasn’t long ago that the Queen Saovabha Snake Farm – “The Red Cross Snake Farm” in Bangkok was ‘broken into’ and something like seventy king cobras were ‘stolen.’ Hmm, wonder where they went. Seventy king cobras had to fetch a nice price, I’d think. Tens of thousands of US Dollars – easy. Not accusing, it’s just a very sad state of reality for these and other snakes poached for their skin, blood, bile ducts, tongues, and meat.

So this page will be a collection of all the best information I can source about my favorite species of snake, King Cobra – Ophiophagus hannah. If you have some article, book, documentary, photo, video, or other bit of information you’d like to see listed here, just write via the contact form at this link. It is found under the HOME menu at the top of all pages.

 

Video of a King Cobra breathing – Listen – You Can Hear It:

Update 7/20/2016 – 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 slight. 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. Your chance at seeing a king cobra is not high – you would probably need weeks of walking around during the day to see one. It’s all luck!

Thais are a bit crazy about cobras – it is the most easily recognized snake, and though I have met few people that can identify other snakes, most know what a cobra looks like. There are even amulet necklaces of cobras!

 

 

June 2016 Thailand Snakes Update

JUNE 2016 SNAKEY STUFF

Got off to a busy start with a number of visitors, including the most esteemed, Al Coritz aka: ViperKeeper on YouTube. Al and I went out on our own a couple of trips but also were able to herp with a couple of my friends – Marc Littlewood and Ronny Levin. We found 3-4 snakes each night as I recall. ViperKeeper was able to add a few snakes to his Lifer List – including the Malayan Krait (B. candidus), the Brown-spotted Pit Viper (T. venustus), Mangrove Pit Viper (T. purpureomaculatus), Malayan Pit Viper (C. rhodostoma), and a Small-spotted Coral Snake (C. maculiceps). There may have been more, and there were definitely more non-venomous he’d not seen in the wild before. Great visit – so glad he finally made it over to Thailand, I’ve been inviting him for about six years!

THE EVENT

After Al left, I had to really get to work in planning the Summer Event which has managed to elude a name altogether. Elliot said it should be called, “SnakeStock 2016.” And that sounded almost reasonable, but it didn’t stick this year. Maybe next year.

We had 18 people come from all over the world to experience venomous and non-venomous snakes in various field herp activities. We climbed mountains and rode kayaks looking for snakes. Neither of which produced even one snake. Bit of a bummer there.

The event overall was a success, but bordered on catastrophe. I’ll leave it at that. We found 36 snakes and 16 species, so really quite a decent expenditure of energy by anyone’s standards. We ate awesome food and I met some amazing people. You never really know who is going to show up, and I was very pleased with the group. I’ve never herped so much in my life, so that was a new experience. Still, it hasn’t ended. I’ve got Elliot visiting and there are still 3 guys from the Event who are in town. We’re set to herp again tonight, after herping last night and finding 7 snakes, and 7 the night before. It’s definitely the right time of year, but I have noticed a big uptick in my spotting skills since I’ve been going out often. I am sure I can go out any night and find 3 snakes, probably more, depending on how much time I have. I haven’t had that confidence before.

Oh, I almost forgot… the highlight of the 5 day event, for me, was the neonate D. cyanochloris, a bronzeback snake that was just mind-bogglingly beautiful. I found one years ago at the top of a mountain with a temple – and haven’t seen it since.

THE BOOK

This next book, “Is That Snake In Your House Dangerous?” has taken MONTHS longer than I was expecting. It is difficult to rely on others for information, photos, and advice. Guess they are necessary evils but man, so much for producing the book in a couple of weeks like I thought I might – last year!

THAILAND SNAKES T-SHIRTS

I still have some XXL t-shirts left in white, green, grey, and yellow. These shirts fit the average man once washed. The material is quite decent and I have had no complaints at all.

FACEBOOK GROUP

The FB group is going well. We’ve got around 4,500 subscribers. Not a whole lot of regular contributors though. Wish I could change that. I’ll refocus on the website for a bit, having neglected it for months while the FB site is easier to share small info bits.

ON THE HORIZON

I have an idea… an overall idea about how to go about funding the rest of my days in Thailand, should I choose to stay. It involves snakes. It involves venom. It does not include milking snakes. Will reveal more as I get more into the outline of it. It’s a big idea and yet one that I think has the potential to change at least some portion of the world. Yeah, that big… Let’s see if I can pull it together.

OBLIGATORY SNAKE PHOTOS

I’ve been taking less and less photos and focusing more on videos. I have a ton of videos to put up on YouTube, but it will be a long time before I’m able to focus on them and get them uploaded. Here’s a photo or two – some snakes found recently.

Small-spotted Coral Snake in Southern Thailand's herping paradise - Krabi.
Calliophis maculiceps. Small spotted Coral Snake. Probably capable of a deadly bite, but I don’t think there are any deaths listed in the literature. If you know of one, please let me know.
Brown-spotted Pit Viper hanging out for a meal in Southern Thailand's herping paradise.
Trimeresurus venustus. Brown-spotted Pit Viper. Only the tail was visible from the road, but it’s quite distinctive…
Oriental Whip Snake with Striped Venter!
Ahaetulla prasina – Oriental Whip Snake, with a striped venter (belly) – pretty cool, right? This was an amazing find last night.

Cheers!

Vern L.
ThailandSnakes.com
Facebook.com/ThailandSnakes

Python Bites Man’s Penis from INSIDE TOILET

In Thailand Snake News today we have a case of python biting a man’s penis and damn near ripping it off. The man was able to pry the jaws and 72-sawtooth blade teeth off his penis and get to the hospital where doctors stitched him up.

In Thailand we have a lot of these squat toilets. You straddle a hole with water and do your business and get out of there. That’s the way it’s SUPPOSED to happen.

This poor guy squatted down to do his business, and the 4 meter long (13+ feet!) Python reticulatus bit down on his dangling doo-dad and tried to make a meal of his ‘stuff.’

Pythons have these massive and VERY strong teeth. I counted 72 of them in one python’s mouth at the snake show where they torturously hold the snake’s mouth open while jamming a piece of plastic garbage bag over the teeth so everyone in the audience can easily see them. (photo below)

Python reticulatus teeth - perfect for biting, and holding on.
Can you imagine these teeth chomping down on your most private of parts? This is only a 3-meter long python… a 4-meter python has even bigger head and stronger teeth!

See my video of the above by clicking HERE.

Wagler’s Pit Viper – Venomous – Dangerous

Tropidolaemus wagleri - Wagler's Pit Viper - Dangerous
Tropidolaemus wagleri – Wagler’s Pit Viper – Dangerous and potentially deadly bites.

Tropidolaemus wagleri – also called: Wagler’s Pit viper; temple viper; bamboo snake; speckled pit viper

Thais say: ngoo keow took geh

Length: Average length of 60 cm. Male smaller than female. Female maximum length at 100 cm.

Appearance: Wagler’s pit viper is short and the female is considerably thicker (3-4 times as thick) than the male. A marked difference in patterns is noted with the female becoming darker and with strong banding as you can see in the above image. The males are so radically different that they look like completely different species. In three reptile identification books I have for Thailand, they make no mention of the differences between the sexes. The female is pictured in each case.

Dorsal scale count ( 23 to 29 ) – ( 21 to 27 ) – ( 17 to 21 ) and usually 21 to 23 midbody dorsal scale rows in males and 23 to 27 midbody scale rows in females. Dorsal scales are strongly keeled in females, and lesser keeled in males.

Coloration can vary significantly among females. Here is a very yellow T. wagleri.

Tropidolaemus wagleri - very yellow phase. Coloration not altered.

 

Here is a darker colored female, but not nearly as much as the top and bottom photos on this page. Not nearly as much lateral yellow as the previous photo.

This is a brightly colored Tropidolaemus wagerli (Wagler's pit viper) which is gravid and ready to have young. It is located in a tropical rainforest in Southern Thailand.
Gravid and ready to have young. Soon to be the parent of dozens of hatchling vipers.

Besides the difference in size, thickness, and pattern, the body type is also quite different. The male grows to be around 60 cm and is long and thin, more like a wolf snake or something similar.

Below is a photo of a male Wagler’s pit viper found within one meter of a very gravid female. Obviously quite a big difference.

This is the male specimen of the species, Tropidolaemus wagleri. The female and male are markedly different in appearance of body, pattern, thickness, and coloration.

Range: Southern Thailand south of Khao Sok National Park, Suratthani province. Other countries: West Malaysia; Indonesia; Philippines. There is a concentration of these common vipers on the island of Phuket, Thailand.

Habitat: Elevations up to about 1,200 meters but most abundant at elevations from 400 up to about 600 meters in lowland primary forest, secondary forest and jungle – especially coastal mangrove. During the day these vipers can sometimes be found as little as a meter off the ground, up to a couple meters. They seem to prefer bushes over trees. Recently I found a gravid female at one meter off the forest floor and resting on a strong vine just 1 cm in diameter.

Active Time? Mainly nocturnal, but occasionally found during the day, especially during or after rain. Crepuscular in nature, they are more often active during dusk and dawn, or on an unusually dark day during heavy rain. I have found these snakes during the day in a moderate rain at 400 meters elevation, and at 2000 hours after a light rain.

Food: Birds – especially baby birds in the nest, mice and other rodents, lizards, frogs.

Defensive Behavior: Coil back into s-shape before striking. Strike is typically less than .3 meters in distance. Mouth wide-open exposing very long fangs and white tissue. Can strike in succession rather quickly. Their strike is not very fast in comparison with some of the other vipers. The heat-sensing pits between the eyes can sense temperature difference as little as 0.003 degrees Celsius. If continuously threatened they may hold their mouth wide open, like the photo above.

Venom Toxicity: Potentially deadly. Strong venom that usually does not result in death to humans. Victims experience a strong burning sensation upon envenomation, and swelling, necrosis of tissue. The multi-valent antivenom for green pit vipers treats envenomation by this snake.

Antivenom Code: SAsTRC01
Antivenom Name: Green Pit Viper Antivenin
Manufacturer: Science Division, Thai Red Cross Society
Phone: +66-2-252-0161 (up to 0164)
Address: Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, 1871 Rama IV Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330
Country: Thailand

Offspring: Live birth in September is common, with up to 41 young per litter. Male and females look different from day one, the females having light banding and the males with creme / red or brown dots on the top of the body.

Notes: Though these snakes are said to be exclusively arboreal and nocturnal, I found one on a mountain recently during the middle of the day, on the ground, during a rain shower. See the video below.

Tropidolaemus wagleri

Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Viperidae
Subfamily: Crotalinae
Genus: Tropidolaemus
Species: T. wagleri
Binomial name: Tropidolaemus wagleri

Classified by Boie, in the year 1827.

Top of head – very triangular, and thin neck (female):

Triangle Head - Female Wagler's Pit Viper

Video 1 – Wagler’s Pit Viper – found during daylight hours during a moderate rain shower with dark skies at around 400 meters elevation on a mountain in Krabi province, Southern Thailand.

Russel’s Viper – Venomous – Deadly

Russel's viper found in Sa Kaeo province near the Thailand border with Cambodia.
Russel’s viper found in Sa Kaeo province near the Thailand border with Cambodia.

Daboia siamensis (Eastern Russel’s Viper)

Thais say: Ngoo Maow Saow

Length: Maximum of 1.7 meters. Russel’s around 1 meter long are common.

Range: These snakes are found around Bangkok, West, North, and East of Bangkok. The Russel’s photos shown here are from Sa Kaeo province near Cambodia.

Habitat:  These snakes are terrestrial and prefer grassy lowland, and open areas of all sorts. They prefer dry air and ground. are not found in dense rainforest or other very humid areas often.

Active Time? Nocturnal.

Food: Mostly rodents, but will target lizards and frogs as well.

Defensive Behavior: A loud hiss can precede a bite. When striking, it coils first and strikes. This snake is strong, so bites can be deep. Simple rubber boots are probably not sufficient to stop the fangs from penetration.

Russel's viper in ambush posture.
Russel’s viper in typical ambush posture.

Venom Toxicity: Very strong. The rate of envenomation is estimated at 80% of bites. That’s high in comparison to Malayan pit vipers for instance, which is closer to 50%. Coagulopathy is common and necrosis is a possibility. Renal failure is common.

Russell’s Viper Antivenin is made at the Queen Saovabha Memorial Snake Institute in Bangkok.

Offspring: Need information for this section.

Notes: Across the globe, it has been estimated that bites from this snake kill more people than any other. This snake (Daboia vipers) are present across Asia and their bite is deep. They have strong fangs and their venom is very strong.

Russel’s have thick necks and they are the thickest of the vipers in Thailand, by far.

Color of Russel’s tends to be shades of brown.

A rather unknown occurrence – years after a bite, a man’s testicles may shrivel up, and there can be a loss of body hair. Info here.

Scientific classification: Daboia siamensis

Scientific classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Viperidae
Subfamily: Viperinae
Genus: Daboia

Binomial name: Daboia siamensis

(Classified by M.A. Smith, 1917)

Video of Russel’s Viper – If you have a video of D. siamensis at Youtube or some other video sharing site, do let me know. I’d love to replace the video below with another better one!

 

Which Snake Venom Can Shrink Your Testicles – 3 YEARS AFTER THE BITE?!

The Russel's viper, or "Chain viper" from central Thailand. Venomous, deadly, and shrinks your testicles.

The Russel’s Viper or Chain Viper, Daboia viper snakes kill more people across the globe than any other snake. Their fangs are long, strong, and permit a lot of venom to be transferred in an instant.

ONE OF THE COMPLICATIONS OF A BITE FROM THIS SNAKE IS THAT A MAN’S TESTICLES MAY SHRIVEL (testicular atrophy), AND THERE MAY BE A LOSS OF PUBIC HAIR.

Even 3 Years AFTER THE BITE!

(Source – WHO – World Health Organization publication, “Guidelines for the Clinical Management of Snake bites in the South-East Asia Region.”) Here is an abstract from a paper written on the topic.

Needless to say, this is NOT a snake you want to be bitten by.

THAILAND LOCATION –  This species is located in Central Thailand – meaning Bangkok and surrounding areas. There is no reason it couldn’t be found outside that range because ranges often change as snakes are discovered in places they previously were not found. They do prefer dry air to humid, and are not found in dense forest.

This and other species of Daboia are also found across much of Asia.

CAUTIONS – The Russell’s viper is a primarily nocturnal snake that crawls along the ground. It is found on paths, sidewalks, in backyards, and really almost anywhere. Do not walk at night without a flashlight. Do not walk in high grass or plants where you cannot see clearly to the ground. This is the type of cover these vipers may be found in, day or night.

ANTIVENIN – monovalent, “Russell’s Viper Antivenin.” Developed at the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute in Bangkok, Thailand.

Free EBook - just for signing up for free newsletter.

 

Click Here. FREE EBook – Photos of Common Thailand Snakes. FREE PDF or iBOOKS for iPad / iPhone.

Scientific classification

Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Viperidae
Subfamily: Viperinae
Genus: Daboia
Species: D. siamensis

Image Copyright ©2011 Tom Charlton.

Brown-Spotted Green Pit Viper – Venomous – Dangerous

Brown Spotted Green Viper in southern Thailand. Cryptelytrops venustus.
Trimeresurus venustus. Brown-Spotted Green Viper. Small – 70 cm. Venomous. Mildly Dangerous. Found in Southern Thailand. ©2007 ThailandSnakes.com.

Trimeresurus venustus, previously Cryptelytrops venustus – (Brown-spotted Green Pit Viper, Beautiful Pit Viper)

Thais Say: Haang Ham tai

Length: average 40-70 cm

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 a stick.

Appearance: Small vipers with usually brilliant greens, whites, and browns. Though sometimes the color can be quite muted. Dorsal scales are strongly keeled. Dorsal scale count 21 – 21 – 15.

A brightly colored T. venustus waiting in ambush atop a rock.
A brightly colored T. venustus waiting in ambush atop a rock.

Habitat:  I’ve found these vipers up to 300 meters elevation. This snake hunts almost entirely on the ground where it preys on frogs and lizards. They also enjoy primary and secondary rainforest, limestone mountains, and rubber tree 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 most of mine during daylight hours, but have also found them at night hunting prey on the ground in ambush position in culverts on certain hills.

Food: Mice, frogs, lizards. I had a good sized house gecko in the tank with this Trimeresurus venustus, but it left it alone. The pit vipers sense the heat of the animal and strike. The geckos are cold blooded so they are no hotter than their surroundings. Still, some pit vipers will eat cold blooded animals. Perhaps this snake just wasn’t hungry at the moment.

Trimeresurus venustus, the brown-spotted pit viper, aka: beautiful pit viper from Southern Thailand is one of the true vipers and is venomous but has not been shown to be deadly.

Defensive Behavior: This pit viper 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, but complications can develop. Bites are painful and 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, but they are fully capable of doing so. Bites are to be considered potentially deadly. Green Pit Viper Antivenin is available at most public hospitals in Thailand.

Antivenom Code: SAsTRC01
Antivenom Name: Green Pit Viper Antivenin
Manufacturer: Science Division, Thai Red Cross Society
Phone: +66-2-252-0161 (up to 0164)
Address: Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, 1871 Rama IV Road, Pathumwan, Bangkok 10330
Country: 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.

Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Viperidae
Subfamily: Crotilinae
Species: Trimeresurus venustus

I could find little information about this snake beyond my own experience and some of the snake identification books I have.

Dog Toothed Cat Snake – Venomous – Not Dangerous

Dog-toothed Cat Snake found in Southern Thailand.
Dog-toothed Cat Snake – Venomous – Not Dangerous. This one is darker than usual – it is melanistic.

Boiga cynodon (Dog-toothed Cat Snake)

Thais say: ngoo sy hang ma

Length: As large as 2.75 meters (8+ feet) Recently I caught one that was about 2.5 meters. They are thin snakes and have a pronounced vertebral ridge and color bands of tan, yellow, brown and black.

Range: These Dog toothed cat snakes are found only in southern Thailand from Prachuap Khiri Khan and southward to Malaysia. We found two Boiga cynodon in Krabi and one in Nakhon si Thammarat over the past year.

Habitat: Though they shy away from locations humans frequent they can be found on resorts in southern Thailand especially where there are chickens, eggs, and birds in cages. Typical habitat for the Boiga cynodon is the rain forest where they spend most of their time in the trees and bushes waiting on the perfect bird meal to land.

Active Time? Nocturnal, active at night usually – but, we found one during the day as well.

Food: Birds of all sorts, and their eggs. Birds, chickens, and quail in captivity. When hungry will also eat other animals – lizards are most likely. There are herping forum postings of a captive animal eating mice.

Defensive Behavior: Rarely bites, this is a big snake that can be hand held.

Venom Toxicity: Though they rarely bite – even when physically attacked – they can inject venom. They are rear-fanged colubrids and a prolonged bite could cause swelling and pain at the bite site. The venom can cause problems with circulation. A simple bite from this snake is not usually dangerous because the rear fangs don’t sink in during a typical bite.

Offspring: Need information for this section.

Notes: These are beautiful snakes here in Thailand – perhaps more so than the rest of Asia where they are known to be found. A couple of specimens were found locally in Krabi in southern Thailand at night and near a chicken farm in one case, in a tree on another herping field trip. These snakes are known to eat local Thais birds in the cage, and then not be able to get back out through the slats in the bird-cage, and so entrap themselves.

Coloring on these snakes varies greatly. You can see the two snakes in these images here, they were both from the same area. They are dramatically different in coloration.

Dog-toothed cat snakes are sometimes confused with vipers because their head is quite pronounced in size from the size of their necks where it meets the head. There is no viper that gets anywhere near this big – so, you can discount vipers if the snake is 1.5 meters or longer. Only the Chain Viper (Russell’s Viper) reaches 1.5 meters, and it is considerably thicker in size at the neck.

A lighter-shade of Dog-toothed cat snake found in a palm tree at night in Krabi province. The one was nearly 3 meters long.

Scientific classification: Boiga cynodon

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Subfamily: Colubrinae
Genus: Boiga
Species: B. cynodon

Scientific classification: Boiga cynodon
(Classified by Boie, in year 1827)

Video of Dog-toothed Cat Snake –

Photo credit for top of page image – my friend, Tom Charlton from the United Kingdom.