Category Archives: Thailand Snake Journal

Thailand Snake Journal – 3 Deadly Kraits

As I mentioned in the snake journal post previous to this one I got a call to come and see some kraits at my friend’s place. I just returned from there and he had a number of snakes that I shot video of including the Ridley’s Racer, Mangrove Snake, Red-Tailed Racer, and the Yellow Banded Kraits.

Apparently he knows a guy in another Thailand province that is able to get snakes on a regular basis. Probably the guy catches them for people that call to have dangerous snakes taken away from their homes. Here in Krabi we don’t have many of the ngoo sam leeum (Bungaris fasciatus), Banded Kraits for some reason. I’ve yet to see this yellow – black snake dead on the road in three years – so that tells me they are rather rare. One of my friends works at a snake show and he also goes out to villagers homes when they call to have a snake removed. He said he has never seen the yellow-black banded krait before. He has been in Krabi for three years.

The banded krait is not nearly as deadly as it’s sister, the Malayan Krait – the black and white variety. It’s damn toxic, but you probably are not going to die from a bite from this snake as long as you are treated at a hospital quickly when your breathing stops, which it almost inevitably does.

There is little pain at the bite site with toxic krait bites that result in envenomation. The venom starts working on the nerves of the muscles first. If you’re interested in exactly how someone dies from a bite from a krait you should get the book, “The Snake Charmer”. Joe Slowinski details the effects of a bite he took from a many banded krait in Burma while on a herping field trip (expedition). The many banded krait was a 10″ baby that bit him for about 10 seconds one witness stated. That’s a long bite. The venom of that krait was ranked third in toxicity for all terrestrial snakes in the world. The inland taipan and the brown snake of Australia were first and second in strength of venom.

So I was able to touch the tail and back of the banded kraits today. The kraits have a triangle cross sectional shape to their bodies. Hence the reason Thais call them lee-um – which means triangle in Thai. These banded kraits have the most pronounced triangle shape to them, versus the Malayan Blue Krait (black – white kraits) or the Red Headed Krait.

Bungaris fasciatus are rather shy during the daylight hours, and not at their peak form. I was in the cage with 3 of them and walked toward them and they shuddered. I think you’ll see it on the video. They shake strongly – perhaps to tell you they are there – and warning you not to step on them. When there eyes were uncovered they did it in response to me raising my hands above them. Then, when both heads were buried under their bodies they did it when I walked close on the gravel next to them. The floor of the cage is concrete and transferred the vibration well.

My friend picked up the kraits a couple of times and though one of them appeared aggravated, and I thought it would bite him, it did not try. They do tend to jerk in a spasm though – even when held by the tail and dangling – probably to show their discomfort at being handled.

I’d love to get some close up video of the inside of the kraits mouth and rear-fangs if possible. It will probably take a while before he’s comfortable to do that. These snakes are very powerful. When they move you can tell – they are strong and have lots of energy when they want to. They are primarily snake eaters, and eat venomous as well as non-venomous snakes.

The maximum size yellow banded kraits get here in Thailand is about 1.6 meters. All three of the specimens I saw today were just less than that in size, and yet still very impressive.

If you are in southern Thailand and you’ve never seen a banded krait close-up and personal before maybe I can get you a private audience with one. Zap me an email. If too many people write, I won’t be able to help anyone, but if only 1-2 of you, then yes, that’s doable.

Thailand Snake Journal – Kraits

Got  a call from my favorite Thai friend this morning…

Friend: Vern?

Me: How’s it going man?

Friend: Good. I have 3 kraits.

Me: SCORE! What time can I come to see them?

Friend: 3pm is good

Me: Excellent – see you then, thanks man.

This guy is well-connected in the Thailand snake world. I guess with all the rain, and probably some night herping – these guys were able to find three kraits. I’ll find out what exactly they have today at 3pm.

This krait call was such a rush… it goes right along with last night eating dinner at one of my favorite restaurants. I started herping around and looking for snakes there. There weren’t any other customers – just us, and the place had a marsh in back of it and numerous small ponds with frogs all over the place. It’s snake central over there – I’m sure.

I asked the owner’s son whether they found many snakes and told him that I collect the venomous snakes. He said – Ngoo Sam Lee-um in Thai – it’s a Bungarus Fasciatus. I said, YEAH! I probably scared the poor kid. He told me where he’s seen it before. I’ll go back for some night herping as soon as I get up the strength for some night herping. Maybe wait for a group to come herping with me as I’m sure that place holds more than just Bungarus.

Anyone up for finding kraits at night?

Thailand Snake Journal – Herping Field Trip #8

Our Thai guide took us to a place that looked snakey from the start. I’d never been in this particular part of the forest, but he said he goes there to find cobras.

Our first find was after an hour of looking – one of the guys paying for the trip, Barry, found a really nice specimen of Red-Necked Keelback. These snakes are common in Thailand, but every time I see one I just love the things. This one was defensive and flared up like a cobra and showed us all the amazing colors… red, green, yellow – these are rainbow colored snakes. They are harmful only if it bites and hangs on. This one was a biter, and our Thai guide got tagged quickly. We didn’t see any break in the skin, and the snake let go as fast as it struck. We guess no envenomation – he didn’t experience any symptoms as the day wore on.

Our second found snake of the day was a small monocled cobra – Naja kaouthia, and it was a lovely black color. These snakes – at least in this locale – are at their most beautiful when they’re completely black. As they get older they turn a brownish color that isn’t all that cool.

We took it further up the path where the herpers from Australia could get good photos. It was a really stunning snake. I didn’t bring my camera because I like to focus more on the people and what they’re doing. There’s a lot of ways someone could do something stupid while herping. I can get photos anytime. Now, if we found a king cobra – that would be different… as you don’t see those in the wild on a daily or maybe even yearly basis.

After almost three hours we called it quits. There were numerous frogs and small lizards we saw on the trip. Those are always a bonus. Nobody was much interested in them – everyone had snake on the brain.

Thailand Snake Journal – Caught a Golden Tree Snake

Golden Tree Snake found in Southern Thailand
Golden Tree Snake found today in Southern Thailand among some vines on a fence. Chrysopelea ornata ornatissima.
I was hanging out with the snake guys today for a few hours and they got a call to come out and pick up a king cobra. I was excited – but, once we got there the cobra had moved from where it was hiding and we couldn’t find it. We did however see the tracks of a very large – 4+ meter python that came the past night to steal a chicken from the guy’s pen. Guy said the chicken was about 4kg. That’s 9 lb. That’s nothing for a 4 meter python, or bigger. We’re guessing the size based on how deeply it sank into the soft dirt.

Common rat snake, southern Thailand.
This is a small specimen of rat snake, maybe 1.5 meters. They grow to nearly 3 meters.
So, we’re on the way back to the snake place and Yaya stops the truck and points left out my window and says – green snake! I jump out and find it among the leaves and grab it’s tail as it’s trying to get away.

He turns to strike at me – but, can’t reach because too many vines in the way.

Nang jumps out of the back seat and grabs the snake so I can film.

They are called “Golden Tree Snakes”. They are sometimes called “Flying Snakes”. They can jump from 100 meter heights and glide down into the bough of another tree or even just hit the ground. They flatten out when they fall – and they are unharmed when they hit. Amazing, huh?

These pics are from today. The guys went out before I arrived and caught a grey rat snake, as you can see here. Also a beautiful specimen. Shame someone whacked it with a stick at the house it was found at!

The Snake Charmer – a Life and Death in Pursuit of Knowledge – Book Review

The Snake Charmer - a book about Joseph Slowinski's life.
Click to purchase this book. We get a small commission as an affiliate, but this does not affect how much you pay for the book.

[Last Updated: 10 May 2017]

Probably some of you have read the story of famous herpetologist, Joe Slowinski. I say “the story” because he died from the bite of a juvenile many banded krait (Bungarus multicinctus) in northern Burma (Myanmar) in 2001.

Just a couple of comments here, I’m not a great book reviewer!

I expected the book to be much better than it was. I paid $9.99 at Kindle books for it and was disappointed in the end, but glad I read it – if that makes any sense.

There were some readable parts in the book, but overall it delved too far into stuff that had little interest to me. Readers want to know – what crazy stuff did Joe do when he was little, and when he was an adult?

In what ways was Joe reckless? In what ways was he brilliant?

The book hit on those areas a little bit, but not as much as I would have liked. It was like a biography about Joe but then talked a lot about the politics of Burma. There were lame introductions to snakes before some of the chapters. Maybe all of them. I tried not to pay attention.

Why not tell a story about Joe dealing with whatever snake you’re going to talk about – not just give it to us without any context. These were like factoids thrown up to make up some pages in the book. More stories about either Joe or others with that snake would have been a much better approach.

The manner in which Joe’s death occurred – as detailed by the book didn’t make much sense to me at all if that’s the way it happened. He was either still under the influence of alcohol, or a complete idiot.

1. Joe is said to have reached into a snake bag to pull out a snake. Who in their right mind does this unless they are absolutely sure what the snake inside it is – because the person put it in there himself? I couldn’t imagine a skilled herpetologist doing this based on anything his assistant said about which snake was in the bag. That said, apparently he did. I’ve yet to do this. I don’t foresee ever doing it. I’ve never seen anyone do this.

2. Joe was bitten, pulled the snake out of the bag and said, “That’s a fucking krait.” As the snake hung from the base of his finger – still latched on – and still squirting venom into his finger. He didn’t pull the snake off his finger immediately, and it took ten seconds for Joe to get the snake off his finger.

WHAT? That makes no sense at all. I think everyone in their right mind would rip that snake right off the finger – breaking all the krait’s teeth – and not feel too badly about it, and, stay alive. Joe was well aware that this was the snake with the most toxic terrestrial snake venom outside of Australia. Is that really what happened?

There was no blood and Joe could not find puncture holes on his finger from the krait. Yeah? I don’t know. If the snake could inject enough venom to kill him, there must have been a sizable puncture hole. I didn’t like how this was gone over so quickly. Maybe when Joe rubbed his finger before looking for the puncture, he removed any minute trace of dry or wet blood, and hid the hole(s) completely?

Joe Slowinski, famous American Herpetologist after bitten by banded krait in northern Burma.
Joe Slowinski, famous American Herpetologist after bitten by banded krait in northern Burma.

So, I wasn’t too impressed with the book. I’m glad I read it, but I wish it was free. I’ve read it three times now to see what all I could get out of it. Pretty good for a book that I thought could be much better!

Did you like the book, or no?