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

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Recent Snake Bites in Thailand – King Cobra and Malayan Pit Viper

Malayan pit viper with eggs
Calloselasma rhodostoma (Malayan Pit Viper) with eggs.

Here’s a bit of news out of Krabi province. Just in the last month I’ve come across two people that were bitten by two of the worst snakes in the country, in all of the world really.

The first case was almost expected. I mean, you work with deadly snakes everyday, multiple times each day, and you’ll eventually slip up and one will get you. That’s what happened to a young 19 year old that works at a cobra show. He was doing the show with the king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah). He was on his knees and moving his head around to entice the snake to strike. He stopped moving for a brief second, and the snake struck at his shoulder. The bite was more of a scrape, but it definitely scraped the shoulder of the boy pretty deeply. His scar looks serious enough. To be bitten on the shoulder right there, near the heart and near some big blood vessels probably would not have resulted in a good situation had he been envenomated. But, he lucked out tremendously. The big cobra didn’t inject any venom. LUCKY OWEN!

As you probably know, king cobras have a venom that is not all that potent. I mean, it’s comparable with pit viper venom as far as cytotoxic damage it does, but it also has the neurotoxic component that renders muscle useless and stops the heart and breathing. The exceptional power of the king cobras bite is that it can transfer up to 7 ml of venom into the body of a victim. The usual amount is about .5 ml, and that’s enough to kill most people with a good bite.

The second case of snake bite in Krabi happened to a woman that was working in her garden at mid-day. There had been no rain at all for about two months prior to the bite incident. She kept her garden water on a lot during the day so she could water her plants. The snake, a Malayan pit viper, was coiled under some plants enjoying the cool water. She put her hand close to where it was, and ZAP. It tagged her with both fangs on the hand. She quickly wento to the hospital, but never did present any symptoms. Another dry bite! So, two-for-two here in Krabi.

Venomous snake bites result in a dry bite around 50% of the time. That means that you have a 50-50 chance that there will be no other complications other than the damage to your skin where the fangs penetrated.

Be careful in your garden, and walking around. May through December is the time in Thailand and many bordering countries where snakes are at their most abundant and most active. Be especially careful not to tread on or near the Russell’s Viper or Malayan Pit Viper. These are two vipers that are well hidden on the ground and don’t tend to move out of the way when someone is walking toward them. At night – use a flashlight (torch) to see where you’re putting your feet as you walk. You do NOT want to be bitten by a venomous snake in Thailand. Take care!

 

Thailand Herping Report by David Frohlich (Acrochordus granulatus)

Thailand Herping Report by David Frohlich (Acrochordus granulatus)

I decided to go herping in a mangrove forest near Pranburi, Thailand with a friend of mine, George. We arrived there at about 8:00 p.m. The weather during March was warm and the sky was clear. Surprisingly not many insects were calling. We found 3 Long-nosed Vine Snakes (Ahaetulla nasuta) in the first 30 minutes of the walk and we were very happy with that. But they were nothing compared to the next snake I spotted about 1 hour later at about 9:30 p.m.

I saw a black and white banded snake surfacing in mid-river for air. I immediately ran into the water to grab it! My first thought was that it’s a krait of some sort, but then quickly realized that its not. It turns out it was the rare Marine File Snake also known as the “Wart Snake” (Acrochordus granulatus)! These snakes grow to about 1 meter long and has black and white banding the entire length of the body. They are rather rare marine snakes that are active at night and are predominantly water dwellers. They eat small fish and saltwater eels. What a beautiful snake! I had never seen one of these before. The skin feels rough like sand, but at the same time very soft as well. Unlike any snake I have ever felt, very difficult to describe. The eyes are bright blue and the tail is slightly flattened into a paddle shape. Once I brought it out on land to get a good look at it, I felt 7 huge lumps in the snakes body in the back half of the body. I’m am assuming she is pregnant and those lumps are the juveniles, these snakes don’t lay eggs like most snakes, they give live birth. I am very happy to have found this truly awesome snake in Thailand.

The Marine File Snake is non-venomous and of no danger to humans. Acrochordus granulatus can be quickly identified by small blue eyes located on top it’s head, the lack of enlarged ventral scales, and loose-fitting skin with a gritty, sandy feel to it. On land, it is very sluggish and moves slowly. This snake is in the same Genus as the Javan File Snake (Acrochordus javanicus), which is brown in color, as thick as a human leg, and up to 3 meters in length.

Here is a short video of the snake:

Here are some photos of the Marine File Snake in the location found:

Achrochordus granulatus - Marine File Snake Handheld
Copyright 2014 David Frohlich.
Achrochordus granulatus - Marine File Snake Full Body Photo
Copyright 2014 David Frohlich.
Achrochordus granulatus - Marine File Snake Close up photo
Copyright 2014 David Frohlich.

 

Found Another New Snake – Not Yet Classified – Possible New Discovery

New Green Snake - Thailand

I was getting in one of my mountain climbing workouts and on the dead tree next to me was a small (50cm) dark green snake coming out of a hole where it looked like termites were munching wood. He was head down and just gliding slowly down the vertical trunk of the tree.

I ripped off my shirt and softly grabbed it. I’ve caught 3 of these same species of snake before, and none of them bit or struck, but I don’t take any chances when I don’t know what kind of snake it is.

I had my friend give me a plastic bag and I put the snake in there until I could drink all my water from a bottle and transfer the snake into the bottle. It was 10 minutes before I would find something to poke holes in the bottle. I let air in twice during that time. I’m always scared they don’t have enough to breathe.

I got home and tried to shoot some photos and video, but the light is horrible today and the snake was not cooperative at all. It is calm, but it is calm and full of energy. It never stops in one place so I can get a good photo. Hence the photos I’ll upload to this page are not perfect. Will work on getting better images tomorrow.

Also tomorrow I’ll try to get scale counts and some better video. It’s exciting to know that very few (or nobody) has seen this snake before. It isn’t described in the literature for Thailand. Maybe it came up the peninsula from Malaysia. Not sure. Anyway, enjoy the pics. Will post more as I get them.

New Oligodon Snake Discovery

 

 

Chiang Mai Snake, Thailand Snake Farms Raided

Article to read

This was interesting reading. I’ve not heard of something like this for a long time here in Thailand. Apparently Thailand’s National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department officials raided 3 different snake ‘farms’ – which really aren’t farms at all, they’re just snake shows for tourists.

Pythons, cobras, and other snakes were confiscated – some being taken to the Queen Saovabha Snake Farm in Bangkok, which really is a sort of snake farm. Not sure they focus on breeding, but they do venom collection and it is the best known snake facility in Thailand.

Are Snakes in Thailand Aggressive?

Wagler's pit viper in ThailandLast updated: 20 December 2016.

I got a note from a woman that had spent some time in Thailand and she was terrified of snakes. Now that she made it through a successful stay without seeing one close enough to interact with – she is wondering how close she came to them, and whether the chance would be high of seeing one in the future. I’ll paste her note below…

* * *

Hi,

I’ve just returned from a week living in the village of Huay Pakoot in the mountains north of Doi Intathon.  My daughter and I were doing some volunteer elephant work with Global Vision International which involved trekking in the forest every day for 4-5 hours following the elephants.  I’m absolutely terrified of snakes, and walking in the jungle was easily the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.  I’m still not over it.

I didn’t see a snake in the woods, only two on the road (one dead, one moving, but I think the car we were in killed it).  The people we were with assured me that despite their best efforts, none of them had ever seen a snake either in the village or in the woods.  I think that was just due to either inattention or lack of skill.  Reading your site, it seems that snakes could have been in the village and were certainly in the forest.

I deliberately did not research this before I left, as I knew I wouldn’t have the courage to do it at all if I knew more about it.  Now that it’s over, and I managed to both do it, and not make a fool of myself, how close did I come to snakes?  Is there any way to know?  I told myself that a snake with any sense at all would just get out of my way, and that’s what I’m assuming they did.  But some of the snakes you describe as aggressive.  What do you think?  Was it just luck that I didn’t meet a snake?  If I go back, what are the chances of running into one?

Thanks for your kind help.

* * *

I think fear of snakes is something that puts many people off visiting Thailand. My mother is one of those people that refuses to visit just based on this unfounded fear. In eight years I’ve seen a couple of hundred snakes. My wife of eight years, outside of those I brought home, has seen 3 crossing the road, and one I pointed out to her on a bush. That’s it, in eight years for her.

Why did I see so many? I’ve looked for hundreds of hours to find them. I look primarily at night in the jungle.

Tourists envision snakes coming out of every crack in the wall, up through the drains of their shower and sinks, and outside every door they step. It just isn’t true. There are 200+ species of snake in Thailand. 85% of them cannot hurt you even if they wanted to – and none of them want to except possibly a giant python – but attacks on humans moving around are very rare. Sometimes when sleeping out in the jungle – someone will be eaten. That happens once every ten years or so. It is not common. You are MUCH more likely to get bitten by a shark than you are a large python in Thailand.

Snakes fear everything they cannot eat. They have no reason to interact with anything they cannot eat, so they flee whenever they possibly can. The only snakes that can eat you in Thailand – are:

1. Burmese python

2. Reticulated Python

I have never once seen a Burmese python in the jungle. I have only seen a half-dozen Reticulated pythons in the wild – none of which were near the size (5 meters) to be able to eat me. Large snakes like that are very, very rare.

A snake’s natural instinct is to get out of the way when someone is coming. Very few snakes will just stay where they are when someone is coming close. Two of those snakes that don’t tend to move, and that are very dangerous are:

1. Malayan Pit Viper – a brown, tan, or pinkish triangle-backed patterned snake that lays in the grass or low cover and waits for mice or other rodents primarily. For some reason they are about the laziest snakes in existence – they just stay right there until someone steps on them or next to them – and then sometimes bite. Sometimes they release venom when they bite, other times they conserve it. If you are bitten by a venomous snake it doesn’t necessarily mean you were envenomated (have venom in the wound). This snake, along with the kraits – are responsible for the most deaths in Thailand. However, this would NOT be the case if everyone bitten went immediately to the hospital. Some locals favor a treatment of herbs, magic spells, and other nonsense – and die as a result of not getting quick medical attention. These vipers are found all over Thailand.

2. Chain Viper (Russell’s Viper) – another pit viper, with long fangs and larger, stronger than the Malayan Pit Viper. This snake is probably responsible for more deaths across the entire planet than any other snake. This snake only occurs near the east Bangkok and Pattaya areas, so it doesn’t have a very wide range.

Most people that handle snakes call some of them “aggressive”. I am at fault for this too. In truth, there are only two snakes in the entire country that might be considered “aggressive” – the aforementioned Burmese and Reticulated pythons that are looking at you as food and may attack you. Again, the chance of this is virtually zero – you can Google it and maybe find 3-4 cases of it – ever happening anywhere in the world. It is not a common occurrence.

Some snakes that I call aggressive are those that strike out often when handled. Now, if you think about it – the snake is acting entirely out of self-defense because it doesn’t WANT to be handled. It wants to be left alone. It wants to strike you so you let go and it will immediately go away. Many snakes, even when handled – do not strike out. Some of the most venomous snakes on the planet – the kraits – don’t seem to strike during daylight hours. I have never seen one do so. I have seen a Malayan krait turn and bite my snake tongs as I attempted to get a decent grip on him. It wasn’t aggressive, it was trying to get away.

Some snakes – and there are only a couple… will come toward a person for a short distance before striking, or before turning and trying to get away. The Copperheaded Racer and the King Cobra are two snakes that do this. Again, they are acting entirely defensively – and by moving toward you they are trying to get you to leave them away so they can turn around and disappear in the brush.

I have never seen a snake turn from what it was doing and move toward a person that is a good distance away (3+ meters). Never. I don’t think I will ever see that. I have never seen it on a video or heard about it in the literature. It just doesn’t happen. Snakes are not aggressive – with the exception of those that see you as food.

When you visit Thailand, the chance that you will see a snake is small. The chance that you will get bitten by a snake that can cause you harm is infinitely small. You are much more likely to encounter a scorpion, mosquito, jellyfish, or wayward vehicle that can cause you harm than you are likely to be bitten by any snake.

You can take these precautions:

1. Take flashlights with you and watch where you walk at night. There are more snakes out at night than during the day because Thailand days are very hot.

2. Watch your steps wherever you are. You are MUCH more likely to encounter a snake on the ground than anywhere else.

3. Do not walk through grass where you cannot see clearly what is there beside your feet.

4. Close your doors and windows at night – or use strong screens.

That’s about it. There are something like 15,000,000 visitors each year to Thailand. Maybe only a couple of percent see any snake at all. I haven’t heard of a tourist being bitten by a venomous snake in years. You are not likely to be bitten either. Relax, enjoy your Thailand vacation!

 

Snake Bite! Thai Man Bitten by Monocled Cobra (Naja)

Thai man bitten by a monocled cobra - Naja kaouthia - in Thailand at a snake show
Closeup of cobra bite site on inner right thigh.

I was visiting my friends at the snake show yesterday. One of them was bitten 5 days ago by a Naja kaouthia during one of the shows. It bit his leg through the pants – and got him with both fangs.

Nobody expects this to be a life-threatening bite because he has been bitten 4 times in total now – by the Naja kaouthia (monocled cobra). Humans build up a resistance to the venom over time, and to see the small wound that he has now – it’s hard to believe one of the most deadly snakes in the world bit him.

I’ll attach a video here of me interviewing Dtom and Jackie about how the bite happened – when I get a faster internet connection – right now it’s junk and not working well for a big upload to YouTube.

 

Pet Cobra in Thailand Kills Expat – Or, Suicide?

Pattaya, Thailand police are blaming a Naja kaouthia cobra for the December 2nd, 2010 death of an expat from Norway. This 60 year old man, Per Christian Lindgaard, kept the cobra as a pet in his condo apparently.

Here’s what is strange about the whole thing…

He was already admitted once to the hospital for a bite from this cobra. He survived, and was back at the condo. He was bitten again, and didn’t go to the hospital. His naked body was found on the bed… He didn’t try to tell anyone he was bitten. He didn’t call the ambulance. He didn’t even put the cobra back into the cage after it bit him?

If he was bitten once and didn’t die from it – but still required hospitalization – he had to have a real healthy FEAR of the snake, and know that he didn’t know what the hell he was doing with it. Yet, he kept it in a small glass aquarium with a flimsy styrofoam lid (it appears like in the video).

A cobra – any venomous snake – could kill you very quickly if you have an allergic reaction (anaphylactic shock) to the venom. You could die in minutes. I don’t think this happened to the guy because he was already bitten once, made it to the hospital, was treated, and returned home. I don’t think his body would have gone into shock so quickly the second time he was bitten if it didn’t happen the first time. I’m not a doctor – just a guess.

The maid opened the door after getting no answer – and because of a foul smell from the room. She found his naked body on the bed. Police found dark blister wounds on both of his legs – presumably from the snake.

Police officers were suddenly surprised when a 1 meter long Naja kaouthia – monocled cobra – appeared.

Does this make sense to anyone? I’m calling it a suicide – in my opinion. It just doesn’t really add up for me. If you’re bitten by a deadly snake – and WANT to live – you tell someone or go to the hospital. You wouldn’t lie naked on your bed and let it run around the room.

On the other hand, if it was an accident and the guy died so quickly that he couldn’t react… I’m completely wrong. People that don’t understand how to handle deadly snakes – should not. The only good that could possibly come out of this story is that other expats in Thailand or elsewhere in Asia, the world – don’t downplay the serious risk to life these snakes are.

Video of the room Mr. Lindgaard was found in – and the cobra:

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