Category Archives: front-fanged

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!

 

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.

Blue Malaysian Coral Snake – Venomous – Deadly

Deadly snake, Calliophis bivurgatis flaviceps - blue Malaysian coral snake
Calliophis bivirgata flaviceps. ©2012 Tom Charlton. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

The Blue Malaysian Coral Snake is a venomous elapid and is one of the most strikingly beautiful snakes you’ll ever see. I’ve been lucky enough to see one crossing the road in southern Thailand and I didn’t have any snake hook to grab him.

Calliophis bivirgata flaviceps (Blue Malaysian Coral Snake, Blue Long-glanded Coral Snake)

3 Sub-species: C. b. bivirgatus in Java – lacks blue stripes on ventral.
C. b. flaviceps in Thailand, Burma, Laos, Cambodia (possibly, no records), Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Sumatra and various islands of the Riau Archipelago. C. b. tetrataenia in Borneo has a light yellow stripe on side, without blue stripe.

Thais Say:  ngoo bik thong dang

Length: Up to 180 cm, however usually around 140 cm

Range:  This beautiful coral snake is found from around Bangkok and south toward Peninsular Malaysia.

Habitat: Usually found at some elevation – over 400 meters, I have also found them at 100 meters asl. Calliophis bivirgata prefers heavily wooded and wet areas of primary and secondary rainforest.

They seem to prefer living under and foraging under leaves and fallen trees to rocks. They are terrestrial, I’ve never seen one climb anything.

Active Time: These corals snakes are nocturnally active, but on rainy and cloudy days they can also be found, like many coral snakes.

Description: Medium sized, though large for a coral snake, this snake reaches 140 cm typically, and up to 170 cm have been recorded. The body is mostly deep blue with light blue or white stripes along the lower ventral side of the body. The head, venter (belly), and tail are usually brilliant red. The nose is blunt for foraging the leaf litter where it spends most of its time. Dorsal scale count: 13-13-13.

Defensive Behavior: Always avoiding man and other large threats, they can be very fast as they flip about almost spastically. When they are trapped and tailed, they may attempt to flip over on the dorsal side, exposing a brilliant ventral of red, orange, and pinkish color. During foraging these snakes are very slow moving.

Food: Prey includes other snakes, lizards, frogs, birds.

Danger: All coral snakes must be treated as the potentially lethal snakes they are. That said, many people free-handle these snakes at their own peril. Deaths have occurred as the result of envenomation by this snake. One man in Singapore was reported to have died within five minutes of envenomation. Do be exceptionally careful and never hand-hold any deadly snake.

Venom Toxicity: Neurotoxic venom which does not initially present with much pain at the bite site is immediately acting to block nerve impulses. The wound may become numb, and lips may also get numb. Difficulty in breathing occurs as the venom shuts down muscle contractions – the diaphragm and other major muscles.

Antivenom: None!

Key Diagnostic Features: Local pain + flaccid paralysis
General Approach to Management: All cases should be treated as urgent and potentially lethal. Rapid assessment and commencement of treatment for symptoms is mandatory. Admit all cases.

Offspring: Oviparous and clutches of 1-3 eggs.

Notes: One of the most impressive snakes to see in the wild. Fairly common in deep Southern Thailand and Malaysia mountains. This snake is easily confused with Calamaria schlegeli in Malaysia, Singapore, Bali, Java, and Sumatra. The red-headed reed snake which is harmless. The reed snake has smaller scales and no red tail or venter. Venter is grey and white.

Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Calliophis
Species: C. bivirgata
Binomial name: Calliophis bivirgata

(Friedrich Boie, 1827)

High Definition (1080p) Video of Calliophis bivirgata flaviceps Found During Daylight in Singapore:

Monocled Cobras – Venomous – Very Deadly

Monocled cobra siblings. Deadly venomous snakes - Naja kaouthia - Thailand
Naja Kaouthia – Venomous – VERY dangerous and very common Thailand snake.

Naja kaouthia, the monocled cobra is one of Thailand’s most deadly snakes – with highly toxic (neurotoxic + cytotoxic) venom. One bite on your toe from one that jumps out from under your outdoor refrigerator can kill you. Monocled cobras seem to be everywhere in Thailand. I had a friend that found them in his kitchen often. I’ve seen them crossing the road (see video below), and there was a family of these cobras living under the office of my wife’s workplace – with many 18″ baby cobras.

I just heard about Grant Thompson, an 18-year-old man in Austin, Texas that was bitten on the wrist by a monocled cobra and died of cardiac arrest. Authorities are looking for the snake. Tips that might catch the snake 1. If cool in the mornings, the snake might be found in bushes sunning itself. These cobras prefer hot weather over 80°F. 2. They are most active during daytime, but can move at night. 3. N kaouthia will eat eggs, mice, rats, if no other snakes are to be found. They prefer snakes, but I don’t know what Grant fed his snake. It might be unable to stalk prey and feed itself and die within a month.

Thais respect (fear) this snake because many have friends or relatives that have been envenomated (bitten and venom injected) by this snake. They even make Buddhist amulets with cobra snake images.

I’ve worked with two hatchling monocled cobras, and even at 12-15 inches – they are fierce. One snake handler described monocled cobras as “spastic” – and I have to agree.

If you are bitten by any cobra – get to the hospital as fast as you can. Monocled cobra venom is on par or even more toxic than some of the Thailand kraits, and much more toxic than King Cobra venom when compared drop to drop. Even if the bite is a small one, a nick, a scrape, get to the hospital immediately. All it takes is a drop of venom to hit your blood stream for biological chaos to ensue.

Naja kaouthia (Thailand Monocled Cobra)

Appearance: Monocled cobras are easily identified by looking at the back of the hood – there is a monocle – or eye type shape there. They are light brown to dark grey to solid black. Most are very close to black.

Thais say: Ngoo how hom, Ngoo how mo (long o sound)

Length: Typical maximum length about 1.5 meters. Recently I saw one in a mangrove forest that was 2 meters long, a giant. They can get up to 2.2 meters – about 7.5 feet long.

Range: All over Thailand and most of Southeast Asia.

Notes: Neuro toxic venom affecting nerves, brain, and causing death very quickly without treatment. They are very fast strikers. The baby monocled cobras are every bit as deadly. Please be CAREFUL!

Habitat: Both flat and hilly regions. I’ve seen them on hills, but usually near people – under houses and in places rats and frogs are likely to be found. In the mornings they can be in trees and bushes – trying to get some sun to warm up. They love to hide under leaves, wood, anything really. Lifespan is around 30 years.

Deadly venomous Thailand monocled cobra (naja kaouthia) in strike pose.Active Time? The snake is mainly diurnal – active by day, but I have seen a number of them still active at night. In fact, in Thailand – I’ve seen five active at night – the rest, dozens of them, were active during daytime.

Food: Rodents, lizards, frogs, birds, eggs, other snakes.

Defensive Behavior: Lift head off ground and flatten out neck. The hood flares quite wide compared to the width of the body. When comparing the monocled cobra and the king cobra, the monocled cobras have a hood flare that is more extreme in relation to the width of their body and heads.

Monocled cobras are very active and ready to strike especially as the temperature climbs past 35°C (about 95°F). Do be very careful with them during this temperature range because they are very easily agitated and strike much more often.

Venom Toxicity: Very toxic, deadly. Even a small bite can kill you. See “neurotoxic and cytotoxic venoms” (link).

Offspring: Lays 25-40 eggs. Young are fully prepared to envenomate as they hatch. Mating takes place after the rainy season. Eggs incubate in about 2 months. Eggs hatch between April-June. Hatchlings are between 8 to 12 inches at birth.

Classification:
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Naja
Species: Naja kaouthia

Classified by: Lesson, 1841

Monocled Cobra videos:
My Two Recent Baby Monocled Cobras:

Finding a Small Monocled Cobra on the Street:

A Couple Juvenile Monocled Cobras in a Tank:

King Cobra – Largest Venomous Snake in World

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.

Ophiophagus hannah (Thailand King Cobra)

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

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.

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.

Habitat: 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: 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

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.

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.

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 band 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!

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

Update 5/23/2015 – 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.

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!

More king cobra information and research here.

 

Malayan Krait – Blue Krait – Highly Toxic Venom

White and black Malaysian banded krait. Very dangerous. Very toxic venom to humans.
Bungarus candidus. Malayan Blue Krait, Malayan Krait. Highly toxic and potentially deadly venom. White/black. Scroll down for 1 more photo.

Note: About 50% of all bites from this krait results in human death – even with the administration of antivenin (antivenom). Death is the usual result if no treatment is given. The closely related Bungarus multicinctus is ranked 3rd in the world for toxicity of venom based on some LD-50 data (terrestrial snakes). Do be careful.

Bungarus candidus (Malayan Krait or Blue Krait)

Thais say: Ngoo tap saming kla, or ngoo kan plong

Length: Max length about 1.6 meters.

Range: All over Thailand and much of southeast Asia.

Notes: I’ve seen these dead on the side of the road near rubber plantations. Their head is not nearly as large as the yellow / black banded krait. The body doesn’t have the high vertebral ridge like Bungarus fasciatus. Be careful around these snakes.

Habitat: These snakes appear to favor flat country. Not found higher than 1,200 m ASL often. Prefer proximity to water. Prefer rice fields and rice dams. Invades rat holes to use as a nest.

Active Time? The snake is mainly active at night and is not fond of the sunshine. They are shy and attempt to cover their head with their tail. They are active most consistently between 9 pm. and 11 pm. – this is when I tend to find them.

Food: Other snakes – primarily, but also lizards, mice, frogs and other small animals.

Defensive Behavior: Not usually very aggressive. Shy. They don’t tend to bite unless really provoked. Still, you should never hold one. I have only seen one in a dozen of these snakes attempt to bite, and it was the result of being grabbed with tongs near the head.

Venom Toxicity: Very toxic – even more so than the Naja kaouthia (cobras). Bungarus krait venom is neurotoxic and attacks the human nervous system, shutting it down. Coma, brain death, and suffocation due to paralysis of the muscles and nerves necessary for crucial functions like the diaphragm, and or heart, are frequent causes of death. Death results usually 12-24 hours after an envenomed bite that is not treated. Little or no pain is usually felt at the bite location. The black/white kraits in Thailand are more toxic to humans than are the yellow / black kraits. That said, the yellow-black kraits (Bungarus fasciatus) can still kill you easily.

Here’s a short overview of what happened to one victim of a bite by Bungarus candidus (black-white striped krait):

A patient bitten by Bungarus candidus (Malayan krait) developed nausea, vomiting, weakness, and myalgia 30 minutes after being bitten. One hour later, ptosis and occulomotor palsies as well as tightness of his chest were noted. Respiratory failure requiring mechanical respiration appeared 8 hours after the bite and lasted for nearly 96 hours. The two bite sites were virtually painless and resulted in slight transient erythema and edema. No specific antivenin was available, and treatment consisted of respiratory support and management of aspiration pneumonitis. Recovery was complete. (Department of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University Hospital and the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute of the Thai Red Cross Society, Bangkok, Thailand)

Handling: The banded and Malayan blue kraits are not known to bite during the daytime. That doesn’t mean they don’t, it just means they don’t do it commonly. At night these snakes bite rather easily, as evidenced by the numerous bites that occur at night to people usually laying down to sleep on the floor. Handholding the kraits for any reason seems rather absurd to me, yet snake-handlers across the globe do it regularly. The krait venom is so toxic, it’s just not worth the risk – however small.

Antivenin / Antivenom: There is a specific krait antivenin that is given for krait bites. If you don’t have access to that antivenin you can ask the hospital if they have Tiger Snake antivenin – which can be used as a substitute for krait antivenin and works well.

Offspring: Lays 4-10 eggs. Juveniles are 30 cm long at birth. Hatching occurs in June-July in Thailand.

Classification:

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

(Classified as Bungaris candidus)

Exceptionally venomous neurotoxic venomous snake in Thailand.
Notice the thickness of the bands on this deadly Krait… Wolf snakes have similar coloring and style of bands, but the bands are much thinner. Wolf Snakes are harmless.

Very Recent Malayan Krait Find (5/19/16):

Releasing a Malayan Krait During the Day in a Palm Plantation:

Malayan Krait – Blue Krait – Venomous – Deadly

The Malayan Krait, also called Blue Krait, is a deadly Thailand snake with highly toxic venom.
Malayan Krait – or, Blue Krait – Venomous – Deadly

Malayan Krait (Blue Krait) – Venomous and Deadly

One of the top 10 most toxic terrestrial venomous snakes in the world resides in Thailand, and it is second behind the Bungarus multicinctus in strength of venom, according to LD50 charts for subcutaneous venom injection (in mice), is the Malayan Krait, also called the Blue Krait (Bungarus candidus).

I’ve been looking for one of these snakes in the wild for a couple of years. I don’t herp at night all that much so it was really unlikely that I saw one for a bit of time – but I was due to see this one.

Update 2015 – I’ve seen around one dozen of these snakes. They seem to be active most from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. cruising the ground along sidewalks or rocks. They are not big biters, and I’ve only seen one bite the tongs as I picked it up. These are relatively common snakes in Krabi province.

Here’s the story I put on Youtube about how it came to be that I caught this beautiful krait…

****
This is the mack daddy of all snakes in Thailand, for me. I’ve seen king cobras in the wild. I’ve caught monocled cobras and maybe 30 other kinds of snake. Last night I hit the jackpot by catching the lovely Malayan Krait – the black / white banded snake you see in the video.

I was herping with a guy from the UK, Michael. He found a red-necked keelback about 30 minutes before. We were herping HARD all over this great wildlife area and I was fully prepared to find nothing more. It was hard herping.

I stopped on the sidewalk for a second and was shining my flashlight (9pm) on the greenery just below the sidewalk (and next to it).

I couldn’t mistake the black/white pattern as the blue krait moved just inches from Michael’s feet.

I said loudly – KRAIT KRAIT! Move back, move over here!

My first instinct, before I opened my mouth was to grab that sucker with the tongs and bag him.

As I moved to do that I realized Michael might get a good bite!

It was funny to see in hindsight how my mind worked. I’m glad I thought of him – right? You know how you get so excited you just act? That’s jsut about where I was. I’d looked for years and years for one of these kraits. Finally there it was – 1 foot from me, and I had all the equipment I needed to catch it if I was fast enough…

Anyway – after he moved a safe bit away I gave the initial squeeze with the tongs and pulled it up where we could see it. It was a beauty. I held it for a while as Michael searched through my backback for the snake bag. The krait got loose because I didn’t want to squeeze too hard… I found the bag – and re-found the krait who was already half under a large rock that I couldn’t have moved if I wanted to.

I slowly pulled it out with the tongs and we bagged it.

Today we took this video in the morning.

She was calm… slow for a bit, then woke RIGHT up. You don’t want to miss this video if you handle or plan on handling kraits. They do have the potential to move VERY fast in whatever direction they choose. I was shocked (horrified!) that it came right at me in an instant.

I never felt as alive as in those few seconds, I can tell you truthfully.
Though we tailed it – and were able to handle the krait a little bit – I never felt comfortable with it – and would never hold one, day or night. Least of all night-time.

So – that’s the story.

More info on Bungarus candidus here.

Come to Thailand and herp – and see what we can find!
******

The video is below. You don’t want to miss the video because just after I say something like, “This snake kills a few people a year in Thailand” the krait comes at me totally unexpectedly and I freak out trying to move my feet out of the way and get back. Just by pure luck I filmed it coming at me.

That was one of the scariest moments of my life – and yet my body still reacted to get out of the way. It was totally unexpected – and yet I was able to move fast enough. I don’t know whether it would have bitten me, but I don’t see why not. We had aggravated it for a good 20 minutes and it was probably getting angrier as time went on.

If you work with kraits – don’t be lulled into the false sense of control that you don’t have. The krait can, at any time, turn one of your best days into the worst day of your life. There are rumors that if this krait or the many-banded krait (Bungarus multicinctus) bit you, and you went to the hospital – 50% chance you will STILL die from the venom.  Not sure if that’s true – but, still – there are plenty of experts saying that, and it’s damn strong, and nothing to mess with.

Please don’t hand-hold the kraits – ever.

Check out my youtube video pages at

Thailand Snakes – http://www.youtube.com/user/thailandsnakes

and

Thailand Living – http://www.youtube.com/Thailand-Living

More info on Bungarus candidus here.

Cheers!

*********

My “Thailand Snakes” Video Channel on the Malayan Krait at Youtube:

Juvenile Blue (Malayan) Krait:

An Adult Malayan Krait at Night in Southern Thailand:

Banded Krait – Venomous – Deadly

These are yellow and black kraits here in Thailand. In some other part of the world (Borneo) they are black and white. There are also Blue Kraits aka “Malayan Kraits” which are black and white. And the really incredible looking Red-headed Krait which looks nothing like either of them.

Banded Krait Snake at Bangkok, Thailand Snake Farm
Yellow Banded Krait. Highly venomous, deadly, and relatively common in Thailand. There is a white and black version also called the Blue Krait. See page on right side. This photo is of a man at the Red Cross Snake Farm in Bangkok.

Bungarus Fasciatus (Banded Krait)

Thais say: (ngoo sam lee-um, or ngoo kan plong) This is a bit confused in Thailand where, in southern Thailand any viper is known as Ngoo sam lee-um. Lee-um means triangle, and so some people confuse triangle shaped heads of the vipers with triangle cross-section of the kraits.

Length: average 1.5 m up to 2 m (about 6.5 feet) In Thailand they don’t usually reach a full 2 meters.

Range: All over Thailand and most of Asia

Notes: I have yet to see a live banded krait in the wild, except a few dead on the roads – but I don’t go digging up ratholes or termite mounds. I may start if I don’t find one soon. I’ve been looking for three years to find a krait with yellow and black bands like these. At dinner last night I was looking around a small restaurant with many ponds, for snakes. I asked the owner’s son if they had seen any. He said, Ngoo Sam lee-um. That’s the one! I’ll get their permission for some late night herping and try to bag one. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. This restaurant is located on a small hill close to sea-level in southern Thailand. There are many frogs at the ponds, and probably many snakes too.

Update 2015- I’ve been to that restaurant numerous times and not had a call from them about this krait. I am not sure they have been found in Krabi. I have never found road kill B. fasciatus here in Krabi.

Habitat: The snake lives on the ground and in rat holes and termite mounds, under stumps or rocks and in other cool, damp places. Recently I saw photos of one in some limestone rocks here in Thailand. I’ve seen large 2 meter dead banded krait just on the outside of a rubber plantation in Surat. They prefer wide open areas near water. They have been found as high as 1,524 meters in Malaysia and about 2,300 meters in Thailand.

Active Time? The snake is mostly nocturnal and is quite active at night. Most bites occur at night, as the kraits move close to people sleeping – usually on the floor, and probably the person moves and the krait bites. More dangerous at night, during the day they are not biters. These kraits are common in the northeast Thailand provinces. Recently a six year old boy was bitten and could not be revived. The snake had come up into their home in Surin to escape some flooding.

Food: Other snakes almost exclusively – rat and cat (Boiga) snakes. In captivity I have seen them eat the following live snakes: Calloselasma rhodostoma, Chrysopelea ornata, and Gonyosoma oxycephalum. One noted herpetologist states that these kraits don’t like to eat water snakes. Will also eat rats, mice, frogs, lizards if snakes cannot be found.

Defensive Behavior: The banded krait is slow acting during the day, lethargic, and usually not interested in striking. However, it can protect itself quite well – it is a strong biter and has been recorded as killing a large type of cattle 60 minutes after a bite.

Venom Toxicity: Very toxic. Deadly. This yellow/black banded krait from Thailand appears to have venom that is very toxic to humans. The typical LD-50 studies to assess the toxicity of venom in mice, rate this as a very toxic venom as well. These snakes rarely bite during the day, but if they do, they can transfer enough venom to kill you. I read about a person dying in 30 minutes, and another dying in 15 hours. A famous American herpetologist, Joe Slowinski, was killed by a baby krait (Bungarus multicinctus) in Burma while on a remote expedition. They can be quite deadly. The cause of death is that your muscles are paralyzed and your diaphragm can’t work any longer to pull oxygen into your lungs. Kraits are very deadly in this regard. However, if you are able to get to a hospital with a ventilator you will likely be OK. There is no specific antivenin for snake bites from this snake, but polyvalent venom is used – which can also treat bites from Naja kaouthia and Ophiophagus hannah.

Interesting to note… when fed on a live garter snake the krait venom acts instantly to cause death. Apparently krait venom is very efficient with snakes – the krait’s primary diet.

Handling: The banded and Malayan blue kraits are not known to bite during the daytime. However, at night time they bite rather easily, as evidenced by the numerous krait bites that occur at night to people usually laying down to sleep on the floor either outdoors or in their homes with the door open. I would never handhold kraits like the man is doing in the photo above. The krait venom is so toxic, it’s just not worth the risk – however small.

Update: I was contacted by a man who was bitten by this same type of krait during the day at an impromptu show at a bar in Bangkok during the daytime. It bit his arm. He was lucky to live, and had lingering effects for more than two years after the bite.

Antivenin:  Polyvalent. It is advised by experts to get antivenin in your blood stream for krait bites before you have symptoms because, once symptoms develop you may have lost nerve functioning that will likely not return.

Offspring: Mating in March-April and 4-14 eggs laid about 60 days afterward. The mother krait remains with the eggs for another 60 days before they hatch. Baby kraits are about 30cm long at birth, and have venom. I couldn’t find in the literature whether the mother left the eggs as they started hatching – so she didn’t eat them herself or not. The King Cobra does this instinctively because it also eats other snakes.

Banded Krait’s Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Bungarus
Species: B. fasciatus

Binomial name
Bungarus fasciatus
Classified by Schneider in year 1801

Photo of 2 Adult Banded Kraits:

2 Banded Kraits - Bungarus fasciatus from southern Thailand, Nakhon si Thammarat province.
Quite deadly, but shy snakes – see the video below.

Video of Jackie with Banded Krait from Nakhon Si Thammarat, Southern Thailand:

Malayan Pit Viper – Venomous – Very Dangerous

Malayan Pit Viper from southern Thailand
Calloselasma rhodostoma. Malayan Pit Viper. Usually under a meter, and thick. Very common. Very dangerous.

Calloselasma rhodostoma (Malayan Pit Viper, Malaysian Pit Viper)

Thais say: Ngoo gap pa

Length: Usually less than 1 meter. Female Malayan Pit Vipers are the larger and fatter snakes. Males of the species don’t make it to 1 meter long.

Range: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Java, Sumatra, Malaysia, Vietnam, Burma, and China.

Notes: These vipers are similar to North American “copperhead” snakes. They prefer dry, flat areas. They are known as lazy snakes. They may not move out of the way at all if someone is walking right toward them. After they bite they are known to remain in the same location. There are thousands of bites per year in Malaysia and Thailand from this snake.

These snakes are so dangerous when handled because they are not consistent with their behavior. One day they will be calm. The next, or the next 10 minutes – they will violently strike out lightening fast. Their preferred habitat is under dry leaves, wood, or rocks. They are active during the night mostly, especially during rain.

Nickname: Finger rotters – given by Al Coritz, Viperkeeper on YouTube. If they get you in the finger – you’ll likely lose part of your finger, hand, or arm without immediate care.

Habitat: Forests, rubber plantations, bamboo patches, farmland, grassland. Often lies in the short or long grass. These are terrestrial snakes that I’ve never seen climb anything.

Active Time? Day if cloudy and/or rainy, and night.

Food: Mice, frogs, lizards. Predominantly rodents.

Defensive Behavior: Partially coiled with neck in an “S”. Their strike is very fast. Their fangs are long – and in the front of the mouth. Some strikes are short, others involve the whole body as it “jumps” at the same time it strikes. Don’t underestimate the distance this snake can reach when striking. Also, this snake is VERY good at striking behind its head. Watch the video.

Venom Toxicity: Very toxic. Venom is cytotoxic – it destroys all cells it comes in contact with – red blood cells, muscle, ligaments, and bone. With a quick hospital visit after a bite you may just lose part of your finger, or some tissue where the bite occurred. Most people don’t die if they go to the hospital. Deaths occur when bite victims delay seeking medical treatment. There is antivenom for this snake.

If you are bitten by this snake, do NOT wrap a tight band around the bite location. That will stop the venom from moving, from being diluted, and the tissue will suffer much more destruction.

Offspring: Lay eggs. Female guards them. Young are about 9 inches long and fast and thin. They are fully able to bite, and have full strength venom.

Malayan Pit Viper Eating Mouse Video – close up of large fangs, strike, etc.

Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Viperidae
Subfamily: Crotilinae
Genus: Calloselasma
Species:
C. rhodostoma

Binomial Classification:
Calloselasma rhodostoma

Malayan Pit Viper video:

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