Banded Mangrove Snake – Venomous – Mildly Dangerous

Mangrove cat snake at night in situ, secondary tropical rainforest in Southern Thailand's Krabi province.
One of the B dendrophila snakes I’ve found at night in the tropical secondary rainforest in Southern Thailand, Krabi Province.

(Page Updated: 6 September 2016)

Mangrove Cat Snake – Boiga dendrophila

Thais say: Ngoo plong tong

Length: Up to 250 cm

Description: This is a long, strong snake with a rather pronounced vertebral column. The head is black on the top with bright yellow supralabial scales which have black edges, producing a striking effect. The snake is black on the back and laterals with thin yellow bands extending from the venter to usually about mid-body. It is not common for the bands to meet at the top. Ventrals are very dark grey to black except where yellow from the bands. The eyes are large with vertical pupils. The chin and throat are bright yellow. The inside of the mouth is white. Tongue is dark grey to black. Juveniles of this species are same as the adults.

This snake is nocturnal and arboreal, but can often be found on the ground or in bodies of water as well.

NOTE – there is some danger of misidentifying this species with the deadly Bungarus fasciatus – the Banded Krait.

Range: Thailand-wide. Found in humid forests of all sorts, especially near or in trees above streams or other fresh or saltwater up to 610 meters. They can be found resting in branches in daytime above water in the mangroves or on mountain freshwater streams from 3 meters to 6 meters high.

Habitat: Trees, land, and water – salt and fresh. It sleeps in many different trees including the leaves of mangrove trees in the mangrove, and on large palm trees.

Active Time? Nocturnal.

Food: Frogs, lizards, eggs, fish, and other small animals. They can frequently be seen heading upstream along stream banks looking for frogs at night from dusk to midnight or so.

Defensive Behavior: These snakes curl up in a double-s shape before striking. They are rather quick to bite.

Venom Toxicity: Weak, but with some medically significant envenomations recorded in literature. No confirmed fatalities. B. dendrophila is a rear fanged colubrid. The fangs are not large, and it isn’t easy to get a good bite on a human leg or arm where venom can be transferred. Don’t attempt to hand-hold a snake that is prone to biting.

I know a Burmese man that worked in the snake show in Krabi for years, he was bitten many times by this species while on a boat collecting them in the mangroves. At times after being bitten repeatedly he reported getting a bad headache which abated after 20 minutes or so.

Offspring: Four to fifteen large eggs. Offspring of 35-43 cm hatch after ~12 weeks and strongly resemble adults in coloration and pattern.

Notes: These are great looking snakes with a lot of energy for striking. Unfortunately, their look and their energy make them perfect for use in the snake shows across Thailand. It is not uncommon for these snakes to die in captivity.

Yellow Banded Cat-Eyed Snake (Mangrove Cat Snake) Scientific classification

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

Binomial name: Boiga dendrophila
(Boie, 1827)

Krabi rainforest mangrove cat snake (Boiga dendrophila)

Video – Release of Mangrove Cat Snake

Video – Large 2 Meter Mangrove Cat Snake(/h2>

Herping Southern Thailand – 5 Snakes + 1 Bonus

Boiga dendrophila. Mangrove cat-eyed snake. Southern Thailand.
Calm, but always ready to strike, the Mangrove Cat Snake is one of the most stunning snakes in Thailand.
Boiga dendrophila. Mangrove cat-eyed snake.
Clear yellow bands on solid black, this snake is easily distinguishable from the King Cobra and other rat snakes due to the brightness of the yellow.
Bungarus candidus. Malayan krait, Blue krait.
Adult Malayan Krait (Blue Krait) – I never get tired of finding this snake.
Lepturophis albofuscus.
One of the harder to find snakes, the Dusky Wolf Snake – Lepturophis albofuscus.

Lycodon albofuscus

Last night I got out to go herping with Anders from Denmark and Rupert from the UK. We went to the usual spot, I arrived at 6:20 pm. As I was pulling into the parking lot I saw a small (30cm) bronzeback snake coming across the dirt road. I slowed, stopped and jumped out with a snake bag in my hand, intending on trapping him with it before grabbing him. I hate being bitten by anything – even a harmless snake. It’s no good for the snake either as they can lose teeth when they bite strongly.

The snake had other plans and reversed course immediately disappearing into the thick brush as I ran after it helplessly. This one was smart.

Met up with the guys and took some photos of the Lycodon albofuscus Rupert had brought over for a show and tell. He said it was the snake he had the hardest time with for photos – and hoped to get better ones. We did, it was exceptionally calm this night and we both got some great shots.

We grabbed some water and headed out for 3 hour herp that turned up nothing. Well not nothing, we saw numerous lizards and geckos, some cool frogs, bats, spiders, but no snakes. I was out in front of the other three guys (Richard came as well), and headed up to the pools of water to see what I could find.

It wasn’t long before – Bang – I saw a common wolf snake (Lycodon capucinus) cruising up a rock beside me, then down to hit the walkway… I followed him for a while, just looking at him closely. I’ve caught so many of these snakes I don’t bother with photos. It’s a pain to drag the camera out of the bag and set it up. I’d have had to stop the snake from his journey to get my stuff ready. As it turns out, Rupert wanted to see a good specimen of that snake, and wanted better photos – but I didn’t know at the time. Oops.

Walked some more and Bang – a mangrove cat snake of maybe a meter and some in the palm tree above me about 20 feet high. I yelled SNAKE and tried to get the other guys attention. As I did I was shining my torch (flashlight) on the restaurant where they had gone back to eat. Bang – another big mangrove cat snake swimming in the moonlight. Wow… I love to see that. Wish I had a video of it, but it happened too quickly. He came right over to the bank below me. I crept down and grabbed him with the tongs and by the tail with my hand and picked him up onto the sidewalk.

He was big and lively – 2 meters easy, thick like my wrist and almost my forearm. Beautiful snake. Photos here are of that snake.

We shot some photos and a quick video and kept going. It was about 11pm (2300 hrs) when Rupert yelled “KRAIT” from down in the rocks. We all got down there immediately and were rewarded with a 1 m+ Blue krait (Malayan krait), Bungarus candidus. Most venomous terrestrial snake in Thailand – as long as there are no Bungarus multicinctus running around in the north, which I suspect there must be.

We shot photos and videos and then shortly after, called it a night.

I get a message this morning on my phone from Rupert…

“Hey Vern, I wasn’t tired when you left last night so I went out alone and caught a very rare snake. I put it in the backup box I brought. Even more reason for you to come out today. Could be a new subspecies or even a new species in itself!”

I can’t believe the nerve of that guy! Going out without me! I thought he was going to go sleep…

Anyway, so looks like I’d better get out there today and see what he found.

Come to Thailand to check out the reptiles, amphibians, birds, whatever it is you’re into. This place is paradise for nature lovers.

Tonight we’ll go to another 2 different mountains that I rarely get to herp at. Should be a blast. Will post photos, videos, if we get something.

Cheers,

Vern