I was running up my favorite trail – a small mountain in Tub Kaak, Krabi province, when I saw my right foot coming down right in front of a Malayan pit viper. It was scary to know there was nothing I could do about it – I screamed out and pulled my foot away as fast as possible after landing, but with all my weight on it for a second, it wasn’t all that fast. The snake could have bitten me if it chose to.
But, luck was on my side and I’m walking around on both feet this morning. Lucky me! Watch this video so you can see just how important it is to watch where every footstep goes while hiking or running in the Thailand rainforest. These snakes and vipers in general are active at night and are also crepuscular, which means in the early morning and early evening. I have also seen them active during the daytime during and after a heavy rain.
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.
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.
This pit viper has the longest fangs of any other snake in Thailand – including the Siamese Viper (D. siamensis).
Venom Toxicity: Very toxic. Venom is necrotoxic – 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. The venom causes a bite victim to bleed from body orifices – eyes, nose, mouth, ears, sexual organs, and sometimes fatally in the brain. 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.
Species: C. rhodostoma
Binomial Classification: Calloselasma rhodostoma
Video – Malayan Pit Viper Color Variety in Thailand
Venomous Snakebites and Near Misses!
More than 34 stories of venomous snakebite and very near misses from Southeast Asia’s most deadly snakes – King Cobra, Malayan Pit Viper, Monocled Cobra, Banded Krait, Malayan Krait, and more! Digital Book with over 100 pages by Vern Lovic.
The Malayan Pit Viper (Calloselasma rhodostoma) is the venomous (bad) snake that is most likely to bite you. They have the habit of lying in the short or long grass and just waiting for prey to walk by. If human footsteps are coming close – it doesn’t attempt to move, it just sits there.
This is why the Malayan Pit Viper is the cause of most of the serious bites in Thailand, and Malaysia. They just don’t get out of the way, or flare up a hood or anything. They are what we call lazy snakes, and they’re quite deadly too. This snake is responsible for more deaths in Thailand than any other.
However, if you make it to the hospital for the antivenin quickly you will likely be fine. Some herpetologists call the Malayan pit viper the “finger rotters”. Their venom is cytotoxic and destroys all cells of the body – including bone. Their venom dissolves bone… it’s quite harsh stuff and you DON’T want to be bitten by this snake because you’ll likely lose part of whatever what bitten.
These Thailand snakes are most active during the night time, but, they seem to just sleep in the open grass during the day too. BE CAREFUL NOT TO STEP NEAR THIS SNAKE. Their bite is vicious and fangs go deep.