Tag Archives: Thailand snake

Sunbeam Snakes – Non Venomous – Not Dangerous

Sunbeam snakes in Thailand have a rainbow glow to their scales.
Sunbeam snakes in Thailand have a rainbow glow to their scales.

Up until yesterday I’ve only seen small sunbeam snakes – about 15 inches long. They are fat and can be found under plastic or other things in muddy water, or anywhere near water. I found one small sunbeam crossing the street at night during a rain in Sisaket – so I pulled him off the road and up into the brush. Yesterday I saw a 1+ meter snake at a friend’s. The big ones are really impressive. Thick, smooth like glass, and with an unbelievably cool rainbow iridescence that you must see.

Sunbeam snakes get their name because they beam in the sunshine… so to speak. Their scales reflect a luminescence – like a rainbow of colors – and it’s surreal to see a sunbeam snake in the bright sunshine (I have a video for you below, but it doesn’t give justice to the intensity of the rainbow of colors).

Xenopeltis unicolor (Sunbeam Snake)

Thai language: Ngoo sang ateet, Ngoo leu-um deen

Appearance: Sunbeam snakes are thicker than a large banana (with skin) as adults. Their scales are very smooth and the snake has a texture like rubber. Dirt doesn’t appear to stick to the scales. The head is like a shovel blade, tending toward flat. The eyes are small and designed for burrowing in dirt.

Length: Both male and female sunbeams are usually about a meter long with the female growing up to 1.3m for the maximum length (about 4 feet).

Range: All over Thailand. I’ve found them in Trang, Surat, Krabi and Nakhon Si Thammarat provinces. Also found all over Southeast Asia from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, to Burma (Myanmar), China, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and the Malaysian Peninsula and over to the Philippines.

Habitat: These snakes love the shallow water, muddy areas where they lie hidden under leaves or junk waiting for nightfall. They can be found close to human habitat as well as any lake or other body of water. They are fossorial – meaning, they hide under things – like leaves, dirt, just about anything.

Notes: These sunbeam snakes rarely bite. They do not do well in captivity and quickly die because they get stressed out. If you keep one – be sure to have soft substrate they can burrow (dig) into to cover themselves. They need cool shade and water. Don’t put them in the sun for long.

Active Time? Nocturnal – night.

Food: Frogs mostly, lizards, geckos, and other snakes. Sunbeam snakes kill prey by squeezing (constricting) it like a python.

Natural Enemies: King cobras and kraits would probably eat these snakes, though I don’t have evidence that they do.

Defensive Behavior: Curl tail. Rarely bite. Very low-key, mellow snakes if you’re not provoking them. They move very slow and their scales are good for water but not so great for street, rocks, and other hard smooth surfaces.

Venom Toxicity: None. No danger to humans except possibly a strong bite if you anger it. I’ve heard about only one person ever being bitten by this snake. It just doesn’t typically happen.

Offspring: Little is known. Tough to keep very long – they die quickly in captivity.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Infraorder: Alethinophidia
Family: Xenopeltidae
Genus: Xenopeltis

Binomial name: Xenopeltidae Xenopeltis

Classification by Reinwardt, 1827

Sunbeam Snake Photo:

Body of sunbeam snake in Thailand - brown, thick and iridescent scales.
The photos and video don\’t do the colors justice – you really have to see the sunbeam snake to believe it.

My Sunbeam Snake Video:

Ridley’s Racer – Cave Snake – Not Venomous

Cave snake - Ridleys Racer - Othriophis taeniurus ridleyi - Thailand
Othriophis taeniurus ridleyi. Ridleys Racer. Non-venomous. Lives in caves, eats bats.

Othriophis taeniurus ridleyi (Ridley’s Racer)

Length: up to 2.5 meters. I have caught eight of these, all of them under 2.25 meters.

Range: Chumpon, Thailand, south to border of Thailand-Malaysia

Habitat: Usually caves, though at times found outside caves. Recently I found a number of them in a bungalow at a nature resort and an empty wooden cabin in a rubber plantation. Then someone wrote me to ID one that was climbing around the limestone cliffs in Krabi.

Active Time? The snake is mainly nocturnal. They are active during the day only after heavy rainfall, or inside caves.

Food: Bats, birds, and maybe even rats if they happened to be on the ground.

Defensive Behavior: These Thailand snakes are calm and move slowly unless provoked substantially.

Venom Toxicity: None. Member of rat snake group – so their saliva probably contains venom, but they have no venom injecting fangs in the front or rear. They have rows of teeth in the upper jaw, but very small – less than 1/4th inch long.

Offspring: Nothing known – still updating this article.

Notes: These are often found in Thailand caves, they are excellent wall climbers. A Buddhist monk walked me through some pitch black caves at a temple with a cave in Southern Thailand and showed me this amazingly colored Ridley’s Racer pictured above. This non-venomous snake, part of the rat snake family was calm and let me take video with the camera just 12 inches from her head. Ridley racer snakes hang on cave walls and snatch flying bats out of the air.


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Subfamily: Colubrinae
Genus: Othriophis
Species: taeniurus ridleyi

Ridley’s Racer Video:

Here is another video taken by a visitor from France that was climbing a mountain at a local Buddhist temple and saw this snake during the daytime cruising the limestone rocks:

Homalopsis buccata Almost Rips My Finger Off

A bitey puff-faced watersnake (Homalopsis buccata).
A bitey puff-faced watersnake (Homalopsis buccata).

(Page Updated: 6 September 2016)

OK, exaggerating a bit.

OK, a lot.

There is nothing quite like a bite from a snake, when you’re completely not expecting it. I’ve caught a number of these “Puff Faced Water Snakes” – Homalopsis buccata, and while one bit the tongs, none has ever attempted to strike at me. That changed the other night while on a herping trip with Courtney from North Carolina in the states.

I grabbed it fine the first time, and it death-rolled so fiercely I thought it was going to break it’s own neck. I let it go back on the ground by the pond I’d just picked it up at.

The flashlight was shining right in his face – and I was coming up on the approach from behind, but, in hindsight – a bit too much to the side, and he could still see my hand coming. He twisted and struck backward and sideways to grab my middle finger fiercely. I did the twitch, you know, where you jerk your arm in an exaggerated fashion, twirling the snake around like a circus baton, by the mouth on your finger – putting the teeth MUCH deeper than they were originally? Yeah, I did that.

He was NOT letting go, so I asked Courtney to gently put the snake hook point through the jaw between my finger and the joint. Eventually the top opened enough, and then I snuck the bottom finger out. No re-bite, which I was thankful for.

This was a juvenile, but these snakes have powerful jaws, and 26 teeth (I counted the puncture marks on my finger). I was bleeding good, and Courtney got a few pics. Will put one up when she sends me one.

Though a snake is not “known” to bite… do not take it for granted. Practice the same techniques as always to keep from getting bitten. Twenty-six teeth in your finger is not a good feeling… more importantly, you could break some of them in your finger – harming the snake.

If you’re looking for Thailand Sea Snake Info Click Here.

300+ Snakes Identified at Thailand Snakes (.com)

In a way, I’m getting hammered with requests to identify snakes in Thailand. I think someone has to do it, and I’m glad I can help. I’m sure I’m wrong occasionally, but, for the most part the snakes are easy to identify from photos sent to my email account.

If you don’t have a photo you can still fill out this Snake ID Form to identify your snake. I didn’t count any of the 450+ form submissions and my replies as snakes I’ve identified, because really it’s an unknown without looking at the images directly. Even then – it’s sometimes guesswork.

Identify Snakes in Thailand Before You Pick Them Up

Just a warning to those that also love snakes. Please don’t pick up and hold a snake when you are not 100% sure of the exact species of snake it is. There are scores of venomous snakes in Thailand – some of which can kill you in under 10 minutes. It does not take a really strong bite to inject enough venom to cause you a very serious medical emergency. I have received about 10 photos over the last year of people holding a snake, and then asking me to identify the snake.


Even snakes that haven’t traditionally been called “Venomous” though in fact they are (Colobrids), can hurt or kill you with the right bite. Take into account also that your body could go into anaphylactic shock as the venom hits the blood stream and the body fights against it as it does an allergic reaction. Conceivably, if you’re allergic to the venom – you could die within a minute or so from an adverse allergic reaction to the venom – and that’s ANY venom, that which is considered dangerous to man, and that which isn’t normally considered dangerous.

Stay safe – this is the peak of the snake season. Keep your eyes open and get some photos when it’s safe to do so!

Thailand Snake Photo – Malayan Racer – Big Rat Snakes

Malayan Racer - Coloegnathus flavolineatus, in southern Thailand
Big, Harmless Snakes – Malayan Racer – Photo by Camille Lemmens, Koh Samui, IDC Thailand Dive Shop.

This Malayan Racer (Coloegnathus flavolineatus) photo was sent in by Camille Lemmens from the IDCThailand.net dive shop in Koh Samui, in Suratthani Province.

Correction – I haven’t looked at this for ages… it looks more like a melanistic Coelognathus radiata than it does the C flavolineatus. I’ll have to find a good photo of that one and put it up here!

Malayan racers are similar to the Copperheaded Racer snakes in Thailand, but they are darker and they don’t have the nasty attitude. They don’t often strike, and they can be hand-held usually without any problems. If one knows how to handhold a snake.

Best way to hand hold a snake? Put your hand or arm under it’s mid body and lift up. It thinks you are a tree.

The wrong way to hand-hold a snake is to grab it’s tail or mid body clenched between your fingers – it will take that as aggression and may strike.

Please don’t generalize this to all snakes… some snakes should never be held – vipers, Naja kaouthia and others… but, some can be safely held.

Malayan racers exhibit a flaring of their neck and first 1/3rd of their body – even half their bodies, in a vertical flare. If we think of a cobra flare as horizontal, you can then picture the flaring of the Malayan Racer. Other snakes known to flare like this?

Copperheaded racers, Red-Tailed Racers, Oriental Whip Snake… are all that I can remember at the moment. I am sure there are more.

If you see a Malayan racer in the wild – just leave it alone. They can get big – 2+ meters – and give a wicked bite if they want to. They eat large numbers of rats – so, they’re a good snake to have around.

Thailand Snake Journal – Found Rare Keel-Bellied Vine Snake (Dryophiops rubescens)

Brown Whip Snake - Keel-bellied Whip Snake - Dryophiops rubescens caught in Thailand
Brown Whip Snake - Keel-bellied Whip Snake - Dryophiops rubescens

Found another one of these whip snakes – they are supposed to be either red or brown… I guess this could be called brown. The head is more brown. The neck and up to the stomach is silver… with some black patches… and then the tail is reddish brown. It could well be the red variety because as I compare photos with the other brown whip snake I had before – they are quite different in coloration. This one is predominantly silver – for the neck and down to the beginning of the tail. The tail gets dark – and there is a reddish tint to the brown… So, not sure.

Lovely snakes. These are vine snakes and very fast in the wild. I found him on the ground amongst leaves and rocks… sandy dirty. He was about to enter an 8 inch diameter drain pipe. It did take a bit to catch him – and once I got him he was fine – no bites until I had to grab his tail to pick him up. He was not ok with that and tagged my finger very quickly – a little blood.

There were people around and they were all screaming Pit Pit! (Venomous) It isn’t… Thais call all snakes venomous – which is part of the problem here – they kill any snake they see, insisting it’s venomous. The other part of the problem is that in Thailand there are 60+ venomous snakes. Most people can’t be bothered to study them all and know the difference. I don’t know all of them either.

This one I knew though. Great snake – will keep it for a couple of days and let it go where I found it.

Common names: Keel-bellied vine snake; keel-bellied whip snake; brown whip snake; red whip snake (more red).

Video of this Brown Whip Snake below:

Thailand Snake Photos – Indochinese Sand Snake

Brown snake with tan stripes, the Indochinese sand snake in Thailand
Psammophis condanarus indochinensis

Sent by Paul Donatus, this is an Indochinese Sand Snake that are common in the Chiang Mai – northern region of Thailand.

Personally, I’ve never seen one in southern Thailand, alive, or dead on the side of the road – so I think we don’t have them down here. They attain lengths of about 1 meter. They They eat frogs, smooth scaled lizards / geckos and even other snakes on occasion so reports one keeper.

Indochinese Sand Snake Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Colubridae
Genus: Psammophis
Species: P. condanarus
Binomial name: Psammophis condanarus

Thailand has such diversity among snakes. There are over 200 species of snake living in the country. It’s always exciting to find one I don’t know – and have never seen. Always a bit strange handling them – not knowing, is it venomous and toxic to people, or not?

Keep in mind, I don’t pick up a snake I don’t know with my hands – but when I say “handling” I usually mean on the end of a snake hook, or with snake tongs.

A very cool snake, and apparently Paul has more photos to send. Will get them up as time permits.

Thanks Paul for introducing me to the Indochinese Sand Snake!

Thailand Snake Photos – Golden Tree Snake in Bangkok

Golden tree snake, Bangkok, Thailand. Copyright Rich Lindie, used with permission.
Golden Tree Snake - Copyright, Rich Lindie, used with permission.

Another reader submission – Rich Lindie found this near his apartment in Bangkok, on a palm tree it appears.

These golden tree snakes are very common all over Thailand. In fact, they might be Thailand’s most common snake. They are often found in the leaves of palms, and climbing up the trunk of palm trees. They also love vines and sometimes fences.

These snakes have a diet that consists of nearly everything that moves – but they really love geckos, and in particular – the big Tokay Geckos.

These snakes bite quickly – but their venom is not very toxic to humans. I have been bitten numerous times by these snakes, and as long as you don’t let them hold on and clamp down for a while – the venom shouldn’t affect you.

Beautiful snake – right?

Thanks Rich!

Thailand Snake Journal: Unexpected Viper Find

Trimeresurus venustus - Brown Spotted Green Pit Viper - Krabi, Thailand
Trimeresurus venustus - Brown Spotted Green Pit Viper - Krabi, Thailand

I tend to be really cautious about handling venomous snakes. Pit vipers are scary because you just never know when they’re going to strike. They’re very calm until WHAM a strike from nowhere. I think as soon as they get a good lock on the part of your body giving off heat – it’s almost an automatic strike. I’m not sure they decide anything at all – just strike like lightening. I never handhold the pit vipers.

I headed up to a remote part of the wat (temple) today to see if maybe I could spot a snake. So far at that temple I’ve found a Rhabdophis subminiatus – Red Necked Keelback, a Painted Bronzeback, a 4 meter King Cobra, a Mock Viper, and a brown Keelback. Oh and a green Ahaetulla prasina – Oriental Whip Snake.

There has been a lot of rain lately and the day was really hot – which is a change from the cooler temps of late, so I thought I’d see what I might find. I walked the 90 steps up and 100+ down into the valley – the foothills, and started along the path. There was some loud noise to my right. I walked over there to find a skinny Thai guy – probably a bit mental, or hungry, trying to kill a big box tortoise. He had a snake in his left hand – I was like WTF?

That’s a VIPER. I said to him – Ngoo Pit (snake is venomous!).

He insisted – Mai Pit! (not venomous) over and over… I said, “Gep Ngoo, ROO JACK – NGOO NEE – PIT!” Translated – I collect snakes, I KNOW THIS SNAKE IS VENOMOUS.

He puts the snake up to his face and cheek, where it bites him on the cheek. I think – what an idiot!

I say – “Can I have that snake?” (in Thai of course).

He said OK. I offered to pay him for it – he said – 100 Thai Baht. I said – great. I took the snake into a plastic bag and put it in my backpack, telling the guy to get to a hospital when he feels symptoms. He showed me on his hand where it bit him earlier when first trying to catch it and he was bleeding slightly.

Though they are venomous – it affects people differently. They are potentially deadly. He’ll definitely experience pain, and hopefully little necrosis.

What a crazy thing to see a reptile hunter collecting snakes and turtles at a Buddhist wat. It was a very sad thing to see him trying to kill the turtle for no reason. Probably the shell is worth something. Many Thais eat turtles too – but I think mostly the soft-shelled water turtles.

So – I have a Trimeresurus venustus – Gernot Vogel from Terralog “Venomous Snakes of Asia” uses the Trimeresurus prefix. Joachim Bullian uses “Cryptelytrops” instead. Not sure what the real label is. “Venustus” is correct anyway.

Brown Spotted Green Pit Viper is the common name for it. They enjoy limestone areas and are frequently found on the ground according to Bullian – but, I’ve found them in bushes during the day – sleeping.

They are very slow during the day – and not all that much quicker at night. I took this one home and put it in the tank. It appears to be gravid – hope she is able to give birth (ovoviviparous) soon. That’d be awesome to see.