English name: White-headed Blind Snake
Scientific name: Indotyphlops albiceps (formerly Ramphotyphlops albiceps)
Thai name: Ngu-din Hua Kao
Description: Up to 20cm long. May appear to be a worm at first glance, but can be distinguished by its scales, dry skin, eyes, and flicking tongue. Extremely slender, with little change in girth from the tail to the head. Tail comes to a point at the very end. Small eyes and mouth are difficult to see. Scales are small and shiny. Body is dark brown above and paler below. Head, neck, and tongue are pale to white.
Similar Species: Brahminy Blind Snake is less attenuate and has a lightened snout near the end, rather than a full pale-to-white head.
Slender Worm Snake is longer and has a more distinct eye. A scale count might be necessary to tell them apart.
Diard’s Blind Snake is much larger and does not have the pale head.
Mueller’s Blind Snake is much larger with a sharp line of contrast between the darker color above and the very light belly.
Roxane’s Blind Snake has a yellow snout and cloaca and a stouter body.
Flower’s Blind Snake is thicker with a yellow-cream color on the snout-to-chin and a blunt tail tip. A scale count might be necessary to tell them apart.
Blind snake species are difficult to distinguish from each other, so if you need more specific identifying markers you should use this key to the blind snakes in Thailand.
Habitat: This burrowing snake spends its life underground and can be found in loose humid soil, usually under debris or logs. Appears to prefer primary broad-leafed woodland, but has been found in a city park in Bangkok.
Contribution to the ecosystem: Helps control termite and ant populations and provides food for larger fossorial snakes and other animals.
Danger to humans: Blind snakes are harmless – they have no venom and their mouths are too small to bite a human. When uncovered or picked up they tend to respond by wiggling vigorously, emitting a small amount of smelly musk, and attempting to stab the disturber with their sharp tail tip.
Conservation status and threats: No known conservation threats. Due to its secretive habits, this snake is rarely seen in the wild, so actual status of its populations is unknown.
Interesting facts: The two Lumpani blind snakes pictured in this account were found within 50 meters of each other less than half an hour apart by the author and another herper, neither of whom was aware of the other’s presence at the time. Neither herper was able to find another example of the species until months later. This shows how prime conditions (in this case, an overcast morning with some precipitation following an unusually cool day in the latter half of the rainy season) can lead to multiple observations of a species that is otherwise rarely encountered.
The University of Hong Kong: Ramphotyphlops albiceps
Typhlops roxaneae, a new species of Thai blindsnake from the T. diardii species group, with a synopsis of the Typhlopidae of Thailand
Mourits Horst Løvholt and Mathias Holm, personal communication
Thailand Office of Environmental Planning and Policy: A Checklist of Amphibians and Reptiles in Thailand
A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia
Snakes of Thailand and their Husbandry