English name: White-headed Blind Snake
Scientific name: Indotyphlops albiceps (formerly Ramphotyphlops albiceps)
Thai name: Ngu-din Hua Kao
Description: Up to 30cm long. May appear to be a worm at first glance, but can be distinguished by its small shiny scales, 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. Body is dark brown above and paler below. Head, neck, and tongue are pale to white.
Similar Species: Brahminy Blind Snake is slightly less slender and its snout is only lightened near the end.
Slender Worm Snake 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.
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.
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 city parks in Bangkok. In my experience tends to be seen during the monsoon season.
Place in the ecosystem: Helps control termite and ant populations. Is eaten by 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: You may notice that the upper seven photos from Thailand show snakes that look different from the lower six photos from Laos and Hong Kong, with the non-Thai snakes appearing bulkier and displaying a more strikingly white head. Some experts have suggested that White-headed Blind Snakes in the southwestern portion of their range (Bangkok and Chiang Mai) may be a different species than those in the eastern and northern portions (Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Hong Kong), with the old scientific name Typhlops malaisei possibly playing a role in this distinction. More study needs to be done.
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
Alex Pyron, personal communication
Jeff Boundy, personal communication
Van Wallach, personal communication
A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia
Snakes of Thailand and their Husbandry