Cylindrophis jodiae

jodi's Cylindrophis jodiae ruffus red-tailed pipe snake bangkok thailand งูก้นขบลายใหญ่, ngu gonn kop lai yai
Juvenile Jodi’s Pipe Snake in Bang Na (Jon Hakim CC / NC-BY)

English name: Jodi’s Pipe Snake (aka: “Red-tailed Pipe Snake”)
Scientific name: Cylindrophis jodiae (formerly Cylindrophis ruffus)
Thai name: งูก้นขบลายใหญ่ (Ngu Gon Kop Lai Yai), งูกนขบ (Ngu Song Hua)

Description: To 100cm long. The thick cylindrical body gives it the name “pipe snake”, though it will flatten its body when engaging in defensive display. Head is small and unmarked with small eyes. Tall is short and tapers quickly to a point. The body is dark brown to black; juveniles have narrow white bands that turn reddish brown and eventually fade out completely with age. Some populations lack the dorsal bands. Underside has striking black and white bands. The tail is orangish-red on bottom.

Relevant scale counts: 21 midbody scales (other related species have more or less). Scales are small, smooth, and iridescent.

Similar Species: Sunbeam Snake has a long thin tail and a whitish-gray belly without banding.
Jack’s Water Snake has a broad, distinct head with dark markings, light underside, and keeled body scales.
Deuve’s Water Snake has a broad, distinct head with dark markings, dark underside with less distinct white marks, and keeled body scales.
Banded Krait has a triangle-shaped body and broader light bands. Never touch a snake unless you are absolutely certain of its identification.

Range: The full range of this newly-described species is uncertain but is likely to include Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and most or all of Thailand.

Habitat: Humid lowland areas, including forests, swamps, rice paddies, and other agricultural land with moist soft ground where it can dig. Usually found in or near water. Can tolerate brackish water. Spends the day inside vegetation or under cover, coming out at night to hunt.

Place in the ecosystem: Jodi’s Pipe Snake feeds on grubs, worms, eels, frogs and small snakes. It is eaten by larger snakes and monitors.

Danger to humans: None – has small head and is reluctant to bite. While it is a rear-fanged snake that can produce some venom, its bite is not dangerous to humans.

Conservation status and threats: No known conservation issues. It is occasionally caught in fisherman’s nets and used for food and crocodile feed.

Interesting facts: This snake exhibits an unusual defensive display when threatened, hiding its head while lifting its red tail above its body and flattening it in a manner reminiscent of a cobra’s head. Some sources state that this display appears to mimic that of southeast Asian coral snakes (family Calliophis), while others note the similarities to the cobra. The Thai names for this snake refer directly to the defensive display, including “Ngu Kon Khob”, translated “End of Tail Can Bite Snake”, and “Ngu Sawng Hua”, translated “Two Head Snake”.

When traveling I found a still alive but hopelessly trapped Red-tailed Pipe Snake caught in a discarded fisherman’s net. The poor snake was destined to drown or starve to death. Unfortunately, this is not the only snake I’ve found in this situation. Nets and other netting-like trash can lead to the deaths of many snakes when not properly disposed of.

Two new species of the genus Cylindrophis from Southeast Asia
Reptile Database: Cylindrophis jodiae
A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand
A Field Guide to the Snakes of South Vietnam
Snakes of Thailand and their Husbandry
A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia
Simon & Schuster’s Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of the World