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Red-tailed Pipe Snake

22 Apr

Cylindrophis rufus

Red-tailed Pipe Snake (Cylindrophis ruffus) juvenile in defensive position

Juvenile Red-tailed Pipe Snake flipped under board in Chatuchak

Red-tailed Pipe Snake (Cylindrophis ruffus) dorsal view

Dorsal view of juvenile Red-tailed Pipe Snake

Red-tailed Pipe Snake (Cylindrophis ruffus)

Red-tail Pipe Snake found under mat in Phra Khanong

Red-tailed Pipe Snake Cylindrophis rufus defensive display

When cover is unavailable, the Red-tailed Pipe Snake will hide its head under its own coils

Red-tailed Pipe Snake Cylindrophis rufus tail in defensive display

Close-up of tail in defensive position

juvenile Red-tailed Pipe Snake Cylindrophis rufus found out at night

Juvenile Red-tailed Pipe Snake found moving along ground at night in Bang Kapi

juvenile Red-tailed Pipe Snake Cylindrophis rufus head shot

Head shot of juvenile Red-tailed Pipe Snake

underbelly of juvenile Red-tailed Pipe Snake Cylindrophis rufus

underbelly of juvenile Red-tailed Pipe Snake

Red-tailed Pipe Snake (Cylindrophis ruffus)

Older Red-tailed Pipe Snake found at edge of marsh at night in Prawet

Red-tailed Pipe Snake Cylindrophis rufus Cambodia caught in fisherman's net

Red-tailed Pipe Snake caught in fisherman's net in Battembong, Cambodia

English name: Red-tailed Pipe Snake
Scientific name: Cylindrophis rufus
Thai name: Ngu Kon-kob, Ngu Song Hua

Description: To 100cm long. The thick cylindrical body is what gives it the name “pipe snake”, though it will flatten its body when engaging in its defensive display. Head is small and unmarked with very small eyes that are difficult to find. Tall is short and tapers quickly to a point. Scales are small, smooth, and iridescent. 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.

Similar Species: Sunbeam Snake has a long thin tail and a whitish-gray belly without banding.
Puff-faced Water Snake has a broad, distinct head with clear markings, all-white underside, and keeled body scales.
Yellow-bellied Water Snake has a broader head and uniform white-to-yellow on the belly with no bands.
Banded Krait has a triangle-shaped body and much broader bands.

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.

Contribution to the ecosystem: The Red-tailed Pipe Snake feeds on grubs, worms, eels, frogs and small snakes. It provides food for 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”.

References:
University of Hong Kong: Cylindrophis ruffus
Siam-Info: Cylindrophiidae
Thailand Office of Environmental Planning and Policy: A Checklist of Amphibians and Reptiles in Thailand
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

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