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Golden Tree Snake

01 May

Chrysopelea ornata

Golden Tree Snake Chrysopelea ornata among plants

Juvenile Golden Tree Snake found among ornamental plants in Silom

Ornate Flying Snake Chrysopelea ornata head shot

Head shot of Golden Tree Snake

Golden Tree Snake Chrysopelea ornata killed Cambodia

Golden Tree Snake found dead in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Ornate Flying Snake Chrysopelea ornata  killed Cambodia

Wound on deceased Golden Tree Snake, likely human-inflicted

Golden Tree Snake Chrysopelea ornata

Head shot of Golden Tree Snake (photo courtesy of Ray Hamilton)

Golden Flying Snake Chrysopelea ornata subadult

Subadult Golden Tree Snake in Chonburi Province (photo courtesy of Ray Hamilton)

Golden Tree Snake Chrysopelea ornata head shot

Head shot of Golden Tree Snake in Khao Phra Thaew (photo courtesy of http://khaophrathaew.org/)

golden-tree-snake-nick-baker-krabi

Golden Tree Snake in Krabi (Image by Nick Baker, http://www.ecologyasia.com)

Golden Tree Snake Chrysopelea ornata

Subadult Golden Tree Snake found at guesthouse in Chiang Mai Province

Green Tree Snake Chrysopelea ornata (Flying Snake)

Head shot of subadult Golden Tree Snake

English name: Golden Tree Snake (aka “Ornate Flying Snake”)
Scientific name: Chrysopelea ornata
Thai name: Ngu Kieo Lai Dok-mak

Description: To 140cm long. A long, somewhat slender snake. Is unusual in that it has keeled ventral scales, which help it to climb trees. Body is green to greenish-yellow with black markings. Head is black and green above the eye and light green below. Underbelly is greenish-yellow to light green.

Similar Species: Whip snakes (Ahaetulla nasuta and Ahaetulla prasina) have a characteristic pointed snout and more slender bodies.
Green pit vipers (Cryptelytrops albolabris and Cryptelytrops macrops) have a triangular head and pits behind their nostrils and lack the black coloration.

Habitat: Naturally a forest species, but has adapted well to agricultural areas, parks, yards and gardens. Is almost totally arboreal and can climb to significant heights in trees or even the walls of buildings.

Contribution to the ecosystem: This snake helps control Bangkok’s lizard populations, and also feeds on bats, mice, and smaller snakes. The juveniles provide food for birds of prey and larger snakes.

Danger to humans: The Golden Tree Snake bites aggressively when captured and is another one of Bangkok’s mildly venomous rear-fanged snakes, but its venom appears to pose no danger to humans. One should always be careful not to confuse it with the more venomous vipers.

Conservation status and threats: No known conservation issues. This species has adapted well to human encroachment and is one of Bangkok’s more common snakes. However, they are often killed by people who mistakenly believe them to be dangerous. I found a dead adult Golden Tree Snake on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia that appeared to have been killed by a human.

Interesting facts: The Golden Tree Snake is one of the few “flying snakes”. These snakes cannot actually fly, but glide to some degree by flattening out their body, forming a U-shaped cavity with their underbelly, and twisting in the air as they jump from high branches. It is believed that this behavior is used to move about the forest, catch prey, and as a defense mechanism against predators. They can cover as much as 100m in a single leap if they start from a tall enough tree.

References:
Siam-Info: Tree Snakes
Nature Malaysia: Golden Tree Snake
Snakes of Thailand: Golden Tree Snake
Ecology Asia: Golden Tree Snake
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

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8 responses to “Golden Tree Snake

  1. Axl

    May 23, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Thanks for the information and the beautiful photos!

     
  2. paul

    December 1, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    paul phuket
    found one living in my gate post in a hole
    able to identify thanks to your photo

     
  3. Gerhard Mogck

    May 7, 2013 at 10:04 am

    Found this morning a golden tree snake (80 cm long) inside my house in Pluak Daeng. I have no idea on witch way this snake could come inside during night as all doors and windows were closed.

    Best regards
    Gerhard

     
    • Asian Herp Blogs

      May 10, 2013 at 10:55 pm

      Snakes can be incredible in the tiny spaces they can squeeze through. It would be rare for a Golden Tree Snake to come in at night (they are usually diurnal), but I’m not surprised that he found someway in.

       
  4. jurassicfishingthailand

    September 12, 2016 at 12:49 pm

    found one under my porch today after some really heavy rainfall through the night. Location = Cha-Am

     
    • Asian Herp Blogs

      September 12, 2016 at 1:02 pm

      Yep, rains are a great way to get snakes moving.

       
  5. Ian

    August 9, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    Thank you for your blog. I identified the golden tree snake sleeping in the key hole of my front door from this photo. My maid thought this was a venomous green snake and was going to kill it so your blog helped conserve one gorgeous baby snake (about 30 cm long).

     

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