Reptiles and Amphibians of Bangkok

Central Thailand's Snakes, Lizards, Turtles, and Frogs

Identifying Snakes

Snakes are the most feared animal in the city…but only a few can hurt humans, and even they prefer to avoid people. In fact, snakes are a beneficial part of Thailand’s ecosystem. Bangkok’s snakes feed on the city’s mice and rats, helping control those rodent populations and reducing crop loss and the spread of disease. Some of the smaller snakes eat insect larvae and help to control ant and termite populations in the city.

However, every year a number of people in Bangkok are bitten by dangerously venomous snakes. For information on what to do if you are bit by a potentially dangerous snake, go to the snakebite page.

Green Snakes

Green camouflage is an adaptation for some snakes that live in bushes and trees. Many people believe that all green snakes are dangerous, but in fact only the vipers are mildly venomous and they can be distinguished by the shape of their head.

Long-nosed Whip Snake Ahaetulla nasuta head
Long-nosed Whip Snake – extremely slender with long narrow head and pointed snout ending in a “nose”
Golden Tree Snake Chrysopelea ornata
Golden Tree Snake – black markings on body, long but not pointed head that is predominantly black on top
Big-eyed Pit Viper Kramer's Large-eyed Pit Viper Trimeresurus macrops
Large-eyed Pit Viper – stout triangular head, large eye, blue-green on lips, venomous and dangerous!
White-lipped Tree Viper Cryptelytrops albolabris
White-lipped Pit Viper – broad triangular head, white or yellow on lips, venomous and dangerous!

Brown or Black Snakes

Of course, other snakes that spend their time near the ground or on large trees would prefer to be much drabber in color. Here are a few snakes who are primarily brown or black without significant markings

indo-chinese rat snake ptyas korros thailand
Indo-Chinese Rat Snake – Large eye, long trail, only faintest markings on adults
Kevin Messenger hong kong Ptyas mucosus oriental rat snake
Oriental Rat Snake – Large eye, long tail, indistinct bands that fade with age
Naja kaouthia (Monocled Cobras) Randy Ciuros
Monocled Cobra – Smallish eye, short tail, characteristic “monocle” on back of neck, venomous and dangerous!
Sunbeam Snake Xenopeltis unicolor
Sunbeam Snake – flattened head, striking iridescent shine off of dark body
yellow-bellied water snake Hypsiscopus plumbea enhydris thailand
Yellow-bellied Water Snake – small head, dark olive-brown top with yellow belly
Tentacled Snake Erpton tentaculum smithsonian national zoo
Tentacled Snake – flat brownish body, head with two tentacle-like appendages, always in water

Banded Snakes

Many ground and water snakes are brownish in color with various types of bands on their body. Their colors can vary, so the important characteristics to distinguish them are the size of their bodies and the shape and distinction of their bands.

Banded Kukri Snake (Oligodon fasciolatus) khao yai thailand
Banded Kukri Snake – dark blotches with small crossbars in-between and a characteristic head marking
Tom Charlton Common Wolf Snake Komodo Island
Common Wolf Snake – narrow brown head with a white collar, very indistinct light bands on small body
Dryocalamus davisonii Common Bridle Snake Thailand
Common Bridle Snake – Small head, slender body with narrow white bands that reticulate near tail
banded krait Bungarus fasciatus
Banded Krait – triangular body, distinct dark and light bands of equal width, venomous and dangerous!
jodi's Cylindrophis jodiae ruffus red-tailed pipe snake kaeng krachen thailand
Jodi’s Pipe Snake – small head, red under tail, narrow light bands broken on top
Homalopsis mereljcoxi Jack's Masked Watersnake
Jack’s Water Snake – narrow but distinct light bands fade with age, broad head with dark “mask”
adult Bocourt's Mud Snake Enhydris bocourti
Bocourt’s Water Snake – Thick body, narrow yellowish bands on a mottled brown background
Dog-faced Water Snake Cerberus schneiderii Cerberus rynchops singapore
Dog-faced Water Snake – dark bars on brown/grey body, dark eyestripe, found only on coastal mudflats
Keel-bellied Water Snake bitia hydoroides
Keel-bellied Water Snake – faint black bands on top of cream-colored body, only on coastal mudflats
Little File Snake – thick with loose skin and granulated scales, only in marine habitats

Blotched Snakes

There are a number of brownish Bangkok snakes with various blotches on their body. Most are easy to distinguish by the shape and position of the blotches.

Reticulated Python Malayopython reticulatus malaysia Ngu Leuam งูเหลือม
Reticulated Python – Large body with reticulations of black, brown, and yellow
Burmese Python Python bivittatus bivittatus assam india
Burmese Python – Large body, brown blotches are lighter between
Young Eastern Russell's Viper in Indonesia (photo by Gary Stephenson www.flickr.com/photos/gazs_pics)
Eastern Russell’s Viper – brown spots on back and each side, stout head, venomous and dangerous!
Mangrove Pit Viper Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus Exotarium Oberhof malaysia mangrove
Mangrove Pit Viper – broad triangular head, brown, gray, olive, or yellow with dark blotches, venomous and dangerous!
Kevin Caldwell Many-spotted Cat Snake Boiga multomaculata
Many-spotted Cat Snake – slender body, average head, rows of brown blotches offset on either side of back
Yellow-spotted Keelback Xenocropis flavipunctus
Yellow-spotted Keelback – large eye with eyestripe, black checkers/bars on body
Red-necked Keelback Rhabdophis subminiatus
Red-necked Keelback – red and yellow markings on neck, faint checkers on body
Chanard's Water Snake Enhydris chanardi
Chanard’s Mud Snake – Small eyes, short thick body, small black dots on side with a white line underneath
Jagor’s Water Snake Enhydris jargorii from last known remaining population daryl karnes
Jagor’s Water Snake – small eyes and head, very thick body, narrow black blotches that extend all the way down to the belly
Male Javan Wart Snake Acrochordus javanicus
Javan Wart Snake – loose skin, granular scales, squared-off head, dark gray blotching on sides

Striped Snakes

A few of Bangkok’s snakes have a variety of striped patterns

Copperhead racer trinket snake Coelognathus radiatus_Daniel Rosenberg Hong Kong
Copperhead Racer – Black stripe on front half of body and lines radiating from eye
Indo-Chinese Sand Snake (Psammophis indochinensis) chiang mai thailand
Indo-Chinese Sand Snake – Alternating light and brown stripes on medium body
Rainbow Water Snake Enhydris enhydris malaysia
Rainbow Water Snake – thick body with two yellow-to-red lines
Painted Bronzeback Common Bronzeback Dendrelaphis pictus in Sumutra
Painted Bronzeback – slender, light on side with black above through eye
striped kukri snake Oligodon taeniatus Michael Cota Rangsit_files
Striped Kukri Snake – light line on back with dark borders, dark marks on head
Buff-striped Keelback Amphiesma stolata
Buff-striped Keelback – two light stripes intersected with dark bars

Worm-like Snakes

These “blind” snakes can be distinguished from worms because they have eyes, a tongue, and hard scales. Their lack of features makes them difficult to identify, and so a scale count is often necessary to tell the species apart.

Brahminy Blind Snake Ramphotyphlops braminus Indotyphlops bangkok thailand
Brahminy Blind Snake – slender, relatively uniform coloration
White-headed Blind Snake Indotyphlops albiceps found in hong kong
White-headed Blind Snake – slender body, distinct white head
Slender Blind Snake Indotyphlops porrectus
Slender Worm Snake – extremely slender, sometimes with pale head
diard's blind snake typhlops diardi Rajib Rudra Tariang Assam India
Diard’s Blind Snake – robust, dark brown fades into paler underbelly
Roxane's Blind Snake Argyrophis roxaneae Thailand Typhlops FMNH R177984 holotype
Roxane’s Blind Snake – stout, darkest only on upper dorsal
Flower’s Blind Snake – round tail with no ending tail spine

85 thoughts on “Identifying Snakes

  1. I saw a small, worm or snake-like, smooth skinned creature in Chiang Mai while hiking. Is it a snake or a worm? It is black with a tan head that looks like a hatchet. How can I post a picture?

    1. That sounds like a kind of flatworm called a bipalium. They’re also known as “hammerhead worms” or “shovel-headed garden worms”. I see them myself from time to time on hikes, including one near the top of Chiang Mai. They’re quite a strange sight!

  2. Last night had a very dark snake nearly black snake go round the back of the house. It was about 1.5-possibly 2m in length, about 2-3 inches wide and small head and thinish neck and a long tapering tail. Scared to go and look but from looking at the pictures and reading the description it could possibly be a rat snake or a (king? ) cobra. What is the main difference between the look of these two besides one is dangerous and the other no so. I live in Krabi next to a rubber plantation and a mountain.
    Thanks

    1. You certainly shouldn’t touch the snake unless you know exactly what species it is. King Cobras are responsible for a low number of bites and even lower number of fatalities…but the #1 way to get bit by one would be to grab it.

      From your description of the “long tapering tail” and the “small head”, I would suspect that it’s most likely to be a rat snake. Rat snakes have somewhat smaller heads and longer tails than cobras. Also, rat snakes are far more common than king cobras. However, that’s just a guess – I wouldn’t be sure without seeing the snake’s head myself.

  3. Hi and thanks for a very informative page.

    My fammily just returned from a Thailand trip where we visited the Koh Kut island. I wondered if snakes at all lived on these islands, but a motorcycle trip changed my mind.

    I stumbled upon this snake tail sticking out of a hole in the cliffs at the side of the road. The tail itself was long around 70cm. So i guess this is a rather large snake maybe 2 meters. The skin was grey without markings, and a lighter belly scale, clearly one single scale.

    There was a change of color in the middle of the tailpiece to a lighter shade of grey. Looking at various sites I start to think that this was a King Cobra. Is this true? We eventually left the place and came back an hour later. The snake was in the exact same place, so i guess it could be dead, and I took these pictures.

    Sorry about the poor quality of the images. But i did not dare to get any closer.

    1. To my eye, it looks like it is indeed dead, and it could possibly be a King Cobra. I’m not experienced enough with the species to identify them from that piece of the body alone though.

  4. Hi there. Thank you so much for your page. I was in south central Vietnam and was swimming in Bung River, near Phong Nha. I saw this snake hunting in the river. It lifted its head up and I snapped this photo. The portion above the water looked to be about 40cms. I was up on the bank at the time, so the enlarged photo is not great quality. It seemed to be uniform brown color. Any idea what type of snake it might be? Thank you!
    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B5p5kbD_NFZqdC0xNExWaXpTdXc/edit?usp=docslist_api

      1. Whaaaat?? You mean you can’t ID a snake from a blurry photo taken from 200 yards away? 😉 thanks for having a look. I’m going to tell my friends it’s a cobra. Lol

  5. Hi, I’m in koh phangan at the moment, and I found two snakes I would like to identify and know if they are dangerous.
    1.- hiking Khao Ra, a 20cm red baby snake with two black lines in the tail.
    2.- near the beach in thongsala, 20/30cm green bottom, and black/blueish with yellow lines

    1. #1 may be a brown kukri snake, oligodon purpurascens. If you look online you will see they are usually brown but some examples are more reddish. It also might be some other species of kukri snake, or there’s a very outside chance it could be a venomous coral snake, Sinomicrurus macclellandi. Look for pictures of each online.

      #2 sounds like there’s a good chance it’s one of the Bronzeback species, such as a Striped Bronzeback, Blue Bronzeback, or Elegant Bronzeback. You’d have to look up information to see which ones are found on that specific island.

  6. Hi, I am a snake handler from Tasmania, Australia. I am hoping to visit Thailand in the middle of 2016. I was hoping you may know some one i could get in contact with in regards to me tagging along on afew snake rescues.
    Kind regards

    1. In retrospect I certainly wished I had made those connections! I also wanted to tag along on rescues. Unfortunately, with the business of my schedule and my lack of personal transportation, I never felt that I’d be able to make it, so I didn’t develop the necessary connections.

  7. I was Cycling in Loei Province yesterday when a snake crossed the road in front of me, about
    10-00 am in bright sunlight. The snake was about 2 meter and about the thickness of a broom handle, it was olive green in color and had lighter markings all down its body. It seemed to be triangular, ie the body flat to the road and was zigzagging, half a meter then a bend in its body and so on. The area was flat with rice fields.

    1. I would think a rat snake, most likely an Oriental Rat Snake. They can have an olive coloration and light markings, and are one of the few snakes that gets that large. They are also common in exactly that habitat.

  8. I live in Nonthaburi, Thailand and at the back of my house is a large orchard, but rater unkempt and shrubby with shallow canals where they get water for watering the trees. Based on the description and picture, I think that what I see often in my garden are green tree vipers. How big can they get? Most of the ones I see are small and the biggest is the size of a finger.

    1. There are several species of green pit vipers, and they vary a lot in size. The two species found in Bangkok are both rather small, but there are some other species in Thailand that get much larger. Sometimes juveniles are also a lot more common and easier to see than adults, so it’s possible that the ones you’ve seen in your garden so far have all been juveniles.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: