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Snake Community Workshop

A few months ago someone got word that I’d be in Manila for a conference and asked if I’d be willing to lead a community snake workshop. The people extending the invitation were a small network of Christian organic farms and training centers for inner-city workers and displaced slum residents. One of the founders told me there had been a number of snake-human conflicts (workers killing snakes, pythons eating chickens, people getting bit by snakes), and wanted someone to come in and share a broader knowledge and appreciation for the snakes, for everyone’s benefit.

15 participants (13 men and 2 women) showed up, along with a number of children. All of them either worked on the organic farms or were pastors in management roles. Here’s a partial photo I took of the group.

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To introduce myself I shared a bit of my own history and experience with snakes.

childhood pictures

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I then showed collages of different snake species found in the area. (Huge hat tip to Luke Welton of Kansas University, who provided me with a species list for the region.) I asked the participants to point out which species they had seen before.

A large number of species, including Ahaetulla prasina, Boiga cynodon, Elaphe erythrura, Gonyosoma oxycephalum, Hemibungarus calligaster, Indotyphlops braminus, Malayopython reticulatus, Naja philippinensis, Ptyas luzonensis, Rhabdophis spilogaster, Trimeresusus flavomaculatus, and Tropidonophis dendrophiops were identified as species they had observed themselves. I then had them try to discern which of those snakes were venomous and which were not – other than thinking that all of the green snakes were venomous, they did quite a good job of IDing the venomous species.

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In order to make it a bit exciting, I then pulled out a juvenile Philippines Water Monitor (Varanus marmoratus) that I had hunted down the night before.

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I chose not to tell the participants that the monitor had taken a chunk out of my knuckle when I caught it. Nice reminder that monitors are dangerous! Some may have noticed the wound, they didn’t say anything. 🙂

I described how the monitor was both similar to and different from snakes, and allowed any participants who wanted to to touch it. The little guy was behaving well during the presentation, but I didn’t trust him enough to let anyone else hold it. I also talked about correct snake handling technique, with a strong emphasis on the fact that you NEVER handle a snake unless you are absolutely certain of the ID.

From there we moved into a discussion of my work on the Bangladesh Python Project, which had some goals similar to the goals for this community. My emphasis was on the balance of nature when it is allowed to work naturally, how God has each animal fulfilling a particular role in the ecosystem, the concept of predator and prey and ecological cycles, and some specific ways in which snakes keep these things in balance and help the farmer. We discussed various ways that nature gets out of balance, such as the destruction of different environments or the extirpation of various predator or food species.

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To put meat on the issue, I got into the specifics of snake predator-prey relationships, with various slides of snakes feeding (emphasizing the ones that feed on rats) and snakes being preyed upon. There was already some great knowledge within the group of snake behavior, and I felt like that base of knowledge was spread throughout the group and expanded upon well.

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Next we dealt specifically with venomous snakes, again identifying which local species were venomous, then talking about how to avoid snakebite and what to do in the case that snakebite does happen. The participants really appreciated this part, and quizzed me in detail on what to do in various situations, giving examples that had the side effect of doing a great job of elucidating my points.

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Finally, we dealt with the issue of the pythons that were taking chickens and the question of people in the region eating snakes. I asked them whether they thought the pythons preferred the forests or the farms, and what various factors would lead the pythons to move into the farms. With their previous information they had some insight on this question, and again were able to see how disruptions in the balance of the ecosystem have repercussions that affect everything. In terms of eating snakes (not an easy issue in a place where protein is hard to come by), we talked about how to deal with snakes in a manner that is sustainable to the ecosystem while also affirming of the people. I gave examples from other communities from my experience, both good and bad.

Overall, I think it was a fantastic time together. The participants gave me a t-shirt and a thank you letter afterwards.

I also got to spend a couple of days on the farms and in the surrounding area, getting some herping in in beautiful habitat. It was a great place. They plan to use some of the photos I got to produce postcards from the farm as another income-generation project.

Here are some scenes from one of the farms (I’ll post the nature and herping pictures in a later entry):

organic veggie garden

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fruit trees

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some of the chickens, with a turkey

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A reticulated python caught while hunting for chickens (photo a few months before I came).

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Rat snake eating rats on the farm

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dorms and other sustainably built structures on the farm

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The view from the presentation hall

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Several months after my presentation, I got an email from the farm director:

Hey, very very much overdue is this little HUGE Thank you! for the workshop on snakes you did with our crew in February. You are in best (and most memorable!) memory to them. “Jon approaches the forest differently”, they told me. “He is not scared of anything and he finds amazing stuff!” 😀

Well, this does not surprise me and I am glad you had some fun while here. The attitude towards wildlife has clearly changed for our guys. They now understand more about ecosystems and the role that any animal always has, whether we know about it or not. This is a great gift Jon! Thanks a lot.

It makes me happy. 🙂

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2017 in Herping adventures

 

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Doi Suthep

During one visit to Thailand, I got to spend several weeks in Chiang Mai at the tail end of the rainy season. Doi Suthep/Doi Pui National Park is on the edge of Chiang Mai within easy biking range, so I made four trips up the mountain to see what I could see. My big goal was to find the Crocodile Salamander, Thailand’s only salamander species. Unfortunately, I never could catch a rainstorm (I stayed 10+ km from the mountain and it’s impossible to guess when and where the rain will hit) and never found a breeding pool. Still, I saw some cool species up there.

Chiang Mai is at an elevation of about 1,000 feet, while Doi Pui peaks out at close to 5,500 feet. That meant some abrupt habitat differences in only a space of 10-20 kilometers. On my very first trip up the mountain, I saw an interesting lizard in the undergrowth:

I snagged it and saw that it was a cool species that doesn’t show up at the lower elevations:

Rough-bellied Mountain Dragon Acanthosaura lepidogaster)

Rough-bellied Mountain Dragon Acanthosaura lepidogaster

Cuvier’s Spiny Lizard Acanthosaura lepidogaster head shot

This first one was a strikingly colored male, but I later would see many somewhat drab females

Rough-bellied Mountain Dragon Acanthosaura lepidogaster

and juveniles.

Rough-bellied Mountain Dragon Acanthosaura lepidogaster juvenile

On that first trip it took only a few minutes to find my first snake.

Green Keelback (Rhabdophis nigrocinctus)

Green Keelback Rhabdophis nigrocinctus

Green Keelback Rhabdophis nigrocinctus

At this time of year the forest could be quite misty and the undergrowth was often moist. Several small species of frogs could be found hopping around on the ground.

Dwarf Bush Frog (Philautus parvulus)

Dwarf Bush Frog Philautus parvulus

Dwarf Bush Frog Philautus parvulus

Dwarf Bush Frog Philautus parvulus

Limborg’s Frog (Limnonectes limborgi)

Limborg's Frog Limnonectus limborgi

Dwarf Bush Frog Philautus parvulus

Several times on the mountain I ran into a small skink species that I never found at lower elevations:

Reeve’s Smooth Skink (Scinella reeversi)

Reeves's Smooth Skink Scincella reevesii

Reeves's Ground Skink Scincella reevesii

Reeves's Smooth Skink Scincella reevesii

On my second trip up the mountain I explored a different trail. Again, it only took a few minutes before our first snake sighting. This was a really, really funny-looking snake, with a heavy body and a tiny narrowing head. I didn’t get the best pictures because it was moving through vegetation and I didn’t have a clue what it was. My wife didn’t want me to touch it if I couldn’t ID it, and even though it looked quite non-venomous, that was probably good advice. I looked it up afterwards and found it to be a quite harmless diurnal earthworm eater.

Assam Mountain Snake (Plagiopholis nuchalis)

Assam Mountain Snake Plagiopholis nuchalis

Assamese Mountain Snake Plagiopholis nuchalis head shot

On that hike we got to a waterfall

And found this pretty little frog hanging out below it.

Marbled Sucker Frog (Amolops marmoratus)

Marbled Sucker Frog Amolops marmoratus

Northern Cascade Frog Amolops marmoratus

At a much lower elevation, I found several frogs near the side of a stream. They were so well-camouflaged that I couldn’t spot them before they jumped into the water, but I got lucky and flipped one under a rock:

Taylor’s Stream Frog (Limnonectes taylori)

Taylor's Steam Frog Limnonectes taylori head shot

Taylor's Steam Frog Limnonectes taylori

Very close was a common Thai species, though this one was especially obese:

Common Indian Toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus)

My third trip up I checked out an area where several park employees had told me the “salamanders” could be found. The spot was a beautiful waterfall:

I found that they were somewhat mistaken – what actually lived in the area was semi-aquatic skinks! They appeared to predominantly focus on the habitat niche around and under rocks in the splash zone of a waterfall, often fully underwater. Their population density was very high.

Berdmore’s Water Skinks (Tropidophorus berdmore)

Berdmore's Water Skink Tropidophorus berdmore

Berdmore's Water Skink Tropidophorus berdmore

Berdmore's Stream Skink Tropidophorus berdmore water

There were two poking out from the rocks here – I didn’t see the second one until I took the photo:

Some other tourists taking a look:

On a trail close to the waterfall I caught this terrestrial skink

Speckled Forest Skink (Eutropis macularia)

Speckled Forest Skink Eutropis macularia Chiang Mai

On my fourth and final trip I decided to try to summit the mountain on my bike. About halfway up I heard a noise to the side. I jumped out and spotted a large snake, but it disappeared into a rock wall before I could get an ID. Unfortunately, that was the herping highlight of the day. The summit was much cooler than I expected (and wore me out much more) and the only live reptile I found up there was a skink. I did see about half-a-dozen dead reptiles on the road, including an Assam Mountain Snake, a Yellow-spotted Keelback, a kukri snake, a Tokay Gecko, and a few I couldn’t identify.

hill tribe village from very high up:

Near the summit there are lots of conifers, which feels strange in Thailand

Finally, throwing them all at the end so you can skip down if you want, here are a few invertebrates from the mountain:

Big millipede gnawing on me

A large flatworm species crossing the trail out in the open

An awesome beetle my wife accidentally hit when it landed on her leg

A very large harvester

damselflies

small scorpion

Large spider found under cover

And finally, a few beautiful butterflies

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2014 in Herping adventures

 

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Ram 2 Night Walks

One new place I was able to search during the rainy season was a marshy area off of Ram 2 where a Thai friend of mine was house-sitting. She invited us to stay with her for a week. I had herped the area in the daytime already and found the Long-nosed Whip Snake that I mentioned in an earlier story, as well as a number of other reptiles and amphibians. It looked like a perfect spot to look for water snakes in night searches, but I had never been able to get there after dark, so I was excited about staying a few nights.

I had the time to go walking the roads and ditches near the home on a couple times. In the first couple hours after dusk, I mostly saw frogs:

Four-lined Treefrogs

Four-lined Treefrog

Four-lined Treefrog

Egg mass

Four-lined Treefrog egg mass

Green Paddy Frogs

Green Paddy Frog

Green Paddy Frog

Common Indian Toad

Common Indian Toad

Asian Grass Frog

Asian Grass Frog

Round-tongued Floating Frog

Round-tongued Floating Frog

The local park had a pond that was loaded with Malayan Snail-eating Turtles of all ages.

Malayan Snail-eating Turtles

Malayan Snail-eating Turtle

Malayan Snail-eating Turtle

Malayan Snail-eating Turtle

It wasn’t until my third walk of the night (about 10:30pm) that I scored my first snake. But it as a great one – a live Sunbeam Snake! This is an odd species that I’d been looking for for months and was excited to finally find alive:

Sunbeam Snake

Sunbeam Snake

They’re not related to any other group of snakes – they have an entire family just to themselves. I’m not sure why their scales have such an iridescent quality, but it was cool to look at. The unusual head was also neat. Despite lunging around quite a bit and sometimes twitching suddenly, it never once opened its mouth or tried to bite.

The next night I saw only frogs in my early looks again, but struck a snake almost immediately when I went out at 10pm.

Red-tailed Pipe Snake

Red-tailed Pipe Snake

Red-tailed Pipe Snake

Red-tailed Pipe Snake

I spent more time flipping over objects this night, and was rewarded with a couple more snakes:

Brahminy Blind Snake

Brahminy Blind Snake

Brahminy Blind Snake

Another Sunbeam Snake

Sunbeam Snake

Sunbeam Snake

The large species of centipede was also common here – these guys can easily reach a foot long. This one is eating a snail.

Stag Beetle

Later I made one more trip to the Ram 2 area. The only snake I saw that night was a Yellow-spotted Keelback. The first time I saw it, it disappeared into the marsh before I could get a picture. I’d never seen an adult Yellow-spotted Keelback in Bangkok before, and I really wanted to record it. So I waited an hour, then came back. As I slowly tramped through the long grass on the edge of the marsh, I spotted it again! This time I was able to grab it and place it on the sidewalk for pictures.

Yellow-spotted Keelback

Yellow-spotted Keelback

Unfortunately, while I was carrying it back it bit me. Really, really hard. Yellow-spotted Keelbacks are some of the nastiest-biting snakes out there, and this was no exception. I didn’t want to hurt the snake’s teeth, so he managed to get in a little extra twist before I carefully pried his mouth off. I obviously wasn’t going to wash the blood off in the marsh water, so by the time I had walked to a clean water source, my arm was looking pretty bad:

snakebite

The appearance is far worse than the actuality – the bite really didn’t hurt that much, and the wound was small, it just bled a bit. Still, it was by far the worst snakebite I’ve ever had (I’ve been very careful never to get bitten by a venomous species). What a way to end the night!

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2014 in Herping adventures

 

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Snakes in the Market

In one of my first visits to Lumpani Park I came upon a juvenile Puff-faced Water Snake. Upon viewing and photographing the snake, an American tourist nearby got anxious and stated, “I ask only that you do not harm the snake.” Further inquiry found that he had bought the snake at a Bangkok market and “humanely” released it into the Lumpani Park lakes. My friend quizzed the guy and found that he had no idea whether the snake was a native species or whether it was venomous. We did our best to explain to him why releasing the snake had been a bad idea.

puff-faced water snake Homalopsis buccata

Releasing a captive animal into the wild, even a native one, is not good for the local ecosystems. Non-native species, such as the red-eared sliders in the ponds, the Norway rats in the streets, and the English house sparrows in the trees, may prey on, outcompete, or spread disease among local species. And even native species that have spent time in captivity are highly at risk for transmitting disease into the wild populations. If you purchase a captive animal and can no longer care for it, please find a responsible person to take over care for the animal rather than releasing it into the wild.

Sadly, the water snake we found is only one of thousands of snakes that get processed through Bangkok’s markets. Most of that trade is illegal. The vast majority of those snakes either die within the marketing process, die soon after they are sold, or are released into an unfamiliar habitat in the wild. Please only purchase snakes if you are extremely familiar with how large they will get and how to take care of them, and only buy them from licensed, legal snake breeders. If someone is selling the animals on the street of out of a market, it’s best to assume the worst and move on.

Here are a few images of snakes and other animals in markets in Bangkok:

Juvenile Reticulated Python Python reticulatus

Water Snakes for sale in Vietnamese market

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(note – the cage full of water snakes was a photo from Vietnam, courtesy of Alex Krohn. All of the other photos were taken by me in Bangkok.)

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2014 in Herping adventures

 

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Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute (Red Cross Snake Farm)

Early in my time in Bangkok I had a friend tell me that there was a great snake farm in Bangkok that I should check out. Apparently there’s a “bad” one that is just a tourist trap where snakes are basically abused, then a good one run by the Red Cross where snakes are cared for well and used for venom research. The good one is the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute – I got to visit it and it was fantastic.

As you can see, there were many different species of snakes represented. Though there are a few exotics mixed in, the focus is on the species native to Bangkok, and nearly all of the common non-venomous species local to Bangkok are displayed. In addition, the snake farm had many of the vipers, cobras, and kraits native to the rest of Thailand.

Feeding time was neat – here frogs and frog legs are the default snake food.

In the morning they had a milking demonstration. Venomous snakes are milked to extract venom, which is then used in the production of antivenom which is given to snakebite victims in order to counteract the snake bite’s effect. After a short video on the history of the snake farm, a speaker talked about the venom program and what the antivenom is used for, then three employees milked one monacled cobra each.

There was a small, decent museum on snakes attached as well. Again, all the information was accurate and appreciated. I took a photo of their display of the results of snakebite. This is why you should not pick up venomous species – notice how many of the bites are on the hand, especially the right hand? It is very likely that the people who got bit on the hand were trying to pick up or kill a venomous snake. And the bites that are not on the right hand are on the foot – watch where you step when you’re in snake country!

Remember – if you are bit by a venomous snake, the most important thing to do is to stay calm, try to identify the snake (take a picture if possible), and have someone take you to the hospital immediately. The antivenom produced by the Red Cross Snake Farm is very effective, but the sooner you get it the better.

In the afternoon there was a snake-handling show but I wasn’t able to attend. Overall I was very happy with the quality of exhibit space and information at the snake farm – it was the most competent display of animals I had seen in Asia. I would recommend the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute to anyone who wants to learn more about our local snake species and the work being done to save lives.

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2014 in Herping adventures

 

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Image

A little night walk in Bangkapi

After seven months in Bangkok I moved out near Bangkapi. I wouldn’t call Bangkapi a “natural” area, but I did my best to see what I could find. One night I got my flashlight and my camera and I took a walk.

Right next to my apartment building was an empty lot full of water puddles. In the puddles were dozens of Round-tongued Floating Frogs. This is the best spot I’ve found in Bangkok for them:

Round-tongued Floating Frog Occidozyga martensii

Round-tongued Floating Frog Occidozyga martensii

Round-tongued Floating Frog (Occidozyga martensii)

Also common in the puddles were the Green Paddy Frog

Green Paddy Frog Hylarana erythraea

Green Paddy Frog  Hylarana erythraea

Near those puddles was a motorcycle parking lot, and this juvenile Red-tailed Pipe Snake was moving right through the dirt lot at night.

Red-tailed Pipe Snake Cylindrophis ruffus

Red-tailed Pipe Snake Cylindrophis ruffus

The habitat it was found in:

Some Asian Grass Frogs were mating in a temporary puddle in full view of everyone on the street

Asian Grass Frog Fejervarya limnocharis

On the street were also Common Indian Toads

Common Indian Toad Duttaphrynus melanostictus

and Asian Painted Frogs. I found this one by finding the source of some extremely loud calls. These frogs sound like a bull.

Asian Painted Frog Kaloula pulchra

I like this shot of a different one – it was in a tree on the main road with no obvious habitat nearby.

Asian Painted Frog Kaloula pulchra

Near a larger pond were these Darkside Narrowmouth Frogs. They were the first ones I’d found in Bangkok.

Darkside Narrowmouth Frog Microhyla heymonsi

Darkside Narrowmouth Frog (Microhyla heymonsi)

Darkside Narrowmouth Frog Microhyla heymonsi

I also saw a number of lizard species, such as this juvenile Tokay Gecko,

Tokay Gecko Gekko gecko

Spiny-tailed House Geckos crawling on trees at night,

 Spiny-tailed House Gecko Hemidactylus frenatus

 Spiny-tailed House Gecko Hemidactylus frenatus

and a sleeping Oriental Garden Lizard that I accidentally woke up.

Oriental Garden Lizard Calotes versicolor

Some of my neighbors told me that Bangkapi was a jungle before it got developed. It is sad that what must have been a beautiful natural area has been wiped out by malls and concrete and apartment buildings. But as my night with a flashlight showed, even developed areas can still hold strong wildlife diversity, as long as the pollution stays down and they still have a few little wild lots to call home.

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2014 in Herping adventures

 

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Monocled Cobra

Naja kaouthia

Venomous and Deadly!

monocled cobra Naja kaouthia sunderbans bangladesh

Monocled Cobra found in Sunderbans in Bangladesh

monocled cobra Naja kaouthia sunderbans bangladesh monocle

Rear shot of Monocled Cobra showing monocle mark

Monocled Cobra Naja kaouthia banded variant

Banded variant of Monocled Cobra  (photo by Michael Cota)

Monocled Cobra Naja kaouthia

Monocled Cobra missing monacle marking (photo by Wolfgang Wuster)

Monocled Cobra Naja kaouthia head

Head shot of Monocled Cobra (photo by Wolfgang Wuster)

Naja kaouthia (Monocled Cobras) Randy Ciuros

Monocled Cobras in captivity (photo by Randy Ciuros)

Jakob Lehner monocled cobra Naja kaouthia

Head shot of Monocled Cobra (photo by Jakob Lehner)

monocled cobra Naja kaouthia Queen Saovabha Snake Farm

Monocled Cobra at the Queen Saovabha Snake Farm

monocled cobra Naja kaouthia milking closeup

Monocled Cobra milked at the Queen Saovabha Snake Farm

Monocled Cobra Naja kaouthia fangs

Monocled Cobra showing fangs (photo by Wolfgang Wuster)

English name: Monocled Cobra (aka “Monocellate Cobra”)
Scientific name: Naja kaouthia
Thai name: Ngu Hao Mo

Description: To 150 cm long. Reasonably thick-bodied snake with smooth scales and the typical cobra “hood” that is only spread with the snake is agitated. Head is large. Body is brown, reddish-brown, greyish-brown, or pale yellow above. In Eastern Bangkok some individuals have indistinct light bands on the body. The namesake “monocle” mark on the back of the neck is widely variable, but usually is circular. In some populations the marking may be absent. Throat is pale and the rest of the underbelly is variable, from a clouded pale coloration to the same color as the top. Underside of neck has a pair of widely separated dark dots that are visible when the snake lifts up its head and spreads its neck, as well as one or two black rings at the bottom of the throat.

Similar Species: Asian Rat Snakes (Ptyas korros and Ptyas mucosus) have larger eyes, longer tails, and lack the markings on the throat and the back of the neck.
Copperhead Racer has a larger eye, lacks the marking on the back of the neck, and has a dark line going down the front of the body and lines radiating from the eye.

Habitat: Found in a wide range of habitats, including grassland, scrubland, forest, rice paddies, swamps, and agricultural land. Can be found near human habitations, even within Bangkok. Prefers habitat associated with water. Usually stays under cover during the day.

Place in the ecosystem: Feeds on rodents, frogs, birds, and smaller snakes. Can be eaten by monitors, larger snakes, and birds of prey.

Danger to humans: The Monocled Cobra is one of the deadliest snakes in Bangkok. Under no circumstances should you handle or harass this snake, as even a young cobra can pack a deadly bite. See “Interesting Facts” for more specifics.

Conservation status and threats: No known conservation threats, as it has a wide distribution and can live close to human habitations. A small number are harvested for their skins, for snake shows, or killed out of fear. Is listed in CITES Appendix II.

Interesting facts: The Monocled Cobra is the most commonly-encountered deadly snake in Bangkok. Most bites occur when people accidentally step on or purposely try to grab a cobra. When the cobra is threatened, it will enter the typical cobra defensive reaction of lifting the front half of its body straight up, spreading out its neck, and hissing. Never approach a cobra in the defensive position. If it is not approached further, it will usually make a hasty retreat.

Cobras have a “neurotoxic” venom that is fast-acting and primarily affects the central nervous system. Initial symptoms are headache, nausea, sleepiness, and disorientation, progressing to difficulty in speech, swallowing, and walking, and eventually complete paralysis. Breathing becomes more difficult as the venom takes effect and death usually results from respiratory failure. Heart failure is also possible from the cardiotoxicity of the venom. Death can occur within 5 to 20 hours without treatment (faster if a vein is bitten), but injection of the correct antivenom will reverse the symptoms if done speedily enough. A quick trip to the nearest hospital will usually save the victim’s life. Artificial respiration may be necessary if the victim’s breathing stops before the antivenom has the chance to be administered or take full effect. Necrosis of the flesh can develop in the days following the bite if the victim survives the initial symptoms.

If you or someone you are with is bitten by a Monocled Cobra, the most important steps are to:

1) Keep the victim calm, having them lie down with the bite mark below the heart if possible.
2) Take a picture of the snake to confirm identification for the hospital.
3) Get the victim to a hospital immediately where professional treatment can take place and antivenom can be given.
4) Start rescue breathing if the victim’s breathing stops and continue until they are in the care of medical professionals.

References:
IUCN Redlist: Naja kaouthia
Wikpedia: Moncled Cobra
The Asiatic Cobra Systematics Page
A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand
A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia
Snakes of Thailand and their Husbandry
Snake Bites and their Treatment
Michael Cota, personal communication

 

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Indo-Chinese Rat Snake

Ptyas korros

Indo-Chinese Rat Snake Ptyas korros

Indo-Chinese Rat Snake from Taiwan (photo by Hans Breuer)

indo-chinese rat snake ptyas korros thailand

Indo-Chinese Rat Snake in Khao Sam Roi Yot (photo by Bernard Dupont)

Ptyas korros  Sa Kaeow Province Michael Cota_files

Indo-Chinese Rat Snake in Sa Kaeow Province (photo by Michael Cota)

Indo-Chinese Rat Snake (Ptyas korros)

Indo-Chinese Rat Snake found in Malaysia (Image by Nick Baker, ecologyasia.com)

Robert Ferguson Ptyas korros

Indo-Chinese Rat Snake found in Hong Kong (photo by Robert Ferguson)

indo-chinese rat snake Ptyas korros

Head shot of Indo-Chinese Rat Snake at the Queen Saovabha Snake Farm

rat snakes bangkok zoo thailand

Head shot of Indo-Chinese Rat Snakes at the Bangkok Zoo (photo by Bernard Dupont)

Captive subadult Indo-Chinese Rat Snake Ptyas korros in hands

Subadult Indo-Chinese Rat Snake in Taiwan (photo by Hans Breuer)

IndoChinese Rat Snake Pytas korras

Young Indo-Chinese Rat Snake in Laos (photo by Thomas Calame)

Indo-Chinese Rat Snake Ptyas korros

Juvenile Indo-Chinese Rat Snake in Chonburi Province (photo by Ray Hamilton)

English name: Indo-Chinese Rat Snake
Scientific name: Ptyas korros
Thai name: Ngu Sing Ban, Ngu Hao Ta-lan

Description: To 256cm long. One of the largest snakes in Bangkok other than the pythons. Brown or olive above, yellowish on the chin and underbelly. Eyes are notably large. Young juveniles have white bands or spots on body.

Similar Species: Oriental Rat Snake has dark bands on the last third of its body.
Monacled Cobra has smaller eyes, loose skin around the neck, and a characteristic marking on the back of the neck/head that expands when displaying.
All other large brown snakes in Bangkok have characteristic stripes, bands, or other markings on the head or body.

Habitat: Prefers open habitat such as grassland, shrubland, open woodland, agriculture, and the open banks of water bodies. Can be found in trees (especially when resting) and is a good swimmer.

Place in the ecosystem: Helps control rodent populations by eating rats and mice, but also feeds on frogs, lizards, smaller snakes, and birds. Their juveniles are eaten by larger snakes, monitors, and birds of prey.

Danger to humans: This large snake is aggressive and can inflict a nasty bite, but it is non-venomous and cannot cause any serious injury.

Conservation status and threats: The Indo-Chinese Rat Snake has no known conservation issues in Thailand, but is hunted for its meat and gallbladder and is listed as endangered in China.

Interesting facts: When captured this snake will thrash its body about violently, which together with its large size makes it difficult to handle.

References:
Snakes of Taiwan: Ptyas korros
University of Hong Kong: Ptyas korros
A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand
A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia

 

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Common Bridle Snake

Lycodon davisonii

Common Bridle Snake (Dryocalamus davisonii)

Common Bridle Snake in Thailand (photo by Michael Cota)

Dryocalamus davisonii  Common Bridle Snake Thailand

Common Bridle Snake in Thailand (photo by Alexandre Roux)

Common Bridle Snake (Dryocalamus davisonii)

Common Bridle Snake in Laos (photo by Thomas Calame)

Dryocalamus davisonii  Common Bridle Snake Thailand

Head shot of Common Bridle Snake (photo by Alexandre Roux)

Common Bridle Snake (Dryocalamus davidsonii)

Common Bridle Snake in Vietnam (photo by Scott Trageser, naturestills.com)

Common Bridle Snake (Dryocalamus davidsonii)

Head shot of Common Bridle Snake (photo by Scott Trageser, naturestills.com)

Blanford's Bridal Snake Dryocalamus davisonii

Common Bridle Snake found dead on road in Uttaradit Province (photo by Sjon Hauser)

English name: Common Bridle Snake (aka: “Blanford’s Bridal Snake”)
Scientific name: Lycodon davisonii (formerly Dryocalamus davisonii)
Thai name: Ngu Plong-chanuan India

Description: To 92cm long. A very slender, vertically narrow snake with a long tail and a depressed head. Body is black with white or pale green crossbands that get closer together as they break up into a reticulated pattern towards the tail. Head is mostly white with a black snout and a narrow black line that runs down the middle of the head towards the body. Underbelly is white.

Similar Species: Common Wolf Snake is not as slender, is wider than it is high, and has less distinct banding.
Banded Krait has a thicker, triangular body. Its light and dark bands are of equal width and remain distinct throughout the body.

Habitat: This forest species is semi-arboreal and can be found in bushes and trees as well as on the ground. Is rather secretive and only comes out at night.

Place in the ecosystem: The Common Bridle Snake eats lizards, mostly feeding on geckos. It is eaten by larger snakes.

Danger to humans: This snake rarely bites and is not dangerous to humans.

Conservation status and threats: No known conservation threats. It is not commonly seen in the Bangkok area.

Interesting facts: The Common Bridle Snake is referred to as a “bridle snaks” due to its narrow body and banded coloration, which makes it appear similar to the bridles (reins) used to control horses.

References:
The Reptile Database: Lycodon davisonii
A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand
A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia
A Field Guide to the Snakes of South Vietnam

 

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Painted Bronzeback

Dendrelaphis pictus

Painted Bronzeback Treesnake (Dendrelaphis pictus)

Painted Bronzeback found in Vietnam (photo by Scott Trageser, http://www.naturestills.com)

Painted Bronzeback Tree snake (Dendrelaphis pictus)

Closeup of Painted Bronzeback (photo by Scott Trageser) naturestills.com

Painted Bronzeback Dendrelaphis pictus

Painted Bronzeback in Krabi Province (photo by Tom Charlton, venomlogic.com)

Painted Bronzeback Common Bronzeback Dendrelaphis pictus in Sumutra

Painted Bronzeback in Sumutra (photo by Curtis Hart)

Painted Bronzeback Dendrelaphis pictus Singapore

Painted Bronzeback in tree in Singapore (photo by Ria Tan)

Common Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis pictus)

Painted Bronzeback in Singapore (Image by Nick Baker, ecologyasia.com)

Thomas Calame Painted Bronzeback Laos

Painted Bronzeback in Laos (photo by Thomas Calame)

Common Bronzeback Dendrelaphis pictus

Painted Bronzeback in Malaysia (photo by Tom Charlton, venomlogic.com)

Painted Bronzeback Dendrelaphis pictus

Head shot of Painted Bronzeback (photo by Tom Charlton, venomlogic.com)

Painted Bronzeback Snake (Dendrelaphis pictus) with ticks Kurt

Head shot of Painted Bronzeback in Malaysia (photo by orionmystery.blogspot.com)

English name: Painted Bronzeback (aka “Common Bronzeback”)
Scientific name: Dendrelaphis pictus
Thai name: Ngu Sai-man Pra Inthra

Description: To 125 cm long. A long, slender snake. Body is olive or brown above with a yellow to cream line running down its side and a thicker black line just above it. Head is bronze above and yellowish below, with a black eyestripe between that connects to the black body line. Belly is pale yellowish.

Similar Species: Indo-Chinese Sand Snake lacks the black line and has yellow lines positioned in the brown background such that the yellow and brown striping have roughly the same width.
Copperhead Racer lacks the yellow stripe and has dark lines radiating from its eye.

Habitat: Found in forests, scrubland, parks, and agriculture. Will sometimes be seen on the edge of small clearings or in other habitat transitions that get more sunlight. Is partially arboreal and often found in bushes or small trees.

Place in the ecosystem: Eats frogs and lizards. Is fed on by larger snakes and birds of prey.

Danger to humans: Will bite if threatened but is not dangerous to humans.

Conservation status and threats: No known conservation threats.

Interesting facts: The Painted Bronzeback is quick and flighty and will usually flee immediately when approached. If it is cornered and can no longer flee it will inflate its body, showing off the bluish skin between its scales.

References:
Ecology Asia: Painted Bronzeback
Wikipedia: Painted Bronzeback
A Photographic Guide to Snakes and Other Reptiles of Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand
A Field Guide to the Reptiles of South-East Asia

 

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