Want to Read More?

Fascinating Snakes of Southeast Asia, an Introduction (F. Lim Leong Keng and M. Lee Tat-Mong, 1990, Tropical Press)

A Colour Guide to Dangerous Animals (P. Gopalakrishnakone, 1990, Ridge Books)

A Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Singapore (K. K. P. Lim and F. L. K. Lim, 1992, Singapore Science Center)

The Natural History of Amphibians and Reptiles in Sabah (R. F. Inger and Tan Fui Lan, 1996, Natural History Publications (Borneo) Sdn. Bhd. Kota Kinabalu)

Snakes of Borneo (B. Prins, 1990, PNHS): photographic collection

I’ve Just Been Bitten By a Snake!!

Well Don’t panic. Allay the anxiety and hopefully you read this before it happened. Otherwise follow this link to find out more.

Snakes certainly occupy a special place in peoples’ psyche and non more so than the thought of encountering a snake in Borneo. In Borneo there are around 160 different species of snakes, divided into 9 families.

Most of our everyday snakes are harmless. Only snakes which have a venom gland, a duct to carry the fang to inject that venom, are considered as venomous. Of the 160 different species, only 24 are front-fanged and highly poisonous, of which 17 are Sea Snakes and 2 Coral Snakes from the Hydrophiidae family. The remainder are from the Elapidae and the Veperidae families.

Family Boidae:

Everybody has heard of the Boa Constrictor? Well that is a very close relation of our Python reticulatus. Larger specimens usually eat animals about the size of a house cat, but larger food items are not unknown. Prey is swallowed whole, and may take anywhere from several days or even weeks to fully digest. Despite their intimidating size and muscular power, they are generally not dangerous to humans.  Warning: Be aware of the fact that larger size pythons, although they are not poisonous, can deliver vicious bites.

Family Colubridae:

Incorporates around two thirds of all snakes. What in general are called the grass snakes belong to this family. While most colubrids are nonvenomous (or have venom that is not known to be harmful to humans) and are mostly harmless, a few groups, such as genus Boiga, can produce medically significant bites, while the boomslang, the twig snakes and the Asian genus Rhabdophis have caused human fatalities.

Family Elapidae:

A much feared and dangerous family. We all have heard from the Kraits and King Cobras. They are the snakes with the front-fangs. The Krait is yellow-black banded or white-black banded from head to tale. The King Cobra looks plane brown-blackish and has a yellow gold neck which is shown when he rears up. Whenever you see a snake like these: keep your distance (a few meters should be enough) and if possible warn Health services while someone keeps an eye on the snake. You don't want the snake to hide where you cannot find it again. Don't give the snake the feeling it is attacked, especially not when it is cornered. Like every creature: it will defend itself!

The Banded Krait: Marked with alternate black and pale yellow (sometimes white) cross-bands throughout entire length of body. The black bands encircle the body completely, except for the head and tail. Tip of the tail is blunt. Found in coastal regions such as mangrove forests and also in human habitations. Grows to 2 metres long and is the largest of the kraits. Nocturnal and feeds on other snakes and lizards.

The Malayan Krait is terrestrial and nocturnal in its behavior, spending the daylight hours hiding in holes or crevices in the ground. Feeding on other snakes and skinks, it kills it prey with its venomous bite.

Families Typhlopidae, Aniliidae, Xenopeltidae:

Snakes of the families Typhlopidae (Blind Snakes), Aniliidae (Pipe Snakes) and Xenopeltidae (Earth Snakes) all live in loose soil and are burrowing snakes. Most of them are nocturnal. They are mild-mannered and completely harmless.

The Sunbeam Snake is non-venomous and in general non-aggressive, thus presenting no real problem in terms of handling. It is easy recognisable due to its somewhat flattened head with a rounded snout and particularly small eyes. Living in loose soil, clumps of grass and under logs, it is a gentle, nocturnal creature feeding on amphibians, mice and other snakes. Due to the high iridescence of the scales in sunlight it is sometimes also called the Sunbeam Snake.

Family Acrochordidae:

All are entirely aquatic, lacking the broad belly-scales found in most other snakes and possessing dorsally located eyes. Their most notable feature is their skin and scales. The skin is loose and baggy, giving the impression of being several sizes too large for the snake, and the scales, rather than overlapping, are tiny pyramidal projections that lead to their common names.

These snakes are ambush predators, lurking at the bottom of rivers, streams and estuaries, and waiting for fish to approach, which they grip with their coils. The rough scales allow them to hold the fish despite the mucus coating. Adults grow to between 60 cm and 2.43 m in length.

Striped Kukri Snake



Paradise Tree Snake

The Paradise Tree Snake or Chrysopelea is also known under its assigned common name "flying snake". This could be someone’s personal nightmare, but luckily their venom is not harmful to humans. These snakes are very common around the Panaga camp with them feeding on lizards, frogs and bats. They ‘fly’ by climbing to the end of a branch and then thrusting themselves towards their destination. Whilst in flight it maintains a concave shape to aid the gliding whilst also undulating its body. ‘Flying’ between trees uses less energy than being on the ground and also useful for evading predators.

The Elaphe flavolineata (Common Racer) is also a member of this family and occurs on the camp They occur in various habitats, and being diurnal, are hence most commonly encountered in the field.The Common racer is equally at home on the ground as well in trees. I feeds on a wide variety of prey like rodents, birds and amphibians. Being non-venomous it subdues its prey by seizing it in its mouth, and holding it down with the constricting coils of its body.

Although like most snakes it displays an aggressive behavior when approached or cornered, rearing up its coiled fore-body in anticipation of a strike, this particular example proved rather friendly when handled carefully taking care as not to agitate it by rapid or unexpected movements of the hands or body. I received only one bite, which was due to an unexpected jump of my son after the snake showed too much interest in his hands.

The Elaphe flavolineata (Common Racer)

Sunbeam Snake

Common Blind Snake

Painted Bronzeback
[Gecko loving non venemous sanke]

Banded Krait

Malayan Krait

Ophiophagus hannah (King Cobra or Hamadryad)

The King Cobra is the largest venomous snake in the world. Growing up to about 6 meters, brown in colour above with the belly greyish-brown. Throat orange-yellow with irregular black markings. Head black above with 4 white cross-bars, belly and ventral part of head white. Hoodspreading and vertical stance of the front part are warning displays.

Family Hydrophiidae:

The sea snakes. All look pretty much the same, namely black and white banded, or saddled. Only one species is black above, yellow underneath. The rudder like tail is very distinctive. Tell your children to stay away from them. They lay very still on the beach, but can be very much alive. Many sea snakes bite defensively i.e. if grabbed but unprovoked attacks are rare. They also are very clumsy on the beach. It is very hard for them to move on the sand. Keep always in your mind that the poison of some of the seasnakes is probably four times as potent as the poison of the King Cobra.

Unlike other seasnakes, Laticauda species lay their eggs in the sand, leaving them to hatch, instead of giving birth to live young. This is one of the reasons why some herpetologists consider this species as a separate family, named the Sea Kraits. Another reason is that they are partly terrestrial, occasionally found a considerable distance from the sea. They feed on fish and eels.

The blue coral snake grows to 1.5 metres long. The body is dark blue to blue black with distinct pale blue stripe along each side. Inhabits the low land forest and cultivated areas on jungle fringes. The coral snake should be regarded as dangerous as there is no known antivenin to counteract its venom.

Blue Coral Snake


Family Viperidae:

They possess very long fangs in the front of their upper jaw. To be able to close their mouth they are able to fold these fangs backwards against their palate. The vipers in our area all have heat sensors between their eyes and nose. Though all vipers are considered venomous, only some are regarded as deadly. Bites by many species usually cause extreme pain and swelling to the victim. The Wagler’s Pit Viper adult is green with scales black bordered and many greenish-yellow cross bars on the back. Belly and undersides of head and tail yellowish in colour. Young is green with double series of spots spaced along its back. Growing up to 1.3 metres long.

Wagler’s Pit Viper