Friday, December 28, 2012

Singapore Snakes

Suborder Serpentes

Brahminy Blind Snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus) White-bellied Blind Snake (Typhlops muelleri) Red-tailed Pipe Snake (Cylindrophis ruffus)
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Sunbeam Snake (Xenopeltis unicolor) Reticulated Python (Broghammerus reticulatus) Banded File Snake (Acrochordus granulatus)
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Speckle-headed Whip Snake (Ahaetulla fasciolata) Malayan Whip Snake (Ahaetula mycterizans) Oriental Whip Snake (Ahaetulla prasina) Keel-bellied Whip Snake (Dryophiops rubescens)
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Dog-toothed Cat Snake (Boiga cynodon) Mangrove Snake (Boiga dendrophila) White-spotted Cat Snake (Boiga drapiezii) Jasper Cat Snake (Boiga jaspidea)
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Variable Reed Snake (Calamaria lumbricoidea) Pink-headed Reed Snake (Calamaria schlegeli) Paradise Tree Snake (Chrysopelea paradisi) Twin-barred Tree Snake (Chrysopelea pelias)
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Common Malayan Racer (Coelognathus flavolineatus) Copperhead Racer (Coelognathus radiatus) Striped Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis caudolineatus) Blue Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis cyanochloris)

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Elegant Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis formosus) Haas' Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis haasi) Red-necked Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis kopsteini) Painted Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis pictus)
Malayan Bridle Snake (Dryocalamus subannulatus) Orange-bellied Ringneck (Gongylosoma baliodeira) Red-tailed Racer (Gonyosoma oxycephalum) Tricoloured Ringneck (Liopeltis tricolor)
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House Wolf Snake (Lycodon capucinus) Banded Wolf Snake (Lycodon subcinctus) Brown Kukri Snake (Oligodon purpurascens) Striped Kukri Snake (Oligodon octolineatus)
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Barred Kukri Snake (Oligodon signatus) Dwarf Reed Snake (Pseudorabdion longiceps) Keeled Rat Snake (Ptyas carinata) White-bellied Rat Snake (Ptyas fusca)
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Indochinese Rat Snake (Ptyas korros) Black-headed Collared Snake (Sibynophis melanocephalus) Malayan Brown Snake (Xenelaphis hexagonotus) Cantor's Water Snake (Cantoria violacea)
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Dog-faced Water Snake (Cerberus rynchops) Rainbow Water Snake (Enhydris enhydris) Crab-eating Water Snake (Fordonia leucobalia) Yellow-lipped Water Snake (Gerarda prevostiana)
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Puff-faced Water Snake (Homalopsis buccata) Blackwater Mud Snake (Phytolopsis punctata) Blue-necked Keelback (Macropisthodon rhodomelas) Painted Mock Viper (Psammodynastes pictus)
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Southern Chequered Keelback (Xenochrophis flavipunctatus) Spotted Keelback (Xenochrophis maculatus) Triangle Keelback (Xenochrophis trianguligerus) Striped Keelback (Xenochrophis vittatus) - Introduced
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White-spotted Slug Snake (Pareas margaritophorus)
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Malayan Krait (Bungarus candidus) Banded Krait (Bungarus fasciatus) Blue Malayan Coral Snake (Calliophis bivirgatus) Banded Malayan Coral Snake (Calliophis intestinalis)
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Equatorial Spitting Cobra (Naja sumatrana) King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) Yellow-lipped Sea Krait (Laticauda colubrina) Horned Sea Snake (Acalyptophis peronii)
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Marbled Sea Snake (Aipysurus eydouxii) Stoke's Sea Snake (Astrotia stokesii) Beaked Sea Snake (Enhydrina schistosa) Blue-banded Sea Snake (Hydrophis cyanocinctus)
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Striped Sea Snake (Hydrophis fasciatus) Kloss' Sea Snake (Hydrophis klossi) Short Sea Snake (Lapemis curtus) Small-headed Sea Snake (Microcephalophis gracilis)
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Yellow-bellied Sea Snake (Pelamis platurus)
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Pit Vipers

Mangrove Pit Viper (Cryptelytrops purpureomaculatus) Wagler's Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri)

Typical Blind Snakes (Family Typhlopidae)

There are 2 species in Singapore, namely the Brahminy Blind Snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus) and the White-bellied Blind Snake (Typhlops muelleri). They are so called because they are essentially blind, due to their burrowing behaviour.

Dead Brahminy Blind Snake at Neo Tiew Lane 2 ©Tan KH

Pythons (Family Pythonidae)

Reticulated Python (Broghammerus reticulatus) is the longest snake in the world. Pythons are constrictors, meaning they kill their prey by coiling around them and squeezing them. It is so called because of the beautiful pattern on its body. Sometimes, this snake appears in the news because it was spotted in a canal. It can, however, be found in various habitats, including forests, wooded areas, rivers, lakes, and even out in the sea.

Reticulated Pythons: Central Catchment. Chinese Garden ©Ben Lee

File Snake (Family Acrochordidae)

Banded File Snake (Acrochordus granulatus) is an aquatic snake of our sea shores. However, it is not a sea snake, which is highly venomous. The Banded File Snake is non-venomous. It superficially resembles a Banded Sea Snake (aka Yellow-lipped Sea Snake).

Banded File Snake at Senoko ©Eddy Lee

Colubrids (Family Colubridae)

Whip Snakes

These snakes are so called because they are so thin that they look like whips. There are 4 species in Singapore. The species one is most likely to encounter is the Oriental Whip Snake (Ahaetulla prasina), which is mildly venomous snake and bright green all overall. It inhabits wooded areas, including forests and parks. It can only be mixed up with the Malayan Whip Snake (A. mycterizans) as they look alike. The distinguishing feature is that the latter has much bigger eyes. The Speckle-headed Whip Snake (A. fasciolata) has speckles all over the head, hence the name. It has colour ranging from brownish to light greenish, but not the bright green of the Oriental and Malayan Whip Snakes. Whip snakes are so called due to their thin body. The Keel-bellied Whip Snake (Dryophiops rubescens) does not belong to the same genus as the rest.

Oriental Whip Snakes: Botanic Garden. Pulau Ubin ©Lau SY

Keel-bellied Whip Snake at Chek Jawa ©Ben Lee

Cat Snakes (Genus Boiga)

These snakes are so called because their eyes look like cat eyes. There are 4 species in Singapore. Dog-toothed Cat Snake (B. cynodon) is mostly light brown with black bands all along the body. It is mildly venomous. Yellow-lipped Cat Snake (B. dendrophila), also known as Mangrove Snake, is a stunning black and yellow. It is mildly venomous, but is harmless to human. This is the cat snake one is most likely to encounter in Singapore.

Dog-toothed Cat Snake in Sarawak, Malaysia ©Con Foley

Mangrove Snakes: Rifle Range ©Eddy Lee. Dairy Farm ©Lau JS

Flying Snakes (Genus Chrysopelea)

These snakes are so called because they can "fly" from tree to tree. In fact, they glide rather than fly. There are 2 species in Singapore. Twin-barred Tree Snake (C. pelias) is uncommon and easily identified by the red-black-white markings on its back. Paradise Tree Snake (C. paradisi) is quite common in secondary forests, mangroves and even parks. It is mildly venomous, but not dangerous to human. It has black and yellow scales. Some have red dorsal colours making it a very beautiful snake. It is sometimes traded as pets.

Twin-barred Tree Snake. Chestnut Ave ©Eddy Lee

Paradise Tree Snakes. Left: Sungei Buloh ©Eddy Lee. Right: Dairy Farm ©Tan KH

Bronzebacks (Genus Dendrelaphis)

Bronzebacks are distinguished by the bronze colour extending from the back of the head all the way down the back to the tail. They are not dangerous to human and are less than 2 m in length. There are 6 species in Singapore - Painted, Striped, Elegant, Blue, Red-necked and Haas'. The Painted and Striped Bronzebacks are distinguished from the rest by having more than one black stripe running down the whole length of the body. Striped Bronzeback (D. caudolineatus), however, has even more stripes than the Painted Bronzeback (D. pictus), with the black stripes even within the bronze back. Red-necked Bronzeback (D. kopsteini) is distinguished from the rest by having a red neck which is clearly visible when it puffs up. Elegant Bronzeback (D. formosus) can be told apart from the Blue Bronzeback (D. cyanochloris) by the three black strips near the tail. Haas's Bronzeback (D. haasi) is distinguished from the rest by having a broken black stripe instead of a continuous one.

Elegant Bronzeback at Chestnut Area ©Eddy Lee

Haas' Bronzeback at Lower Peirce ©Tan KH

Painted Bronzeback: Wild one in Zoo compound ©Steven Chong. Lower Peirce ©Ben Lee

Painted Bronzeback at Lor Halus ©Tan KH

Red-necked Bronzeback at Lower Peirce: ©David Tan. ©Con Foley


Red-tailed Racer (Gonyosoma oxycephalum) is a green snake with a black eye band and a red tail. Other racers found in Singapore are Common Malayan Racer (Coelognathus flavolineatus) and Copperhead Racer (C. radiatus)

Red-tailed Racer at Lower Peirce ©Ben Lee

Red-tailed Racer at Jelutong Tower ©Tan KH

Wolf Snakes (Genus Lycodon)

There are two species of wolf snakes in Singapore - House and Banded.

House Wolf Snake in Singapore ©Eddy Lee

Young Banded Wolf Snake in Malaysia ©Tan GC

Kukri Snakes (Genus Oligodon)

There are three species of kukri snakes in Singapore - brown, striped and barred. Brown Kukri Snake (O. purpurascens) has black stripes all along the body. Striped Kukri Snake (O. octolineatus) has a dorsal red stripe and black side stripes. Barred Kukri Snake (O. signatus) has red stripes on a dark body.

Brown Kukri Snake in Malaysia ©Tan GC

Rat Snakes (Genus Pytas)

White-bellied Rat Snake (P. fusca) maintains a vertical posture when disturbed. It has a dark back and a white belly. It is rare and inhabits forest streams. The other rat snakes found in Singapore are Keeled Rat Snake (P. carinata) and Indochinese Rat Snake (P. korros).

White-bellied Rat Snake at Hindhede Nature Park ©Lau JS

Brown Snake (Genus Xenelaphis)

Malayan Brown Snake (X. hexagonotus) is an uncommon snake. It prefers habitat close to water and are often seen in water. It is brown above, white below and has black bands all along its body.

Malayan Brown Snakes at Lower Peirce: ©Tan GC. ©Eddy Lee

Water Snakes

There are 7 species that can be found in Singapore. Dog-faced and Puff-faced Water Snakes are common in inland habitats, e.g. Sungei Buloh. They are mildly venomous but harmless to human. Dog-faced Water Snake (Cerberus rynchops) is brownish-greyish above, pale below and has broken black bands across its body. Puff-faced Water Snake (Homalopsis buccata) is brownish-greyish above and mottled-yellowish below. In the juvenile, there are prominent black bands across the upperparts.

There are 4 species that can be found in Pasir Ris Park, namely Dog-faced, Gerard's, Crab-eating and Cantor's Water Snake. Gerard's Water Snake (Gerarda prevostiana) is also known as Yellow-lipped Water Snake due to the yellow lip.

The newest edition is the Blackwater Mud Snake (Phytolopsis punctata) found in Nee Soon Swamp in 2014.

Dog-faced Water Snakes at Sungei Buloh: ©Steven Chong. ©Danny Lau

Puff-faced Water Snake attacked by Water Monitor at Sungei Buloh ©John Spencer

Yellow-lipped or Gerard's Water Snake at Pasir Ris Park ©Tan KH


There are 5 species of snakes in Singapore called Keelbacks. 4 of them are from the genus Xenochrophis, while one of them is from genus Macropisthodon. The Striped Keelback (X. vittatus) is an introduced species. The rest - Blue-necked (M. rhodomelas), Southern Chequered (X. flavipunctatus), Spotted (X. maculatus) and Triangle (X. trianguligerus) - are native.

Blue-necked Keelback at Panti, Malaysia ©Con Foley

Spotted Keelback at Panti, Malaysia ©Con Foley

Triangle Keelbacks: Sarawak, Malaysia ©Con Foley. Penang, Malaysia ©Eddy Lee

Elapids (Family Elapidae)

Kraits (Genus Bungarus)

Two species can be found in Singpore, namely Malayan Krait (Bungarus candidus) and Banded Krait (Bungarus fasciatus).

Dead Banded Krait on Pulau Ubin ©Tan KH

Coral Snakes (Genus Calliophis)

Blue Malayan Coral Snake (C. bivirgatus) is a highly venomous snake. It is rare and inhabits forested areas. The other coral snake that can be found in Singapore is Banded Malayan Coral Snake (C. intestinalis).

Blue Malayan Coral Snake at Chestnut Area ©Eddy Lee


Cobras are familiar snakes, but it is unusual to encounter them. They are well known for the hood that they can puff up when threatened. They would typically have slithered off before one can spot them. They are highly poisonous. There are 2 species in Singapore. Equatorial Spitting Cobra (Naja sumatrana) is so called because it is able to spit its venom when threatened. Also know as the Black Spitting Cobra, this is the cobra one is more likely to encounter. It can be found in desolated areas. Care must be taken when walking in such areas. It has a distinctive white pattern on the hood, which can be seen more clearly when puffed up. It is typically all black and is much smaller than the King Cobra. King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) is so called because it feeds on other snakes and it is much larger than the other cobras. It is typically brownish in colour. A large specimen is deadly to human. Fortunately, it is found mainly in forested areas, although it can found in desolated areas on rare occasions.

Equatorial Spitting Cobra hiding in Mud Lobster mound at Pulau Ubin: ©Tan KH. ©Danny Lau

King Cobra at Sungei Buloh ©Tan KH

Pit Vipers (Family Viperidae)

Pit Vipers are so called for the pit organ on both sides of the head and they are venomous snakes. Mangrove Pit Viper (Cryptelytrops purpureomaculatus) has colour ranging from all black to green with black pattern. It is also known as Shore Pit Viper. Wagler's Pit Viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri) has colour ranging from light green in juvenile to dark green with stripes in adult.

Mangrove Pit Viper at Sungei Buloh ©Con Foley

Wagler's Pit Viper at Lower Peirce ©Sreedharan G


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