The snakes of borneo the Snake-squad 2 Introduction 2 Conclusions: 3 Snakes in and around Panaga 4

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The Snake-squad 2

Introduction 2

Conclusions: 3

Snakes in and around Panaga 4

Family Boidae 4

Python reticulatus (Reticulated Python) 4

Family Typhlopidae (blind snakes) 5

Ramphotyphlops braminus (Common Blind Snakes) 5

Family Xenopeltidae. (earth snakes) 5

Xenopeltis unicolor (Iridescent Earth Snake) 5

Xenopeltis unicolor (Iridescent Earth Snake) 5

Family Acrochordidae (file snakes) 6

Chersydrus Granulatus (File Snake) 6

Family Colubridae 6

Oligodon octolineatus (Striped Kukri Snake) 6

Elaphe flavolineata (Common Racer) 7

Pseudorhabdion longiceps (Dwarf Reed Snake) 7

Dendrelaphis pictus (Painted Bronzeback) 7

Dendrelaphis pictus (Painted Bronzeback) 8

Dendrelaphis pictus eggs. 9

Dendrelaphis caudolineatus (Striped Bronzeback) 10

Chrysopelea ornata (Golden Tree Snake) 11

Family Elapidae 12

Bungarus fasciatus (Banded Krait) 12

Bungarus candidus (Malayan Krait) 12

Ophiophagus hannah (King Cobra or Hamadryad) 13

Family Hydrophiidae 14

Laticauda colubrina (Amphibious Sea Snake) 14

Aipysurus eydouxii (…..) 14

Hydrophis ornatus (……) 15

Hydrophis spiralis ( ) 15

Lapemis hardwickii ( ) 16

Pelamis platurus (Yellow-bellied Sea Snake) 16

Family Viperidae 17

Trimeresurus wagleri (Wagler's Pit Viper) 17

Snake-sightings 18

Bibliography 19

The Snake-squad


Well, now our snake-squad really has started to work nicely, it's almost a shame to leave the area! But that's life I guess. I had better start to study sea birds and seals and buy some warmer clothing before leaving for the Shetland Islands. My interest in snakes started about two years ago, when we had to send my picture of a snake to London for its identification. To my big surprise a totally different identification came back than the one I expected. Since then I have been looking for proper literature about the snakes of this region, and information on identifications but nothing was found. Only last January someone showed me this book "Fascinating snakes of South East Asia" by Francis Lim Leong Keng and Monty Lee Tat-Mong. It was first published in 1989.Most of the snakes are found on Borneo too. One month later I bought a book in Darwin: "Graeme Gow's Complete Guide to Australian Snakes" which provided me with wealth of general information and a lot of detailed information on seasnakes, of which a lot swim in our waters as well.

The best thing that happened to me was a list I found in "The Sarawak Museum Journal", squashed between an article of Tom Harrison and Smythies of December 1958. It was written by N.S.Haile and it was called: "The Snakes of Borneo, with a Key to the Species". And this list gave the answer to all my questions: a snake is identified with the help of a scale-­count, not by its colours alone.

Henk van Erkelens likes snakes a lot. He takes weak or ill species home and nurses them until they are strong enough to be set free.

In January and February a lot of snakes were found and killed. Especially sea snakes. It made us wonder: what sort of snakes were they? Are there dangerous snakes in the housing-area? Well. just put two and two together and what do you get? A snake-squad, or a S-team or whatever name you want to give us .


In Borneo we have most probably around 160 different species of snakes, divided into 9 families.

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.

Family Acrochordidae:

"File" was one of the lucky snakes to have been in the care of Henk. He was found on the beach, very exhausted, under-nourished and dehydrated. He was released after 6 days into the river. "File" was a very nice snake, which was probably swept into a rather rough sea. He was a very gentle snake, which didn't mind being handled. Something which could not be said about the Tree-snakes!


Everybody has heard of the Boa Constrictor? Well that is a very close relation of our Python reticulatus. I found a Python on my very doorstep in a bottle. We were all very excited about this small species (88 cm). When you find a Python of this size . it is possible to keep it as a pet We had a few splendid hours of exploring each other, and we almost regretted it when we said good-bye to this beautiful snake the next day. We set it free somewhere far away from our housing area. Warning: This little creature was lovely, but be aware of the fact that larger size pythons, although they are not poisonous, can deliver vicious bites. Next is:

Family Colubridae, by far the largest family

What in general are called the grass snakes belong to this family. Snakes of this family are divided into non-poisonous snakes and back fanged mildly poisonous snakes.

N.S.Haile write about back-fanged snakes: "Few of these snakes are dangerous to man, for the following reasons: 1. Their poison fangs, being at the back of the jaw, and small at that, can usually not be used except on prey that is swallowed. Small specimens are completely harmless. 2. Their poison is not very virulent, and 3. Many do not bite in self-defense.

Well, it was only yesterday when a wrestling contest occurred between Henk and a beautiful back-fanged Paradise Treesnake. We knew from an article in "Nature Malaysiana" that they readily bite when handled, so Henk was wearing a glove to protect his hand. But let us start at the beginning. One of the Health Inspectors brought me this plastic bag containing a Paradise Treesnake. So I went to Henk with the snake to make photographs and than to transfer it to the fishtank. As soon as Henk made a hole in the plastic bag, the snake, smelling freedom, jumped on a chair and next on the marble floor... wrong decision since snakes cannot make progress on a smooth surface! So Henk was all over the snake and the snake... It was nice to watch how it turned around in the gloved hand and really bit it. It was only later that we saw these four little wounds on Henk's other unprotected hand. But he did not suffer from any poison at all. No pain, no rashes or whatever.

Also the much seen Painted Bronzeback belongs to this family. But his character is much gentler. I had one in my hands and he didn't even make an attempt to bite! Henk caught a bigger specimen of approx. 110 cm. the other day. This one was in striking pose when Henk tried to grab it, and had its red-coloured mouth wide open. It looked pretty frightening but it actually struck once briefly at the gloved hand. This snake was terrible to keep in the fishtank. Up to the very last it restlessly searched for a way to escape. As soon as a human came close, it even tried to knock itself a way out. The Paradise Treesnake was not very happy, but it would settle down after 30 minutes or so, and would watch me as eagerly as I was observing him.


A much feared and dangerous family. We all have heard from the Kraits and King Cobras. They are the snakes with the front-fangs. I don't think I would like to meet one of them. 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!

Family Hydrophiidae:

Yes, the nicest snakes are saved till the very last. These are 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.

Family Viperidae.

he last family. 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. A funny thing is that Wagler's Pit Viper counts so much on its camouflage, that I could get very close. At one point it sort of waved its tail: to show its annoyance, and I didn't need another warning.


Most of our everyday snakes are harmless except for the highly venomous seasnakes, which are fortunately easily recognised. It is not like Australia, where 75% of the snakes are highly poisonous. Of the 160 different species, only 24 are front-fanged and highly poisonous, of which 17 are Sea Snakes and 2 Coral Snakes. But like always: be aware that there are a few nasties around!

Well, I hope that this helps in making you a bit more familiar with our beautiful snakes.

Bernhardine Prins-Tombrock

June 1990
The Borneo snake book of Bernardine had been treasured by respective Panaga snake men since 1990. However for inclusion in the PNHS website the book and photographs were scanned edited and updated in 1997. I hope this will help some Panaga residents lose their fear of reptiles and maybe prevent the killing of some harmless snakes. Enjoy the read.

Hans Dols

December 1997

Snakes in and around Panaga

Family Boidae

Python reticulatus (Reticulated Python)

­Family Boidae / Genus Python

was quite thrilled when I found this snake on our very doorstep in a Milo-bottle. So was my accomplice Henk, who jumped in his car to come over and have a look for himself. We were all very struck by its beauty, but were not very sure how to handle it. The Python was coiled up and literally rolled out of the jar into the plastic fishtank where it remained in its ball-like position. A little shake, next a touch didn't cause any reaction at all. So we decided at take the Python out and see what would happen. So Henk took it firmly behind the head and lifted it: still no reaction. In the end he literally had to unwind it into a more natural posture. Mind you, I think the Python was as tense as we were! Anyway after some time all parties got more relaxed and Henk decided to let it go and released his grip on the snake a bit. It was ever so funny to see how curious the snake was. It started to travel up and down the arm, using its tongue a lot in its most probably second encounter with Homo sapiens. It even treated Henk to a lick on his nose and examined the strength of his upper arm (doesn't it look very surprised in the picture!). It was as inquisitive about us as we were about it.

Next morning we went up to a stream where we released the Python on a log laying across the water. Unfortunately the snake was quicker in hiding underneath than I was in photographing it. But I did catch a glimpse of its head in its newly found hiding place.

I really hope that this 88-cm Python has caught its first warm blooded prey to survive. One thing is sure: after this wonderful experience I do understand why people like to keep a Python as a pet!

Warning: this little creature was lovely, but be aware of the fact that adults can deliver vicious bites! They are non-venomous, but use constriction to overpower their prey, which could even be a wild pig.

Family Typhlopidae (blind snakes)

Ramphotyphlops braminus (Common Blind Snakes)

Family Typhlopidae / Genus Ramphotyphlops.

Just imagine, you've just arrived in Brunei and this orm like creature snakes out of your orchid-plant-pot. The lady in question got the fright of her life and chased it with a fly swatter, which unfortunately turned out to be a lethal weapon to the snake. It feeds on soft-bodied insects and you can find them under logs and stones and under orchid-pots!

Notice the whitish spots in anal region, snout and tail tip.

Family Xenopeltidae. (earth snakes)

Xenopeltis unicolor (Iridescent Earth Snake)

Family Xenopeltidae / Genus Xenopeltis

his particular nice specimen was found by Ptoly Mortimer in the G5 area. Unfortunately, just before he was able to recover it from its vulnerable position on the road it was run over by a car.

This species 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.

­Length: 55cm. Photos by Jenny Elkin.

Xenopeltis unicolor (Iridescent Earth Snake)

Family Xenopeltidae / Genus Xenopeltis


Figure 1
his 73 cm. long burrowing snake was found on Panaga beach, nicely cut about. It lives in loose soil, clumps of grass and under logs. It feeds on other snakes, mice and amphibians. N.S.Haile (The Snakes of Borneo, with a Key to the Species) writes about this nocturnal snake: "One I caught made no attempt to bite when handled".

Family Acrochordidae (file snakes)

Chersydrus Granulatus (File Snake)

Family Acrochordidae / Genus Chersydrus

"File" (70 cm.) was found on the beach (E9 area) by Henk van Erkelens. It was covered with sand and barely alive. It was carried home in a t-shirt. Diagnosis: exhaustion, dehydration and undernourishment as a result of swimming in pretty rough seas (monsoon-season). So a water basin was made for it with fresh river water and lots of small fish. A couple of days later "File" was already much better. Its colour came back and it was much more vivid. Its character was very friendly: it didn't even make an attempt to bite. After six days "File" seemed to be fully recovered and was set free in the river.

Note that the belly-scales are absent. Instead there is a fold or pleat of skin along the mid-ventral line.

Point of interest: this snake occurs also in Australia. It lives on bottom-dwelling fish and mud skippers.

Fig. 6


Family Colubridae

ligodon octolineatus (Striped Kukri Snake)

Family Colubridae / Sub-Family Colubrinae / Genus Oligodon (Kukris)

This strikingly coloured snake had a very unfortunate encounter when it accidentally got caught between the kitchen door. Being a relatively small snake, it did not survive the force of the door being shut.

As one can see from the photograph, this is an extremely beautiful snake. It is terrestrial , and can grow to approximately 60 cm.

Being generally inoffensive, it tends to mind its own business. However, if provoked, it has the curious habit of hiding its head under its coils and raising and waving its tail to reveal the coral pink underside. It also discharges an objectionable odour. It feeds on small animals like lizards and frogs, as well as other snakes, frog spawn and bird eggs. The fact that the fangs are shaped like curved Kukri knives has given these snakes their name.

There are 3 species of this particular snake occurring in this Region.
n 21-12-97 I found an approximately 1m long snake in my own garden. Not sure if it was a Kukri snake It was handled with a glove. The snake was extremely agile and very quick to move across the grass. It immediately attacked the gloved hand and managed to get away. (Ed)

Photos: Jenny Elkin

Elaphe flavolineata (Common Racer)

Sub-Family Colubrinae/ Genus Elaphe

Found by Mrs. Melis on their patio in the F3 area. Most fortunately this snake reached us alive, and some fantastic photographs were taken, showing the intricate color pattern of this snake. Although only being 52cm. in length, the Common racer is a fairly large snake, reaching a length of 200cm when fully grown. 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.

lthough 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.

A small drop of blood resulted from its small but sharp teeth, the bite being more the result of self-defense than aggressive behavior.

It was later set free. Elaphe flavolineata (Common Racer)

Pseudorhabdion longiceps (Dwarf Reed Snake)

Family Colubridae / Genus Pseudorhabdion (dwarf reed snakes)

One day I got a phone call from a lady telling me that for the second time she had found this snake on the doorstep of her kitchen and that local people in the office was highly poisonous. On arrival she handed me these two dried up snakes, one being 18.5cm. and the smallest 9 cm. long. It cost me them identified. They were so tiny I needed a magnifying glass. But after counting all the scales it was obvious that she was looking at two absolutely harmless snakes, which live on insects and larvae under logs and stones. But who dropped them in their dried up state on the doorstep of her kitchen? Birds?

Dendrelaphis pictus (Painted Bronzeback)

Family Colubridae / sub family Colubrinae / Genus Dendrelaphis (Bronzebacks)

This must be a very common snake since a lot of people have seen this species and a lot of traces were found (Skin-sloughs). This is not very surprising considering its menu: chit-chats! It is a lovely creature. I had one in my hand and it didn't make any attempt to bite. But there are individual differences. Henk caught a Painted Bronzeback, which was a good deal bigger. This one was quite threatening. It opened its mouth, revealing the dark red colour of its interior and reared up in a threatening posture. Henk decided to wear a glove, just in case, but it only struck at his hand once, very briefly. But since it is non-­venomous and we couldn't feel any teeth it didn't matter anyway.

I kept this Bronzeback in the house overnight. It appeared to be very wild. Where the Chrysopelea settled after a while, this one was nervously looking for an e
scape and tried to escape through the plastic side of the fishtank as soon as someone came close. If you really got close, it reared aback and opened its mouth. Very restless he was. I feared for its health!

Dendrelaphis pictus (Painted Bronzeback)

Dendrelaphis pictus eggs.

The lady who showed me these funny looking white things, which appeared out of a dead and rotten tree after it fell over, wasn't very excited about the fact that they were snake-eggs. I was overjoyed to take them home. When I got home they looked pretty dented. I wrapped them in wet tissue and put them in an air-tight container outside in the shade. Unfortunately one of the three eggs died. We could tell from the way it was dented and the change of colour from white to grey. It also went moldy.

After 51 days, two hatched out. Two tiny baby Painted Bronzebacks were lying half outside their shells. They stayed there until I transferred them to the fishtank in the afternoon. I have the feeling that they came out as a result of the unrest.

The difference in character of the two was remarkable. One was energetically trying to jump out of the tank, the other one tried to hide under the tissues. Instinct told them that they didn't belong in that environment. I set the "jumper" free because I feared for its chances of survival after having lost so much energy.

They appeared to lose their skin immediately upon hatching. It came off in little bits instead of in a complete slough. Another interesting fact was that they appeared to stretch approx. 6 cm. in the first 24 hours.

My pleasure could only have been equaled by our bitch Pinto producing a litter!!

Dendrelaphis caudolineatus (Striped Bronzeback)

Family Colubridae / sub family Colubrinae / Genus Dendrelaphis (Bronzebacks)

Two weeks ago Henk remembered he had this 96 cm. Striped Bronzeback in his freezer. Before leaving Brunei I took the liberty of making photographs of it.

oint of interest: unlike its close relative the Painted Bronzeback, it had 2 rows of sharp teeth in its upper- and lower-jaw. They were pointed backwards, so avoid a bite of this non-poisonous species!


Chrysopelea ornata (Golden Tree Snake)

Family Colubridae / sub family Colubrinae /Genus Chrysopelea (tree snakes)

Surprise, surprise! No Chrysopelea ornata is mentioned in the list of N.S.Haile. But I'm looking at 2 specimens right now, I think, in a bottle filled with alcohol-solution. What is more: I've spent most of the afternoon watching one, hunting chit-chats among my orchids. With great expertise this, approx. 130 cm. long, snake slid from pot to pot, smelling with its tongue in every hole and every crack. I really was hoping it would find one, since in "Fascinating Snakes of South East Asia" is written that "Lizards and small birds are said to be eaten alive". But I've seen this photograph, taken in Brunei, in which a Golden Treesnake holds a Chit-chat with its coils while biting it with its back-fangs. Anyway, a mysterious snake.

nfortunately I wasn't at home when one was found in the garden two houses away, sunbathing on the fence. It was killed because this snake is poisonous!

N.S.Haile writes about back-fanged poisonous snakes: "Few of these snakes are dangerous to man, for the following reasons:

1. Their poison-fangs, being at the back of the jaw, and small at that, can usually not be used except on prey that is swallowed. Small specimens are completely harmless. 2. Their poison is not very virulent. 3. Many do not bite in self-defense".

Someone presented me with an article by Robin Stuart, published in the Malayan Nature Malaysiana: "Chrysopelea: a truly beautiful snake". It tells the story of a Paradise Treesnake, which dropped out of a tree on the head of a girl. The girl and her friends brought the snake to their teacher, who kept it in a tank in their classroom for several months, for observation. They called the snake "Jaws", a name which has everything to do with the fact that it readily bit at a persons hand. The teacher and pupils were bitten, but none of them suffered any ill effects.

I am almost convinced that our Golden Treesnake in fact is a Paradise Treesnake without the red markings on its back. Reason for this assumption is that the colouration of the different specimens was never the same. Some had red colours on the head. Others were completely green.

By the way, this is the snake, which is reputed to be able to fly.

This is also the snake, which is called grass-snake.

I felt very honoured to have encountered it in my garden.


Family Elapidae

Bungarus fasciatus (Banded Krait)

Family Elapidae/Genus Bungarus

This fantastic example was located in the X-12 area, and most fortunately, left alone long enough to be removed to a safer place. (Both for the snake and the people in X-12).

Measuring about 160cm, this particular snake indeed behaved rather docile. After a short photo session it was released near the Belait river well away from any build up areas.

Photos by Jenny Elkin.

Photo By Hans Dols

The, approx. 1.5m long, Banded Krait pictured above was found near the Miri-Bintulu to Niah road junction. It had probably been warming up on the tarmac heated by the morning sun before it was clipped by a passing car. A beautiful, but dangerous, snake. (Ed.)

Bungarus candidus (Malayan Krait)

Family Elapidae/Genus Bungarus (Kraits)

Found by Liz Wright in the Sea View area, after it had been run over by a car.

This snake belongs to a family of large elapine snakes of kind and sluggish temperament. Being Vigorous great care should be taken when approaching and handling this snake. Fatal bites have been recorded, the venom being neurotoxic.

As can been seen from the photographs, this snake is distinctly patterned, and grows to pprox. 150cs. This particular specimen was 140cn in length and weight-in at 550gr.

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.

Photos by Henk van Erkelens.

Ophiophagus hannah (King Cobra or Hamadryad)

Family Elapidae / Genus Ophiophagus

f I ever came face to face with this snake I would beat a hasty retreat. Not my partner in crime: he brought it home. He found it on a sand road and it was still alive, but paralyzed. It died 10 minutes after he arrived home. The snake probably had a broken neck.

This 3.37 meter long snake belongs to the group of venomous fixed front fanged snakes. A bite from this species can be fatal. It feeds on other snakes. Its habitat includes open country, so I wouldn't be surprised if this creature shows up in the housing area one day. If it happens to you: stay at a distance, don't give the snake the feeling it has to defend itself!

On a wet 20th of august 1998 we received a baby king Cobra in a large plastic cola bottle ( found in the Kuala Belait SSU/ yard) The brave workers had managed to put it.

The approx. 50cm long snake was certainly an impressive sight. at the slightest fast movement close to the bottle it reared up and spread its collar (Photo.) we were hesitant letting it out for a photo opportunity knowing that even these babys could already be poisonous.We had to cover the bottle up to give the brave little creature a rest. since it reared and hissed at the slightest disturbance Two days later we where relieved and a bit

Family Hydrophiidae

aticauda colubrina
(Amphibious Sea Snake)

Family Hydrophiidae / Genus Laticauda

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.

This species was preserved for 15 months and lost its yellow colours in snout and neck. It is 44 cm. long.

Aipysurus eydouxii (…..)

Family Hydrophiidae / Genus Aipysurus

One hour before the taxi was going to pick us up to bring us to Dutch Night, I received a phonecall about this sea snake on the beach: still alive! What an opportunity! Off I went to have a look at this, approx. 50 cm. long, species.

At first I couldn't find it, perfectly blending with the beach sand. But after walking up and down: yes, there it was. Just 2 meters from the waterline, 3 hours after high tide. By now I learned how important it can be to know what the ventral scales look like, especially in seasnakes. But since it was getting dark rapidly I decided first to check to what extent it was alive. So I touched it very gently with a piece of wood. Result: a strike! It was surprising how clumsily it moved on the sand: it sort of tried swimming on it without much result. So I helped it back into the water by throwing heaps of sand in front of it, thinking that it would have more grip on the rough surface. Finally it succeeded in getting into the water where it reached the first sandbank. It stayed there for a couple of minutes, keeping a piercing eye on me! When a wave swept it back into the gully, it swam on for a couple of meters and climbed back on the beach a few meters away from me.

By this time I had less than 30 minutes left to get rigged for the party, so I decided to rush home.

Hydrophis ornatus (……)

Family Hydrophiidae / Genus Hydrophis

Rae Hiscock writes:

"Description: He was on the boat landing; his body was not cylindrical, see separate drawing (log 014), the lower section was ivory white, while the saddle shaped pattern was very dark green. He had the usual flat rudder tail".

"Comments: Many photographs taken, very vicious. Biting at the broomsticks/ poles, that two of the boys were retaining him with while I photographed and measured him (84 cm). He wrapped himself round someone's fishing line in the water. The person thought he had caught a fish!".

ydrophis spiralis ( )

Family Hydrophiidae / Genus Hydrophis

This snake was 1.38 meter in length and the photographs were taken 24 hours after it was found dead on the beach. When I found out about the importance of the shape and size of the ventral scales as a key to its identification, the snake in its bottle was already quite stiff. So I made a drawing of those parts which were still visible.

Lapemis hardwickii ( )

Family Hydrophiidae / Genus Lapemis

Another photograph by Rae Hiscock (Sea Watch, Champion 4). His identification was Lapemis hardwickii. Colin McCarthy writes:

"I believe you are correct in identifying…. as L.h.".

If you ask me I think that this snake is a real brainteaser'. Just to whet your own curiosity: compare the photograph with the photograph in "Poisonous Snakes of Peninsular Malaysia" of Hydrophis caerulescens! What do you think?

The second set of photographs were given to me by Diane Donohue ­she had photographed the 1ive snake on the beach at Mumong in early August 1991. My initial verdict was 'Hardwicke's', and on looking through Poisonous Snakes of Peninsular Malaysia I wi11 stick with that identification because of the 1arge head, stout body and the number of dorsal bars which I counted at around 46. (Jen Elkin)

Pelamis platurus (Yellow-bellied Sea Snake)


amily Hydrophiidae / Genus Pelamis

ell, I must admit, I liked the attitude of the boy who told his father: "No, daddy, first we are going to show this snake to Henk before putting it back into the sea!". Well, isn't it beautiful, this 32 cm. small sea snake. It had a few parasites on its body, which were taken care of by Henk. Nature takes care of them as well: sea snakes slough fairly frequently to get rid of their parasites!

But how to get nice pictures of a small snake like this?

Next day we went to the beach and after taking the photographs

Family Viperidae

Trimeresurus wagleri (Wagler's Pit Viper)

(Family Viperidae / Sub family Crotalinae (pit vipers))

"Bernhardine, Bernhardine, een slang!!!". That's what I heard in the distance. I translated for the two guys who were studying a Nepenthes-plant with me in the border of a jungle clearing. I just wasn't prepared for the reaction of Jean Francois, who in his usual bare footed state, simply jumped over me. "Please, wait for me!" I screamed after him!

Egbert knew that something was wrong. Something was there, in the bushes, but, owing to the camouflage he couldn't make it out. So he just stood there for 15 minutes or so and than all of a sudden realised he was looking at a snake....

Jean Francois knew what he was doing when he asked me for my parang. He cut the branch on which this approx. 80 cm. snake was resting out of the tree and carried it into the open. I had no problem taking loads of photographs, although I still remember what it felt like, when I looked the Viper straight in the eye!

I'm still very much surprised how close I could come without feeling any dread of the snake. But, of the Pit Vipers, this one seems to be the most docile. And (!) it was sloughing, which you can see from its eyes.

ind you, this snake triggered this whole study off. I was surprised I needed the help of London Natural History Museum to get this snake identified. Now I know that it is not the colours, which are important for the identification of the snake, it is the scale-pattern. Look at the next snake, and you will understand why.

Trimeresurus wagleri (Wagler's Pit Viper?

"Well", I told a concert-pianist and the parents in law of the organiser of the concert: "we will be extremely lucky if we see a snake at all! H . I could see from her face that she couldn't quite believe me. Anyway, we went to Badas the following day.

I just stopped talking in the middle of my sentence, because what I saw was a nice little Pit Viper of about 60 cm. Isn't it wonderful, it is the same species as the snake on the previous page. Only this one is different in colour.


26-01-90 Ophiophagus hannah (King Cobra), 337 cm., Anduki. When it was found, it was still alive. It died minutes after arrival at Henk's place. Death was most probably caused by a broken neck.

03-02-90 Chersydrus granulatus (File Snake), 70 cm., beach. It was "hospitalized" to recover from exhaustion, undernourishment and dehydration. After 6 days Henk set it free in the river.

19-03-90 Hydrophis spiralis (Yellow Sea snake), 138 cm., beach golf course. Found dead.

10-04-90 Dendrelaphis pictus (Painted Bronzeback), approx. 35 cm., E12.

13-04-90 Dendrelaphis pictus (Painted Bronzeback), approx. 100 cm., found dead on beach E12. Killed.

13-04-90 Dendrelaphis pictus (Painted Bronzeback), approx. 75 cm., seen eating chik-chaks on fence, X9.

16-04-90 Dendrelaphis pictus (Painted Bronzeback), approx.. 35 cm., found in kitchen, X9.

18-04-90 Skin-slough of Dendrelaphis pictus (Painted Bronzeback) found in E12.

20-04-90 Snake was seen on doorstep of kitchen in X7. Was recognised from pictures as Dendrelaphis pictus (Painted Bronzeback)

20-04-90 Aipysurus eydouxii ( ), approx. 50 cm., beach E11. Very much alive!

22-04-90 Dendrelaphis pictus (Painted Bronzeback), approx.. 45 cm., found dead on road W9.

01-05-90 Python reticulates (Reticulated Python), small one was said to be found on Anduki airfield. The pilots made a lot of effort to locate the snake ( which was said to have been taken home by one of the local people as pet). However the snake wasn't found.

06-05-90 Ramphotyphlops braminus (Common Blind Snake), 14 cm., killed with flycatcher, X12.

11-05-90 Dendrelaphis pictus (Painted Bronzeback), approx. 110 cm., seen in E12 (my own garden, wow!).

14-05-90 Dendrelaphis pictus (Painted Bronzeback), approx. 35 cm., seen in G5. Skin-slough of 87 cm. of Dendrelaphis pictus (Painted Bronzeback) was found in same area. Three snake eggs were collected in same garden. There were more eggs, but they were dead, or destroyed by ants. At home I wrapped them in wet tissues, since they looked dehydrated. One of the eggs didn't survive. It looked terribly dented and it started to go moldy: reason enough to take it away. Now, 44 days later, both eggs look healthy still. They are outside in an airtight container, on a bed of wet tissues. Length: 3.2 cm, width: 1 cm.

16-05-90.Chrysopelea paradisi (Paradise Treesnake), approx. 60 cm., Hospital area. Was killed.

16-05-90 Dendrelaphis pictus (Painted Bronzeback), approx.. 100 cm., killed by school-amah while one of the teachers was carrying it outside Panaga-school area.

17-05-90 Checked on snake eggs in E12. A slit in the length of the egg proved that they already hatched.

18-05-90Xenopeltis unicolour (Iridescent Earthsnake), 73 cm. found dead on beach Panaga Club. It was killed.

18-05-90 While I was holding the Earthsnake in my hand, 2 lady called me, telling: "Please come quick, my is playing with a snake!". It happened to be a (guess what) Dendrelaphis pictus (Painted Bronzeback) of 73 cm. I had to put it down. F8

22-05-90 Pseudorhabdion longiceps (Dwarf Reed Snake), one of 9 cm. and one of 18 cm., Jalan Pandan Satu. They were found dried on the kitchen doorstep.

31-05-90 unidentified snake of approx. 55-cm. long snake found refuge in heap of dead leaves from Henk's piercing eyes. A younger member of the family identified it as a Xenopeltis unicolour. F6.

04-06-90 Xenopeltis unicolour (Iridescent Earthsnake), 70 cm. found dead F4.

06-06-90 Python reticulatus (Reticulated Python), 88 cm., on my doorstep in Milo-bottle. Was found in X4. Beautiful snake, and alive!

12-06-90 Pelamis platurus (....), approx.. 25 cm., found alive on beach near golf course.

15-06-90 Chrysopelea paradisi (Paradise Treesnake), 131 cm., killed in E7.

19-06-90 Chrysopelea paradisi (Paradise Treesnake), 78 cm., hospital. Was caught by health inspector, and brought to me.

19-06-90 Oligodon octolineatus (Striped Kukri Snake), approx.. 50 cm., F2. It was hiding with its head underneath its coils. It was carried from the road into the high grass by the people who sighted it.

19-06-90 Unidentified snake in G4 area, it definitely had a hood. Length: ?, approx. 35 cm. was standing up, forming a hood. Small Naja naja (Cobra)? It had no yellow markings under the head.

22 - 06-90 Chrysopelea paradisi (Paradise Treesnake), 101 cm., hospital-area. Very reddish head-markings.

22-06-90 Chrysopelea paradisi (Paradise Treesnake), 86 cm., hospital-area. What is going on there?

23-06-90 Chrysopelea paradisi (Paradise Treesnake), approx.. 90 cm., Henk's garden, lucky guy! Had a look in hospital-area: place is flooded midday, caused by extremely high tide. That might have been the reason why 2 Paradise Treesnakes were caught here in one day.

26-06-90 Dendrelaphis pictus (Painted Bronzeback), Gurkha hospital, 61 cm. They rescued it from the claws of a cat and put it in the incubator. Unfortunately it died.

26-06 - 90 Dendrelaphis pictus (Painted Bronzeback), 110 cm., Anduki. Was caught by Henk. Very nervous creature.

27-06-90 Boiga dendrophila (Mangrove Snake), 220 cm. was found dead on Seria-Mumong Road. It was in such a bad shape that I didn't even think of taking photographs. It was a bit smelly as well. A very brave lady who transported it to us in the back of her car.

27-06-90 Naja naja (Cobra), X7 ??? At 6 o'clock this morning a brown snake was seen on the other side of the window. The snake was not more as 2 meters away. They actually could follow it, going from one window to the next. She said she had never seen such a beautiful creature before, but also felt a bit shaken. After looking at my pictures it was very positively identified as a Cobra. It was 5 feet long, and since the lady is sewing curtains at the moment she is very sure about the size!

04-07-90 Our 2 eggs hatched today! Two little Bronzebacks were laying half outside their egg. A wonderful sight. This was in the morning. In the afternoon they crept out, while I was trying to transfer them to my fishtank. Maybe there was too much disturbance. One was set free the same afternoon. As little as it was, it was trying to jump out of the tank and whenever I came near, it would lift its little head and open its mouth in a threatening posture. But as soon as I picked it up and let it crawl over my arm it was all right. I was anxious that it would lose too much energy, so I set it free. Funny how their instinct tells them that they are not in the place where they should be.

The second one was much more at ease, so I kept it a little longer. Just after hatching I estimated

their length at approx. 16 cm. Twenty-four hours later I measured the second one 22 cm. I have the feeling that they stretch out after hatching.
22 August 1990

Forest, 2 km south of main Seria to Bandar road. At Chinese Chicken Farm Road, 2 km west of Labi Road junction.

Predominantly green snake with pale yellowish stripe on each side of the body. Slightly lighter coloured green underside. Upper scales of last few centimeter's of tail reddish in colour. Head arrow shaped but more elongated than that of most vipers. Snake was coiled around fine branches of a sapling only about one meter high. Difficult to assess due to coiling. Probably about 50 to 60cm in length. Tail and neck slender with mid-body thickening to about 2cm diameter.

IDENTIFICATION red-tailed Pit Viper/ Pope's Pit Viper. (Trimeresurus popeiorum)


First spotted by a local. Tree in which snake was coiled was on a very tempting short-cut across a U-bend on the trail of the KB Mixed Hash Run No 713. He, thoughtfully, stayed by to warn hashers to avoid it.

George Holliday arrived, running on his own, at the point, to be advised to avoid the short cut. Whereupon the local ran off. GH stayed to ensure the remainder of the runners avoided the position. Other witnesses: Ossie Hall, Helen Hall, Carrie Hall and about 10 other hashers.

GH stayed at location for a further 15 minutes until the remainder of the hash had passed. Position was about 60cm from the sapling. Time spent carefully observing details of the creature's anatomy. With a view to subsequent verification of tentative identification. Note that snake appeared to be fairly unperturbed by presence/sudden appearance of a hundred noisy nutters on its patch. It made no attempt to move or make any defensive/threatening gestures.


The Snakes of Borneo, with a Key to the Species by N.S.Haile Sarawak Museum Journal, December 1958

Fascinating Snakes of Southeast Asia - An Introduction by Francis Lim Leong Keng Monty Lee Tat-Mong Tropical Press Sdn. Bhd. 29, Jalan Riong, 59100 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia.

Graeme Gow's Complete Guide To Australian Snakes by Graeme Gow Angus & Robertson Publishers Unit 4, Eden Park, 31 Waterloo Road North Ryde, NSW, Australia 2113


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