Sunday, November 04, 2007

Singapore Wildlife Stampede

Singapore's first parade for endangered animals and environment, led by Dr. Jane Goodall, happened on 2 November 2007 4-7 pm at Singapore Botanics Garden. A 'snake contingent' consisting of three 'snakes' and many kids (real kids plus adults that are young at heart) was there, which I believe was led by the Nature Society of Singapore. Bravo to all of them! The parade was a fun and meaningful event, which brought many nature lovers together for a common cause.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Four Whips In A Day!

During a late afternoon on 8 September 2007, Chan Kwok Wai found not one, not two, not three, but FOUR Oriental Whip Snakes (Ahaetulla prasina)!!!! One of the snakes was sighted at eye level, while the rest were encountered at the tree canopies. The green colour and long body length of this species, are perhaps adaptations for life at the canopy, since the former provides the snake with a good camouflage against aerial predators and the latter allows the snake to move from canopy to canopy.

From what I know, the Oriental Whip Snake is a popular pet. By disclosing the microhabitat of this snake, I fear that it will become easy target for potential poachers. Thus I would like to urge people to refrain from collecting this snake. I hope that information on the habit of this snake will instead allow us to understand its needs and eventually lead to better management of our few remaining forests.

More on this species here.

Cobra In Mangroves

Yang Shufen found this Equatorial Spitting Cobra (Black Spitting Cobra; Naja Sumatrana) near a mangrove at the southwest of Singapore Island on 13 September 2007. The following photographs were contributed by her.

Sivasothi encountered the same species (pictured below) in the mangroves of Sungei Mandai on 23 December 2005.

In Singapore, this species is frequently sighted in urban areas, but seems to be common in mangroves during low tides as well.

Pythons Skinned And Left To Die

There is an recent article in The Daily Mail that reported on the increasing use of snake skin in the fashion industry.

This article is archived in Wild Singapore, which also provides links to articles that reported on the smuggling of snake skins.

I would like to thank Charlene Yeong and Gloria Seow for the alert.

More Records Of House Wolf Snake

Lai Chien-Houng opened the door and a House Wolf Snake (Lycodon capucinus) fell onto the floor. This snake is THAT common (relative to other species) in buildings, probably because their food, geckos, are also abundant in this type of habitat. However, this species is still rarely encountered by people because of their secretive nature. Fortunately to us, it is neither venomous nor dangerous. This encounter, occurred in the TMSI (Tropical Marine Science Institute) compound at St. John's Island on 24 September 2007, made our day. We took some photographs and released it soon after that. The following photographs were taken by Lim Swee Cheng.

Photographs from top to bottom: A small individual (probably a few weeks old) in my hand; Right side of head; Dorsal side of head.

There were more photographic records of this snake in the past year, most of which occurred in buildings. I am glad to know that the harmless snakes were either left alone or released after cautious handling, instead of killed at first sight.

Matt Tench found this snake (pictured above), with an estimated body length of 8 inches, in the bathroom of Bungalow 53 at St. John's Island on 22 April 2007. He got it onto a long handled dustpan and set it free in the wild.

Peter Karlsson found this snake (pictured above), with an estimated body length of 40 cm, at Serangoon Gardens on 10 March 2007. The snake was under some rooftiles that were placed on the floor. He left the snake alone.

This snake (pictured above) was photographed by Ron Yeo at Pulau Hantu on 4 March 2007.

A friend of Gail Q, who lives near Kent Ridge Bus Terminal, found this snake (pictured above) at the doorsteps of his house on 18 October 2006 at about 6pm. He kept the snake in a pail because he wanted to know its identification (after consulting me) before releasing it.

A cleaner found this snake (pictured above) in the NIE (National Institute of Education) canteen on 1 September 2006. He picked it up with a thong, kept it in a plastic bag and passed it to me. It was released.

More records of this snake here and here.

Fun With Snakes

A fun-filled activity, named 'Fun with Snakes', was organised by the NSS Education Group on 15 September 2007 to raise awareness on snakes, with emphasis on local species, among kids in the age group of 5-9 years old.

Read more about this event in a blog posting contributed by July.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Brown Kukri Snake (Oligodon purpurascens)

This dead but fresh specimen was encountered and photographed by Gloria Seow along Old Upper Thomson Road, near the Upper Peirce Reservoir, on 26 August 2007 at about 9.30 am. It was initially misidentified as the Barred Kukri Snake (Oligodon signatus) but was later recognised as a "red form" of the Brown Kukri Snake (Oligodon purpurascens) by Kelvin Lim. Unlike the Striped Kukri Snake, this rare species tends to be restricted to forests (Lim & Lim, 1992). This nocturnal snake is non-venomous and has a terrestrial-burrowing habit (Lim & Lim, 1992). It can attain a length of about 90 cm (Lim & Lee, 1989). Clutches of 8-13 eggs are known (Cox et al., 1998). It occurs in southern Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Borneo and Indonesia east to Java (Cox et al., 1998).


Cox, M. J., van Dijk, P. P., Nabhitabhata, J. & Thirakhupt, K., 1998. A photographic guide to snakes and other reptiles of Peninsula Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. New Holland Publishers (UK) Ltd, p. 59.

Lim, F. L. K. & Lee, M. T. M., 1989. Fascinating Snakes of Southeast Asia – an Introduction. Tropical Press, Kuala Lumpur, p. 46-47.

Lim, K. K. P. & Lim, F. L. K., 1992. A Guide To The Amphibians & Reptiles Of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre, p. 60.

Monday, July 16, 2007

This Snake Is Not So Elegant After All

We have been calling this beautiful snake the wrong name.

This elegant-looking snake that we have been calling Elegant Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis formosus) actually does not have a name until 18 January 2007 (Vogel & Rooijen, 2007). It is now named as Kopstein's Bronzeback (
Dendrelaphis kopsteini), after Dr Felix Kopstein (1893-1939). This newly-described species is thus different from Elegant Bronzeback, which is also found in Singapore.

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet" Juliet Capulet said. Kopstein's Bronzeback is still an elegant snake even if it is not named as
"Elegant Bronzeback" after all.

The snake identified in Lim and Lee (1989) and Lim and Lim (1992) as
Elegant Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis formosus) should be renamed as Kopstein's Bronzeback (Dendrelaphis kopsteini).


Lim, F. L. K. & Lee, M. T. M., 1989. Fascinating Snakes of Southeast Asia – an Introduction. Tropical Press, Kuala Lumpur, p. 53.

Lim, K. K. P. & Lim, F. L. K., 1992. A Guide To The Amphibians & Reptiles Of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre, p. 64.

Vogel, G. & Rooijen, J. V., 2007. A new species of Dendrelaphis (Serpentes: Colubridae) from Southeast Asia. Zootaxa 1394: 25-45.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Banded Krait Graced Launch Of Chek Jawa Wetlands

This Banded Krait (Bungarus fasciatus), photographed by Loh Kok Sheng and posted in his blog, made a pleasantly surprised appearance at the launch of the Chek Jawa Wetlands on the morning of 7 July 2007.

Norman Lim encountered this snake last year, also along a muddy shore, but on another northern island of Singapore. This 'common occurence' of banded kraits in aquatic habitats are unusual because these are known to be terrestrial snakes. Maybe we just do not know much about them.

It is common that people misidentified the Banded Krait as the Yellow-lipped Sea Krait (pictured above). Both species belong to the same family of Elapidae (a group of venomous snakes including cobras, old-world coral snakes and true sea snakes). However, kraits belong to the genus Bungarus while sea kraits belong to the genus Laticauda. Although both snakes have the black-and-white bands along their body, the Banded Krait lacks the paddle-shaped tail tip that its cousin Yellow-lipped Sea Krait possesses. This tail shape allows the sea krait to swim more efficiently in the open sea.

Tails of Banded Krait (above) and Yellow-lipped Sea Krait (below).

* All photographs by Loh Kok Sheng and Ria Tan.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Striped Kukri Snake (Oligodon octolineatus)

The Striped Kukri Snake (Oligodon octolineatus), as in all kukri snakes, possesses remarkably sharp teeth in the shape of kukri knives that probably allow it to cut open bird eggs, which form a large part of its natural diet (Lim & Lee, 1989; Lim & Lim, 1992). This nocturnal snake also feeds on frogs, lizards, other snakes, and frog spawn (Lim & Lee, 1989; Lim & Lim, 1992).

This handsome snake can grow up to a total length of 60 cm (Lim & Lee, 1989; Lim & Lim, 1992). It is non-venomous and is generally inoffensive (Lim & Lee, 1989; Lim & Lim, 1992). However, if it is provoked, it has a habit of hiding its head under its coil and raising and waving its tail to reveal the coral pink undersides (Lim & Lee, 1989). It also discharges a foul smell (Lim & Lee, 1989).

Breeding seems to occur all year round for this oviparous snake, which can lay up to five eggs in a clutch (Lim & Lee, 1989; Lim & Lim, 1992). In the wild, eggs are often deposited in soil, and in piles of vegetation debris and sawdust (Lim & Lee, 1989).

Oligodon octolineatus is considered a terrestrial-burrowing snake (Lim & Lim, 1992) and is fairly common in gardens, cultivated areas and forests in Singapore (Lim & Lee, 1989; Lim & Lim, 1992).

This is a roadkill photographed by Chan Kwok Wai in Choa Chu Kang on 1 July 2007.

This handsome snake was photographed by Norman Lim along Chestnut Avenue on 28 March 2006 at about 10 pm. Note the tail coiling displayed by the snake when provoked.

This snake was photographed by Wong Yueat Tin in Chinese Garden on 6 April 2006 at about 9 pm. It was initially on a pavement.


Lim, F. L. K. & Lee, M. T. M., 1989. Fascinating Snakes of Southeast Asia – an Introduction. Tropical Press, Kuala Lumpur, p. 46-47.

Lim, K. K. P. & Lim, F. L. K., 1992. A Guide To The Amphibians & Reptiles Of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre, p. 59.