Saturday, June 30, 2007

What Happens To The Snake When You Call 999

"What happens to the snake when I call 999?"

I decided to write to the Singapore Police Force and the Singapore Zoo to find out the answer.

Relevant information from their replies are provided here:


"Generally, the police will respond to incident of snake when there is an immediate threat to life and property at public areas. For incident of snake found in private compound, the police will normally advise the complainant to call a pest control agency who can provide value-added services to discourage snakes presence. However, our officers will first assess the situation based on the degree of threat to life and property before they respond to incident of snake found in private compound. As it is impossible to identify all snakes, the officers are briefed on the common poisonous and non-poisonous snakes; python and cobra. All our officers have been briefed on how to use a snake catching device, and they are expected to handle any case of snake sighting when called upon. Every Police Division is equipped with the device and it is available for use to the officers. No special single Unit is tasked with catching snakes. All snakes are caught alive. Police hand over the live snakes to AVA or Zoo."


"Snakes that are brought in by the public or the police are usually released to the wild. The practice and appropriate release location would be done in close partnership with the National Parks Board. Also, for certain snakes, we would absorb them in our collection for display and breeding purposes."

In my opinion

Leave snakes alone if you see them in the wild. They will usually slither away without much hesitation. Call the police or the zoo only if the snakes are too close for your safety (e.g. trapped in your house). Otherwise, I feel that it is unnecessary to disturb the snakes and also the authorities.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Article On Snake Venoms

This is an interesting article on snake venoms that was written more or less in Singapore context:
Snake Venoms
Goh Lee Gan, 2002
The Singapore Family Physician 28(2): 40-54

A passage from the article is highlighted here:

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Why It is Illegal To Keep Snakes In Singapore

The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA, which I sometimes refer to "Animals & Vegetables Authority" Haha!) explained why it is illegal for people living in Singapore to keep exotic wildlife such as snakes:

There is no mention of a fine. I guess the reasons given above are good enough to persuade us not to keep snakes as pets.

I have mentioned earlier that it is important to be able to identify snake species that occur naturally in Singapore, so that we can make better judgements when we encounter a snake. However, alien species escaped or released into the wild can complicate matters. Someone might mistake an exotic venomous snake for a similar-looking native non-venomous snake. Although it is unwise to handle snakes of any kind, I believe that people will still be taking chances (sometimes with goodwill). One unpleasant accident can cause the public to lose confidence in their own ability to identify snakes. This may prevent the "Ask questions first, kill later" spirit from spreading among the public.

Monday, June 11, 2007

In Case Of A Snake Bite

I got this information from the article "Doctors, hospitals and pharmacies in Singapore" that was produced by the Parents Committee of the German European School (Singapore) and updated on 1 January 2007, which I believe will be useful in case of a snake bite in Singapore.

Please remember that not all snakes are venomous, not all venomous snakes bite, and not all venomous snakes that bite inject venom.

Most, if not all, snakes do not bite unless provoked.

The late Dr. Joseph Slowinski (a famous herpetologist who died from a snakebite on 11 September 2001) said “The best way to avoid being bitten by a venomous snake is simply to leave it alone.”

Snakebites usually result from our own carelessness, when we tried to handle them or, in the case of
Slowinski and fellow biologists, because it is part of the job.

In other words, in most cases, we only have ourselves to blame when we got bitten by a snake.

Dog-toothed Cat Snake (Boiga cynodon)

"We are looking at two dog-toothed cat snakes. You want to come down now?"

I slapped my forehead after receiving this sms from Norman Lim at about 10.30pm on 18 May 2007. I have earlier left him and other friends for "Home Sweet Home". Sigh! Look what I have missed out! The two uncommon snakes were sighted together at the Central Catchment Nature Reserve. The pair were so close to each other, they might be trying to mate or have already done 'that thing'.

I have no idea of the story behind their 'dog teeth" but I know that this snake uses an unusual method to immobilize avian prey. Unlike most constrictors, which use their anterior trunk or mid-body region to immobilize prey, constriction of prey by the dog-toothed cat snake is done primarily by the tail (Murphy, 1977; Fig 1). The tail of this snake is strong and prehensile (Lim & Lee, 1989), which allows it to climb trees. This good climber is capable of stretching its slender and laterally flattened body into space to reach a distant branch (Lim & Lee, 1989).

This nocturnal snake is primarily arboreal and hunts for birds and their eggs at dusk (Murphy, 1977; Lim & Lee, 1989). Lim and Lim (1992) claimed that this species also feeds on rodents and lizards, but rodents offered by Murphy (1977) were ignored by the snakes.

The Dog-toothed Cat Snake is an egg-layer and seems to reproduce throughout the year (Lim & Lee, 1989). This mildly-venomous species can grow up to three metres in total length (Lim & Lee, 1989; Lim & Lim, 1992).

Boiga cynodon inhabits lowland forests of the southern region of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia east to Flores and the Philippines (Lim & Lim, 1992; Cox et al., 1998).

From top to bottom: Head left; Head dorsal; Body left; Body ventral

* All photographs by Chan Kwok Wai


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. 76.

Lim, F. L. K. & Lee, M. T. M., 1989. Fascinating Snakes of Southeast Asia – an Introduction. Tropical Press, Kuala Lumpur, p. 78.

Lim, K. K. P. & Lim, F. L. K., 1992. A Guide To The Amphibians & Reptiles Of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre, p. 74.

Murphy, J. B., 1977. An unusual method of immobilizing avian prey by the dog-toothed cat snake, Boiga cynodon. Copeia 1977(1): 182-184.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

More On Pythons In STOMP

I realised that STOMP contained a few more postings on snakes, which were not reflected in the result of my search for 'snakes' in the site. The following sightings appeared after I did a search on 'python':

Carcass of huge python spotted
Posted on 03 November 2006
Sighted on 02 November 2007
Species: Reticulated Python (Dead)
In a canal next to the National Kidney Foundation building in Kim Keat

1 metre python found dead in drain
Posted on 30 November 2006
Species: Reticulated Python (Dead)
In a drain along South Buena Vista Road.

Python caught at Potong Pasir
Posted on 12 May 2007
Species: Reticulated Python
In a drain at Potong Pasir Ave 1

The total tally of python sightings reported in STOMP stands at eight (5 live and 3 dead). The python species that can be found in Singapore is the Reticulated Python (Python reticulatus). Sightings of this snake is common because it feeds on rats and is comfortable living in drains. This species is usually shy and will normally avoid contact with man, although large specimens of over three metres in length are potentially dangerous to us (Lim & Lim, 1992). More on this snake here and here.


Lim, K. K. P. & Lim, F. L. K., 1992. A Guide To The Amphibians & Reptiles Of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre, p. 47-48.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A Cobra Got Stuck!

A Black Spitting Cobra (Naja sumatrana) was spotted at a drain near Block 716 of Clementi West Street 2 today (9 June 2007) at about 10.30 am. This snake feeds on rats and thus can be commonly found in urban areas (Lim & Lim, 1992). Although this is a highly venomous species, it is reluctant to bite or spit venom unless we are too near for comfort. It is defensive rather than aggressive and will often put on a defensive pose to shoo us away when threatened. Accidents usually happen only when we stepped on them accidentally or tried to handle them intentionally. There are actually very few cases of cobra bites, even in densely populated Singapore (Lim & Lim, 1992). Leave it alone and it will leave you alone.


Lim, K. K. P. & Lim, F. L. K., 1992. A Guide To The Amphibians & Reptiles Of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre, p. 82-83.

Stomping On Snakes

I entered "snake" in STOMP's search engine and realised that the site actually contained quite a number of snake sightings posted by the public:

Dead snake in the heart of Orchard Road
Posted on 15 October 2006
Species: Unknown (Dead)
Along Orchard Road

Python found in my car!
Posted on 14 January 2007
Sighted on 11 January 2007
Species: Reticulated Python
In a car at Capital Tower carpark

Snake on a car!
Posted on 18 January 2007
Species: Unknown
On a car radio antenna while travelling along Yio Chu Kang Road

Horror find in Zion Road Canal
Posted on 30 January 2007
Sighted on 30 January 2007
Species: Reticulated Python? (Dead)
Drifting along Zion Road canal

Snake spotted outside IKEA Alexandra
Posted on 21 February 2007
Sighted on 16 February 2007 1200 h
Species: Black Spitting Cobra
On grass near IKEA Alexandra

Snake spotted in drain
Posted on 12 April 2007
Sighted on 12 April 2007 0800 h
Species: Reticulated Python?
Swimming in monsoon drain near Kembangan MRT

Python captured, while snacking on cat
Posted on 19 April 2007
Sighted on 17 April 2007 evening
Species: Reticulated Python
Feeding on a cat in Bedok

Good grief! A python in Orchard Rd!
Posted on 04 May 2007
Sighted on 03 May 2007 0400 h
Species: Reticulated Python
Crossing footpath in Orchard Road

Two snakes caught at Sembawang Park
Posted on 13 May 2007
Sighted on 13 May 2007 1330 h
Species: Unknown
In the rafters of a shed at Semabawang Park

These sightings are important for us to understand the behavior and distribution of snakes. They are also pretty entertaining (Haha!). Stompers, thank you for your contribution.

Friday, June 08, 2007

I Killed A (Harmless) Snake

The last time I checked Singapore Seen (STOMP) at 23:00 h on 8 June 2007, a post titled "I killed a snake - in my 8th floor HDB flat" is top in the "Most Commented" category with 91 comments and is second best in the "Most Viewed" category with 5,766 views.

The snake in question is the non-venomous snake, Striped Keelback (Xenochrophis vittatus). This native of Indonesia (Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi) is probably introduced to Singapore as a pet snake, and has become a fairly common inhabitant of open grasslands here (Lim & Lim, 1992). As this is not an arboreal (tree-dwelling) species, I suspect that the reason why the snake was found at such a high level of a building is because it escaped or was released after being kept as a pet.

Comments on the kill are interestingly divided into two groups. One group applauded the destruction of a potentially-dangerous monster. Another group condemned the killing as mindless, cruel and barbaric.

This debate just shows, again, the importance of being able to identify a snake. One of my previous post recommended some good guide books anyone can use to pick up this essential (for you and the snake) skill. Correct identification can help humans tell whether a snake is a friend or a foe, and eventually allows us to make better decisions during an encounter with a snake.

If the situation is not life-threatening, give the pest control guys or the policemen a call (999). These people have the knowledge and equipment to deal with the situation, safely for you and (hopefully) the snake. At the LAST resort, give the snake a quick death by clubbing it on the head. After that, contact me or the Raffles Museum of Bodiversity Research (RMBR) so that we can keep the body for scientific research that is otherwise wasted.


Lim, K. K. P. & Lim, F. L. K., 1992. A Guide To The Amphibians & Reptiles Of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre, p. 79.

Talk On Snakes In Singapore

Scanned from "Programmes May/June 2007" brochure of NLB.
* TRL: Tampines Regional Library

Featured in Habitatnews.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Snakes & Ladders

938LIVE (93.8 FM) The Living Room

Details from the radio station's web page:

Tuesday, 5th June
10am to 10.30am

Snakes & Ladders
They stick their forked tongues out to smell the air. They are able to consume prey that’s three times larger than the diameter of their heads. They also survive in just about every habitat, including underwater. Have we given you goosebumps yet? We’re talking snakes this half hour. There are more than 60 species of snakes in Singapore so which are the potentially dangerous ones? What are some common myths and misconceptions that surround snakes and their behaviour? Are cobras and pythons the most venomous of the lot? What are flying snakes, crab-eating snakes and whipsnakes and where are they found? What’s the first thing you should do, in the event that you get bitten by a snake? Snake enthusiast Chim Chee Kong joins us to allay your fears of this often misunderstood reptile.

Snakehunters Needed

Nadiah Hana Abd Rahman, a final year undergraduate from the National Institute of Education, is studying the diet of the dog-faced water snakes (Cerberus rynchops) for her research project. If you are the kind of people who loves to wake up in the middle of the night and catch snakes in the name of science, please email


Another Cantoria

I encountered Cantor's water snake (Cantoria violacea) again! It was about 2am on 29 May 2007. The snake was swimming along the water's edge at the mouth of Sungei Tampines.

Read more about sightings of this snake posted in May and August 2006.

Curse Of The Fish Net

There was a recent article in The Straits Times which featured all the bad things a mist net can do to our flying friends such as birds and bats.

On Sunday morning (3 June 2006), I found a snake death trap in the form of a long fish net across Sungei Tampines. There were probably more than twenty of my beloved dog-faced water snakes (Cerberus rynchops) caught and rotting in the net, which was eventually tore apart and removed by me.

Nets kill animals indiscriminately. Please refrain from using them.


Hey folks, sorry for misssing in action. I have been so busy dealing with my snake writings that I have totally neglected this blog. I am back with a venom. ~^^