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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Poisonous Snakes of Indonesia

Here is some VERY useful and basic information for identifying the Poisonous Snakes of Indonesia borrowed from other sources on the web.   For full text and additional pictures see also the links below:



Coral Snake -- Ular Cabe

This rare burrowing snake only reaches a length of about 50 cm. His slim back body has a line down its length with yellow markings on the small, flat head the belly is black and white checkered. The tail has a red-orange tip like chili pepper or a 'cabe'. He is shy and usually unwilling to bite. The venom is neurotoxic.

Banded Krait -- Ular Welang & Ular Weling

Both the Malayan and the Banded Krait are black with yellow bands and may be from 1-2 meters in length. They are found in or near paddies and bamboo groves. If disturbed they jerk their body and attempt to hide their head in the coils of their body. Due to their small head, shyness, and reluctance to bite, the chances of a fatal bite is slim, unless one treads on the startled snake. Their neurotoxic bite causes little pain or swelling but can produce muscle weakness, loss of coordination and eventual respiratory paralysis.

Black Spitting Cobra -- Ular Sendok

King Cobra -- Ular Raja 

There are two species of cobra--- the king cobra, usually a resident of the paddies, and the Black Spitting Cobra, comfortable in semi-urban areas. Both are aggressive if disturbed. The Cobra is easily recognized when he rises and spreads his hood. The colors of the snake range from black to brown to olive. Both can reach a length of 4 meters. Only the Spitting Cobra, sometimes seen in Jakarta, can eject a spray of venom for several feet, aiming at the enemy's eyes. This can cause temporary blindness but can be removed with repeated rinsing with sterile water. The nuerotoxic bite of either can cause pain and swelling with general muscle weakness following and eventual respiratory paralysis.

Malayan Pit Viper -- Ular Tanah

Green Pit Viper -- Ulat Bankai Laut or Ular Hijau Ekor Mira

Both the Malayan Pit Viper and the Green Pit Viper are found around Jakarta. Each has a distinctive triangular head shape, stocky body, and a length of about 80 cm. Each has the ability to jump with great force when attacking. The Malayan Pit Viper is reddish brown with triangular markings on his sides and the Green Pit Viper is bright green with a distinct red tail. The Malayan Pit Viper rattles with his tail before striking as a warning. Vipers are nocturnal and can be easily be avoided by staying away from fields and rocky areas. The Hemotoxic bite causes immediate pain, swelling, bleeding, and tissue damage.

Blue Temple Viper

A tree snake whose bite is haematotoxic and indeed very dangerous. The affected limb of snake bite victim must be completely immobilized and a stretch bandage should be applied. The victim then needs to be transferred to the nearest hospital or emergency room for observation of signs of invenemation. We do not recommend to use antivenin, unless the patient is developing symptoms of invenemation, since most snake bites do not inject significant amounts of venom during a bite.
Manipulation of the wound, suction, squeezing, massage, cutting the skin or application of ointments or remedies only increases the absorption of the venom, and should never be attempted. A polyvalent antivenom (poly-antivenom) is available at the Denpasar General Hospital in Bali, and at the International SOS clinics in Cipete, Kuningan and Bali.

Sea Snakes

Toxic Caterpillars -- Ulat Bulu

Note: Not in the snake category, but just to make you aware, many varieties of caterpillars in Indonesia have an irritant in their fur. AVOID touching any caterpillars (ulat bulu), or the leaves which they crawl upon, in Indonesia as skin contact can result in swelling, welts and severe irritations.



It is clear from these pictures that the dangerous snakes of Indonesia come in all shapes and colours and include some very common species. The problem is that they also vary in appearance within a species. Cobras and Colubrid species can vary a lot in colour depending on age, Habitat and moulting stage. This can cause fatal mistakes.

Effect of Bites

Bites from Cobras and Vipers are very painful and leave you in no doubt that you have a problem, but bites from Kraits, Sea snakes and Colubrid snakes have almost no immediate effect and can cause fatal mistake number two; ‘it doesn’t hurt so it must be a harmless species’ In the case of Kraits  by the time you start to get symptoms there will be nothing a hospital can do. In the case of the most dangerous colubrid species, the serious symptoms often take as long as day to appear. The clinical effects range from paralysis (Kraits and sea snakes) to blood disorders such as excessive clotting or bleeding (vipers and Colubrids) or in some case, a mixture of these. (Some vipers and Cobras).


Because of the problems with Identification and lack of symptoms ALL snakebites by wild snakes should be treated as serious. People bitten by pythons may disagree but I know many people who have misidentified pit vipers as baby pythons!

The following recommended course of action has been composed from surveys done in India and Asia including data on survival factors from tens of thousands of cases.

1)  Don’t waste time with fist aid, tourniquets, sucking out the poison and the like. Get help, you will 
     need to get to hospital quickly. You should rest as much as possible so you will need someone to 
     transport you unless the hospital is close.

2)  Go to a modern, well equipped hospital with the following facilities: Intensive care unit with 
     equipment for assisted breathing, heart monitoring and emergency resuscitation. This is to deal 
     with the effects of respiratory and cardiac failure resulting from cobra or krait bites. You will also 
     need facilities to deal with transplants of blood, plasma, etc and dialysis.  This is in the even of 
     bites by vipers or colubrids which can cause kidney failure.

3)  Get as much information as possible about the snake, Have someone find it,  kill it and bring it 
     with you if possible but failing that, get pictures and try to identify it (you may need help wit
     this!) Hospitals in Indonesia are not usually staffed by snakebite experts and they will need all the 
     help they can get. 

4)  Antivenin (antivenom) should only be used if it is made from the same species and
     comes from the same country as the snake. Antivenin treatment is risky since it usually causes a
     severe allergic reaction and it is only worth the risk if it is done exactly right.


  1. I just want to point out that the first snake pictured is not endemic to Indonesia. That's a Texan coral snake so its origin is as American as your own (lol). There's a folk ryhme associated with its color patterning to distinguish the lethal coral snake to its non venomous mimics: red on black venom lack, red on yellow kills a fellow.

  2. Hey there, interested post, thanks for sharing.
    But I would just like to point out that these snakes are venomous not poisonous. In short:
    Venomous - Bites you, you die
    Poisonous - Gets bitten, that thing dies.
    But overall this is a fairly good post :)