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Indonesian snakes

By on January 27, 2013

Indonesia is an archipelago that comprised  of  17.504  islands.  Indonesia as a tropical country is a comfortable place for reptiles to live, especially  for  snakes. In Indonesia live more than 400 species and subspecies of snakes.  Indonesia lays on   6 degrees of   north latitude  and  11 degrees of south latitude; and than 141 degrees of  west longitude and  and 95 degrees of east longitude.  The Indonesia  archipelagos consist of  plenty of  islands, from  west in  Sabang  till Merauke  in the east.

The seasons of this beautiful land  has only  two kinds,  first is rainy season that  takes place on September to February and the hot seasons takes place on the month of March to August. Generally reptiles  eggs  hatch on the beginning of the rainy season.

Brahminy bind snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus)

Brahminy bind snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus)


In Indonesia lives  the smallest snake of the world. Here, we call ular buta or ular kawat means the blind snake or  the string snake. The smallest blind snake is brahminy blind snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus)  in family of  Typhlophidae. Indonesia has also the  longest and the heaviest snake in world, that is reculated python (Malayopython reticulatus) in Boidae family, in the past the names are Python reticulatus and Broghammerus reticulatus. And here in this country there is a venomous and biggest  snake in the world so people call  king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) or ular anang in Bahasa Indonesia.

According to the book of  Van Hoesel, 1059 who wrote the Ophidia Javanica (the Snakes in Java), there are about 400 species and subspecies of snakes in Indonesia. Yes, this data is out of date but till now seems no accurate data be based of field research. No data acceptable cause lack of field research of Indonesian researcher  (?).

Some field research  has been done but seems not be based of the true herpetological research.  Never found the report on scientific bulletin on the museum report or in the scientific magazine around the country.

The reticulated python (Broghammerus reticulatus)  is the biggest and the longest snake  in the world

The reticulated python (Malayopython reticulatus) is the biggest and the longest snake in the world

Need to be held the true field research among the archipelagos around Indonesia and report the result must be declared to the legal scientific bulletin or to scientific magazine.  In the field research aim is to recounted the amount of snakes species and further more  understandings of snake behavior and ecological  background. Sure, there are, plenty of uncounted species and subspecies  that must open to the would of herpetogical report. For example, the found so variously scales  in the heads and tails of the Ophiphagus hannah. Further research perhaps  can described the strange or the variation of this  scales  in the species of  Ophiophagus hannah from Java, Sumatra, Bali and Borneo or further DNA research can be taken to describe the deference of the scales of the Ophiophagus hannah. We wait.

The king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) is the biggest of all venomous  snakes in the world

The king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) is the biggest of all venomous snakes in the world

In Indonesia there are many variously habitats  found in snakes live; some are  terrestrial,  arboreal, aquatic, terrestrial aquatic, terrestrial non-aquatic, terrestrial arboreal. ( 1)Terrestrial snakes live in the land, behind the rocks, or in the hole of the soil especially  in the hole of rats nests.  (2) Arboreal snakes live in the branches of the tree, bushes and in the top of bamboo’s leaves. (3)  Aquatic snakes lives in water, fresh or in the sea. (4) Terrestrial and aquatic snakes lives with variation of this habitat. Sometimes live in the land and the other occasionally in the water.  (5) Terrestrial and non-aquatic snakes live in  the land but sometimes enter to the water for refresh from the hot season or for hunting the pray. (6) Terrestrial and arboreal snakes live in land but sometimes reached the branches of tree for  pray or resting from the hot seasons.

Some snakes with the habitats described  above

1)      The terrestrial  snakes are: javan  cobra (Naja sputatrix), radiated rat snake (Coelognathus radiatus), sunbeam snake (Xenopeltis unicolor) and Russell’s viper (Daboia russellii)

The Radiated rat snake (Coelognathus radiates)

The Radiated rat snake (Coelognathus radiatus)

2)   The arboreal snakes are: mangrove cat snake (Boiga dendrophila), red tailed green snake (Gonyosoma oxycephalum), asian vine snake (Ahaetulla prasina), common bronze back (Dendrelaphis pictus). They live in the trees.

The common bronze back (Dendrelaphis pictus), lays his head on the branches of the tree

The common bronze back (Dendrelaphis pictus), lays his head on the branches of the tree

 The red tailed green snake (Gonyosoma oxycephala), has beauty green colour

The red tailed green snake (Gonyosoma oxycephalum), has beauty green colour

3)      The aquatic snakes  are:  puff-faced water snake (Homalopsis buccata), rainbow water snake (Enhydris enhydris), elephant trunk snake (Acrochordus javanicus); sea krait  (Laticauda colubrina).

The rainbow water snake (Enhydris enhydris)

The rainbow water snake (Enhydris enhydris)

4)      The terrestrial and aquatic snakes are: checkered keelback (Xenochropis piscator), rice pady snake (Enhydris plumbea), triangle keelback (Xenochrophis trianguligerus).

The rice paddy snake (Enhydris plumbea).

The rice paddy snake (Enhydris plumbea).

5)      The terrestrial and non-aquatic snakes are:  Brahminy blind snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus), Red necked keelback (Rhabdophis subminiatus), Russell’s viper (Daboia russellii).

The red necked keelback (Rhapdophis subminiatus)

The red necked keelback (Rhabdophis subminiatus)

6)      The terrestrial and arboreal snakes are: Indian rock python   (Python bivittatus),  Reticulated python (Malayopython reticulatus), Chinese rat snake (Ptyas korros).

The Chinese rat snake (Ptyas korros)

The Chinese rat snake ( Ptyas korros )

The knowledge of the snakes behavior are very important for field research in the wild nature. This information can lead us easily to find the species we want to do research.  Every  researcher must understand this snakes habitat for making simple research or further investigation of snakes ecological and environment. For the expertise researcher is easy to find the species of snakes  he need but is very difficult for the common people.

Ecological background

The snakes is very important element in paddy rice ecology especially paddy field (sawah). Healthy paddy field has no rats and the snakes as  the biological control can oppress the growth of rats population. Every farmer should know this ecology elements more detail. Cause one factor that can spoil the  crops of rice is the population of rats. The snakes are very effective agent for control the population of this little mammal. So, killing the snakes, especially the rat snakes  are forbidden and the wrong action for the harmony ecological  environments. The very effective snakes who eat rats are  Ptyas korros, Malayopython  reticulatus, Coelognathus radiatus, Ptyas mocosus, Python bivittatus, Python curtus, Gonyosoma oxycephalum etc.  The rats live in paddy field are Rattus rattus, Rattus diardi, Rattus argentiventer etc. and sometimes also be found mouse (Mus musculus) around the paddy field.

The spoiled of the rice crops.  One thing that threat the farmer is the spoil of  rice crops. The harvest can be obtained  is very little. The new paddy plants often  spoil or dead  before the plants grow. All of this make the farmers frustrating. If every crops spoil and the harvests  are bad the dangerous of starvation threaten the farmers. So what can they do?  Hope right now they know to kill the snakes especially rat snakes means they kill themselves.

Modern medicine.  In the modern world, medicine may come from everywhere, plants, animals and chemistry compound. In this section the snakes venom is the important ingredients for making antivenom for curing the snakes bite.  In the venom itself has many organic compound that can be analyzed  and separated  for curing the human illness. Further research for this may take place in many modern country. In the future  venom is very important for making some medicine.

Snakes biology. Snakes are reptile. They move with abdomen scales and shakes their bodies right and leaf for running and walking. They can running faster without legs. They eats mammals, birds, lizards, geckos, fishes, and some eat snakes from the other species. For digestion their stomach secret enzymes and HCl (hydrochloric acid). In the venom snakes they produce venom for helping the digestion of the prey for making easy to digest. The snakes eat the prays with all part of the body. Snakes have teeth but the teeth function are not for chewing  the prey but for grabbing  the prey and injection of the venom.

The prey. The snakes need more time after taken a big prey for digestion, and the small snakes that seize the small prey need more active in getting prey.

Venom.  is the secrets of  gland venom and the gland venom  is come from the mutation of saliva glands. The venom is used  by the snakes to catch the preys and for helping the digestion of the prey. One thing that must be understand, snakes also use the venom for defending themselves among their  enemies. And human is not  the prey for snake. Venom comprises  of amino acid, sugar, organic compound, enzymes, proteins, and toxins, etc.

Blood. Their blood are called cold blood for the heart not separated well and the blood is still not separated well (clean blood and dirty blood still mix together). Because of that,  the body temperature is not constant. The body temperature is the same with surrounding temperature.

Locomotion. Snakes tongues  have double ends. This tongue is use for indicating the situations surrounding  them by the air.  after put in to the Jacobson’s  organs. The Jacobson’s organ is  in the snake’s mouth and with the tongue  help the snakes to conscious the situation around. Snakes move with  abdomen scales.

Breeding. The mating of the snakes need some minutes until some hours. After copulation, the female pregnant. Need 70—90 days for  eggs to hatch (oviparous). Some snakes bearing offspring (ovoviviparous).

Enemies. The powerful  enemy for snake is human being. Hundreds of  snakes kill by human for their leather every days. The other enemies are mongoose, alligator, birds  and  dogs also cats.

Illness. The snakes also have some illness naturally, like mites, mould infections,  filariasis and bacterial infections that cause  dead.

Snake age. Some snakes can live  until 25 years in cages, but in nature the age is usually more shorter.

The snakes  classification be based on DNA research and the nominal be based on Latin language vocabulary or be latined.  Sometimes  the  scientific name to be found confusing  in synonym but for the valid names must be back to follow the Latin grammer.

Classification of  javan cobra

Classification of  javan cobra/ Indonesian spitting cobra

Kingdom Animalia
Philum Chordata
Subphylum Vetebrata
Class Reptilia
Ordo Squamata
Sub-ordo Serpentes (Ophidia= Snakes)
Familia Elapidae
Genus Naja
Species Naja sputatrix
Epithet sputatrix ; sputare means to spit
Binomial name Naja sputatrix
Author F. Boie, 1827
Valid name Naja sputatrix BOIE, 1827
Javan cobra or Indonesian spitting cobra  (Naja sputatrix  BOIE, 1827)
Javan cobra or Indonesian spitting cobra (Naja sputatrix BOIE, 1827)

The snakes families in Indonesia

In Indonesia there are 10 families of snakes, they are: 

1)       Cylindrophiidae, the pipe snakes family;

2)      Anomochilidae, the dwarf pipe snakes family;

3)      Xenopeltidae, the earth snakes family;

4)      Typhlophidae, the blind snakes family;

5)      Boidae,  boas family;

6)      Pytonidae, the pythons;

7)      Colubridae, the colubrid snakes family;

8)      Holopsidae, mud snakes

9)      Acrochordidae, the wart snakes family;

10)   Elapidae, the elapid snaks family;

11)    Viperidae, the viper snakes family.

More detail about 10 families snakes in Indonesia.

1)      Cylindrophiidae (pipe snakes family). In Indonesia this family comprises only  one  genus  Cylindrophis.  All snakes  in this family  consist of 10 species. The body of the snakes cylindrical like pipe and breeding by ovoviviparous or bearing offspring. Example,  Red tailed pipe snake (Cylindrophis ruffus). Note in Latin dictionary word is rufus with one f.

The Red tailed pipe snake (Cylindrophis rufus)
The Red tailed pipe snake (Cylindrophis rufus)

   2) Anomochilidae (the dwarf pipe snakes family). This family has only 3 species witch spreading in  Sumatra, Borneo and Malaysia. The species includes: a) Anomochilus leonardi, b) Anomochilus weberi, c) Anomochilus monticola. The bodies  of these snakes resemble to the pipe snakes but more small and the tail is very short compared to the pipe snake.

3)      Xenopeltidae (earth snakes family). In Indonesia this family only has one species,  that is sun beam snake (Xenopeltis unicolor).  This snake has rainbow scales. This is non-venomous snake long only 70—100 cm.

The sun beam snake (Xenopeltis unicolor)
The sun beam snake (Xenopeltis unicolor)

  4)      Typhlophidae (blind snakes family).  This family comprises of  3 genus with 166 species. But ini Indonesia only about 34 species had been known. One species is very popular to the farmer is brahminy blind snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus). This little snake has only 8—15 cm in longhand diameter of  0,3—0,5 cm.This little snake eat  the eggs of ants. The colour of this little creature is black brown, and grey. The snakes lay some eggs (ovoviviparous) to produce  offspring.

The brahminy blind snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus)
The brahminy blind snake (Ramphotyphlops braminus)

5)      Boidae (  boas family). This family of snakes consist of  18 genus and in Indonesia there are 7 genus. The 7genus of snakes in this archipelagos are: a) Liasis, b) Morelia, c) Bothrochilus, d) , e) Candoia (Enygrus), f) Chondropython . This  family has many species snakes that people like to keep as a pet. One another popular  species of this family is the green tree snake (Morelia viridis) from Papua.

6) Pythonidae (Python family), This family concist of the genus of 1) Malayophython,  dan Python. Long time, this family is part of  Boidae family. One species is very popular is the reticulated python (Malayopython reticulatus). This snake can reached of 11 meters and has the weight of 100 kg. This  snake eat of frogs, mice, rats,  and small mammal. In this world, reticulated python is the snake of pet. So many peoples like this the snake. In the nature, this python live in the cave around the river banks, or in the hole in the rock of  mountain. This snake breed with bearing eggs.

The reticulated python (Broghammerus reticulatus)
The reticulated python (Malayopython reticulatus)
The green tree snake (Morelia viridis), is  very beautiful snake
The green tree snake (Morelia viridis), is very beautiful snake from Papua

    7)       Colubridae (colubrid snakes family). In Indonesia there are 240 species  of colubrid snakes in 41 genus.  Some of this species are the rat snakes the snakes that very important in paddy rice field ecology. One species that very familiar to the farmer is radiated rat snake (Coelognathus radiatus). This aggressive snake is very fond of rats, although not venomous. The snake  lays  eggs for getting the offspring. And one snake of this family has to be cared carefully cause  the venom is dangerous to the  human being with O blood category. The snake named red neck keelback (Rhabdophis subminiatus). This snake is only 70—100 cm (centimeters) long.

8) Homalosidae. (mud snakes). This family consist of the genus Homalopsis, Enhydris dan Cerberus. The snake in this family live in water or around the water in the coastal area, pond, lake or paddy field. They feed on fish, eel dan frogs. They have the specific  nostril  as the water snakes. The Homalopsis buccata is very common to find in Indonesia, also Enhydris enhydris.

 The radiated rat snake (Coelognathus radiatus)
The radiated rat snake (Coelognathus radiatus)
The red neck keelback (Rhabdophis subminiatus)
The red neck keelback (Rhabdophis subminiatus)

 9)      Acrochordidae (wart snakes family). This family of snakes only has only 2 genus, that are a) Acrochordus and  b) Chersydrus. In Indonesia  there are 3 species of this family. The snakes live in mangrove and around the coastal area. They feed on fishes. Offspring  come from ovoviviparous. Along the coastal area of the  archipelago in Indonesia we can find this snakes. The popular one is elephant trunk  snake (Acrochordus javanicus). This snake has wart skin and fanny face and reaches about 2 meters long. The elephant trunk snake is non venomous snake.

The elephant trunk  snake (Acrochordus javanicus)
The elephant trunk snake (Acrochordus javanicus)

            10)      Suku Elapidae (elapid snakes family). This is the family of venomous snakes. In Indonesia  there area 50 species of elapid snakes in 15 genus. In the world there are 200 species in 38 genus. King cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) is one of venomous snake in this family. This is the big and the long venomous snakes in world. The venom is neurotoxin. In Indonesia, king cobra has many variation on scales colour and scales number. It has to be more further research to over come the difference of this snake. The king cobra can reaches more about  6 meters in long and about 7—10 kg  in weight.  And the average  size is 3—4 meters. The king cobra feeds on the other snakes species. This snake is very fond of Chinese rat snake (Ptyas korros). This big snakes lay eggs for offspring. The venom is very dangerous to human and animal. King cobra  is very handsome  snake and many of the snake charmers  in Indonesia use this snake for attractions and to make people pay more attention on him.

The king kobra (Ophiophagus hannah)
The king kobra (Ophiophagus hannah)

11)      Viperidae (viper snakes family). In Indonesia there are 15 species of viper snakes  in 7 genus. But in the world there are 40 species in 10 genus. One species is very popular to the people is Malayan pit viper (Calloselasma rhodostoma). This snake often bring to suffer and sometimes dead to the victim. This pit viper has only 60—100 cm. The snake feeds on mice, rats, lizard and frogs. Malayan pit viper lays eggs on the bushes and under the leaves of tree.  This snake has haemotoxin venom that can destroy the blood tissues in the victim. The other viper is tree viper know as wagler’s viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri). The wagler’s  pit viper has  neurotoxin venom. sea

Snakes family  is under the Elapid family. To be the sub-family Hydrohiinae.  In Indonesia this subfamily consist of  36 species that can be found in all coastal  area and along the reef s  in the archipelago of Indonesia.  In the world there are about 53 species of sea snakes. One the sea snakes that seems popular to the fisherman is sea krait (Laticauda colubrina). This snake has black and white in colour like the terrestrial snake of Bungarus fasciatus. All the sea snakes are venomous and danger to human and animals. They all eat fishes in the sea. The body of sea snake is cylinder  and the tip of the tail like pedal for swimming in the water.  Sea krait has  only 60—80 cm long. The snake seems tame but still dangerous cause has neurotoxin venom. Indonesia has plenty of snakes, this treasure must be kept and has to be care with full attention. The ecology of the snakes habitat must be controlled and  the pollutant  or any environment destruction  must be put away. If the habitat and the harmony of snakes ecology has been changed means we destroy our beauty and  amazing animal in our country of  Indonesia.  What ever, Indonesia is tropical country with  plenty of beautiful snakes live there.

The Malayan pit viper (Calloselasma rhodostoma)
The Malayan pit viper (Calloselasma rhodostoma)
The wagler’s viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri)
The wagler’s pit viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri)

Writer:  Budi Suhono (naturalist)

Note: please, put correction or criticize for this article. Thanks.

We  also have  posters of Indonesian snakes.  Contact us in budipedia. com

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