Dangerous neighbours will emerge in April as the weather warms up

As the weather warms up our slithery neighbours will emerge in numbers. Anyone who has spent a lot of time on bush trails in Sai Kung over the years knows you will see the snakes out and about in April. Here is a summary of the dangerous ones near you right now. It is compilation from various sources, notably the biological sciences department of the University of Hong Kong (first published in BUZZ April 2015).

Sai Kung snake catcher Dave Willott warns residents to be aware at all times. Think what might be under that rock or in that woodpile. Never wear sandals on bush trails. Have brain in gear when gardening.

In a month or two the usual summer reports of python attacks will come in. The story in the past week of an Indonesian man swallowed by a constrictor shocked many who saw the video. Some excitable types speculated about what had really happened to the hikers who have gone missing in Hong Kong hills and their bodies never found…

Hong Kong’s most dangerous snakes in summary with thanks to the University of Hong Kong

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King cobra: some experts say it’s the world’s most dangerous snake

KING COBRA

World’s longest venomous snake — up to six metres. Regarded by some experts as the most dangerous snake on the planet because it can inject a big dose of potent venom into you. Tan colour, nearly black, with indistinct yellow bands.  Hood on neck.  Active during the day and at night. Rarely attacks unless it is guarding a nest.

 


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Chinese cobra, common, even near houses

CHINESE COBRA
Length up to 165cm.  Usually grey-black, but can be brown, even golden. Common in Hong Kong even close to homes. Usually nocturnal and often seen at dusk. Hides under objects sometimes. When disturbed it rears up, expands its hood and can hiss.


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Banded krait: lethal venom

BANDED KRAIT

Category 4 deadly snake.  Its venom can kill you in 15 hours. “Earlier,” says Dave. Black with yellow bands. Nocturnal, may be seen at dusk.  Timid and tame. Alert after dark.


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Many banded krait: lethal venom
MANY BANDED KRAIT

Category 4.  Black with white cross bands. Bite can cause respiratory paralysis and heart failure. Unsafe to hold, even if it’s dead. 


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Point scale viper: Dave found four at Kei Ling Ha

POINTED SCALE PIT VIPER

Rare in Hong Kong.  But Dave says he has found four dead ones at Kei Ling Ha. Dangerous because it is fierce and can strike from a long distance. Brown or reddish brown with a wavy pattern of purple blotches.  Up to 130cm long. Mostly nocturnal.


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Coral snake: rare

CORAL SNAKE
Rare. Reddish brown with thin black crossbars. Potent neurotoxic venom. Often hides in leaves on a forest floor. Up to 80cm.  Nocturnal, tame and secretive.


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Red-necked keelback

RED-NECKED KEELBACK

Common in Sai Kung. Active during the day.   Olive green with red patch on neck. Dangerous, but most bites are by its front teeth, which are not dangerous. It’s the back fangs that have lethal venom. Not usually aggressive.


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Bamboo snakes cause most bites in Hong Kong. It won’t get out of your way.

BAMBOO PIT VIPER

These snakes are responsible for the great majority of bites in Hong Kong because they are sedentary. However, they have a very fast strike.  Nocturnal and seen at dusk.  It is the least venomous of the venomous snakes. Bite causes pain, swelling and local necrosis.  You should go to hospital.


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Pythons, powerful and vicious

PYTHON

Yellowish or greyish with large brown blotches that form patterns. Good swimmer. Kills by constriction. Bite can cause severe lacerations.  They range widely: One radio-tracked female covered 12 hectares in 24 hours. Up to six metres.  Powerful and can be vicious. Feeds on birds and small mammals.  Attacks on dogs have occurred in the Sai Kung summer and the government has put up signs in some locations warning people to protect children and pets.

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