Blue Coral Snake Calliophis bivirgata flaviceps Size : Up to 1.5 m Blue coral snake demonstrating defensive posture Banded Coral Snake Calliophis intestinalis lineata Size : Up to 60 cm Cameron Highlands banded coral snake form. Coral Snakes Southeast Asia Snakes Coral snakes are a rarely-seen venomous species from the Elapidae family that occupies lowland to upper-level rainforest in Southeast Asia. They are distributed widely through Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Borneo. Coral snakes are shy and secretive by nature, often burrying themselves under thick leaf litter and only venturing out during the night to hunt. Coral snakes are snake-eaters but the smaller species have been known to feed on earthworms as well. When faced with a threat, coral snakes will flee quickly but when cornered, may pin their head under their body and flash their bright red tail tips in a coiled manner. In Peninsular Malaysia, two terrestial coral snake species are described. The blue coral snake or Calliophis bivirgata flaviceps is a rare species that is found in mid to upper-level rainforest. It is black in colour, except for the bright red head and tail. A blue lateral stripe is present while the ventrals are red. Bites from this species are extremely rare but it packs a powerful neurotoxic venom that is potentially fatal. The blue coral snake is often confused with the red-headed krait, or Bungarus flaviceps , which differs from it by having a larger, more robust body; white ventrolateral stripes instead of blue and eyes with clear reddish irises. The overall patterning is also slightly different. The banded coral snake, or Calliophis intestinalis lineata , is a more common species found in lowland to mid-level rainforest. This species is tiny but should be regarded as dangerous as its venom toxicity is still little-studied. In the banded coral snake, an orange vertebral stripe, flanked by two thinner black stripes, runs from the frontal scale till the tip of the tail, which is bright red underneath. The ventrals are neatly patterned with black and white bands while the body is brownish. The head shape is not clearly-defined from the body, indicating a fossorial tendency. A second highland form is recorded from the Cameron Highlands which differs from Calliophis intestinalis lineata by having; a dark vertebral stripe instead or orange; ventrals that are neatly patterned with red instead of white bands; and a body colour that leans more towards purplish brown. This subspecies is currently being described, and for now, should be refered to as Calliophis cf intestinalis . It has also been recorded from a tiny pocket of highland forest in Sumatra, which means it is not endemic to the Cameron Highlands.
Southeast Asia Southeast Asia is one of the richest places for snakes in the world. A multitude of snake species occur in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Borneo, Indonesia, Philippines and everywhere else in this region. Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo alone are home to possibly more than 200 different species of snakes that occupy all levels of tropical rainforest. These snake come in a kaleidoscope of colours with a wide range of shapes and sizes. Snakes also play an important ecological role in preserving the natural environment through their predatory role of feeding on frogs, lizards, mammals, fish, insects and even other snakes. Take snakes away from the equation and you would distrupt the food chain, causing a population explosion of creatures at the bottom of the scale. Contrary to popular imagination, snakes are a secretive species that will not disturb people if left alone. Hence, the hysteria and fear often attributed to the presence of snakes is unfounded and ignorant. Killing snakes for no reason other then to avoid getting bitten is complete ignorance at its worst. The plight of snakes in Malaysia needs to be recognised so that people will not kill these creatures based simply on malicious imagination. Hopefully with education, snakes will be appreciated by everyone for their colourful yet important role in preserving the vast natural ecosystem, and adding diversity to our rainforest and wildlife. Coral Snakes Kraits Cobras Pit-Vipers Other Snakes Bronzeback Snakes Keelback Snakes Wolf Snakes Slug Snakes Reed Snakes Kukri Snakes Cat Snakes Flying Snakes Rat Snakes Whip Snakes
Bite from an adult mountain pit-viper or Ovophis monticola convictus. Swelling is a major component of hemotoxic venom. Acute pain usually follows. Poisonous Snakes 'Venomous snakes are not poisonous' The statement above is meant to correct the misnomer of snakes being poisonous, rather than venomous. Poison is something that becomes harmful when ingested or absorbed through the skin while venom is dangerous when injected into the body. Certain frogs, plants and fungi can be poisonous while all snakes that can inject venom are venomous . This is why one can consume snake venom without any ill-effects provided there are no open sores or ulcers in the stomac . The venomous snakes of Peninsular Malaysia can be divided into the Elapidae family, which are cobras, kraits, coral snakes and sea snakes; and Crotalidae , belonging to local pit-vipers that are mostly from the Trimeresurus species group. Local rear-fanged Colubridae species also secrete venom through the rear fangs but their mode of delivery is highly inefficient, rendering them incapable of delivering serious envenomations in a majority of cases. Snakes bites occur frequently in Peninsular Malaysia, especially in the north, but fatalities are rare. Also, it is often a misconception that snakes inject their venom directly into the blood stream. Unless the fang hits a nerve, the venom enters primarily through the lymphatic system. Most cases of snake bites on land occur from these species; Calloselasma Rhodostoma (accounts for the highest number of snake bites in Peninsular Malaysia), Trimeresurus wagleri , Trimeresurus purpureomaculatus , Naja sumatrana and Naja kaouthia. Bites from the king cobra or Ophiophagus hannah are very rare but most cases are fatal. Other medically significant snakes include Bungarus candidus , Bungarus fasciatus, Calliophis species (coral snakes) and other Trimeresurus species of vipers. There is an overwhelming number of cases where the snake responsible was not identified, but generally, the systematic or topical effects of the envenomation will point in the approriate direction. Elapids generally possess a neurotoxic venom; this attacks the nervous system of the body, causing numbness in the bitten area, paralysis, possible swelling and pain, and a culmunative effect that eventually leads to respiratory failure. Some species such as those from the Calliophis family may not even leave any topical effects or produce significant pain through their bite (also due to having very tiny fangs). Neurotoxic venom is deadly because of the risk of cardiac arrest or paralysis, incapaciting a victim from getting help if alone. Hemotoxin venom from pit-vipers acts to destroy blood cells and tissue linings, causing massive hemorrhaging, inflamation, oedemas and clotting defect. Moderate to immense pain will occur. Major symptons in most cases usually subside within a few days, but for extremely serious cases, amputations may be necessary if necrosis occurs. Hemotoxic venom is very damaging to tissue and causes excruciating pain as well as weakening the immune system greatly. Disfigurement or loss of body members is one of the greatests fears from a viper bite. Bite from a juvenile Trimeresurus wiroti (leaf-nose viper). Bites from such species are not encountered often due to their rarity in the wild. The majority of Trimeresurus bites are caused by Trimeresurus wagleri or the temple pit-viper, which is found abundantly throughout Peninsular Malaysia. Fortunately, the venom is considered relatively mild and the hemorrhaging effects as seen from the Trimeresurus wiroti bite above is highly unlikely
What to Do when Bitten by Venomous Snakes Conclusion Getting bitten by any local venomous species is a serious matter. For those that are not familiar with the venomous snake species found in Malaysia, always head to the hospital first and get a proper diagnosis if swelling or numbness occurs in the bitten area. And as always, the best care is left in the hands of experienced doctors in government hospitals, not private clinics Don't Panic - The key to surviving any snake bite in remote areas far from any hospital is to simpy stay calm. Having said that, it doesn't mean that the snake which just bit you is from a venomous species. Normally, in the case of a truly venomous snake, one will have to experience internal or topical symptoms within several minutes of the bite, depending on the type of venom (if) injected. Some examples of symptoms are; dizziness, paralysis, difficulty of breath, swelling, throbbing pain, uncoagulable bleeding and blurred vision. In the case of an authentic envenomation by a dangerous snake, effects of venom are increased drastically by a person under immense stress and anxiety. Staying calm will allow you to think clearly and seek medical help in a controlled fashion. You probably have enough time to get to a car or find someone to bring you to a hospital as venom usually takes hours before the full effects reaches its pinnacle; provided you stay calm. Once you've calmed down, get to a government hospital if possible. Clinics and private hospitals should always be second choice as they lack the antivenin to deal with serious envenomations. In Malaysia, only government hospitals stock antivenin as private clinics and hospitals cannot accomodate its high cost. Avoid all methods of torniquets, especially with viper bites. Arterial torniquets cut off blood flow and prevent venom from diluting itself through the system; Allowing the venom to disseminate itself from the bitten area may be more beneficial. A pressure bandage, which is a long and broad piece of lint, should be wrapped around the bitten area with Elapid bites. Do not in any circumstances incise the wound or attempt sucking out the venom. There is a high risk of bacteria being introduced which causes infection and eventually grangrene. Avoid all forms of traditional remedies such as lime juice or ammonia salts as these hold no medical benefit and may worsen the condition. In most serious cases, antivenin treatment is the best remedy, with trained medical staff to monitor and deal with any allergic reactions that may ensue from antivenin administration. For neurotoxic bites, a ventilator is probably the most important form of treatment followed by antivenin. Snake Bite Treament Hospitalisation with antivenin treatment is the main course of action for serious envenomations. However, for moderate cases involving hemotoxic venom, anti-inflammatory medication both for oral and topical applications are effective, such as Voltaren ( Diclofenac ) or Feldene. The bitten area should be kept suspended upwards in the case of hands or fingers. A course of strong antibiotics is highly recommended along with plenty of rest. A line should be drawn with a pen about 2 cm away from the bitten area to monitor the progress of swelling.
Conclusion Getting bitten by any local venomous species is a serious matter. For those that are not familiar with the venomous snake species found in Malaysia, always head to the hospital first and get a proper diagnosis if swelling or numbness occurs in the bitten area. And as always, the best care is left in the hands of experienced doctors in government hospitals, not private clinics.