A snake in the orchid nursery
Hitherto we have recorded nine species of snakes at Dokmai Garden in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. In all of Sweden, which is almost the same size as Thailand, there are only three species. The ninth species was caught yesterday: the banded kukri snake (Oligodon fasciolatus, Colubrinae). The genus is not fully resolved so this is a tentative name. I have seen this small snake a couple of times in the Orchid Ark nursery, always moving so quickly I thought it was a skink. For the past two days I have cursed the chicken for overturning pots, but today I saw that the culprit is a snake.
This common snake is characterized by a round pupil and an olive back with brown military camouflage markings on the head. Some scales have a black margin, some have a white margin. Although not venomous, it has sharp slashing teeth adapted to a diet of bird and reptile eggs, in addition to grubs and other large insects. These teeth may inflict a deep wound which may become infected. Although I am sure this snake controls many pests, we can not risk having an accident while moving around pots with bare hands. Khun Densak, Dokmai Garden’s fearless head gardener, caught this fast snake using a stick, and then he twisted it around the stick and released it outside Dokmai Garden.
A very good source for identifying Chiang Mai snakes is Sjon Hauser’s website.
I admire the camouflage of this snake. Look at the brown band which runs through the eye. The iridescent sheen of the scales is probably due to the fact that this individual recently moulted.
Text and Photo: Eric Danell