By Bali Reptile Rescue
There are 38 species of snakes native to Bali, but only five land snakes are potentially deadly.
Fact 1: Snakes bite for only two reasons: Fear or Food. Humans are not considered as snake food so most bites are the result of a scared animal defending itself. This is reflected in the types of fatal bites.
– 80% of bites to men are on fingers and hands because the men tried to catch or kill a snake.
– 70% of bites to women are on feet or lower legs because the women stood on or got too close to a snake.
Fact 2: Snakes do not attack humans but some snakes are very good at defending themselves.
Fact 3: Ante venom is not always needed for snake bite. Many venomous snakes do not inject venom if they bite, or they inject a very small amount of venom which the human body can break down and fight against by itself.
Fact 4: Traditional medicine does not work. It appears to work sometimes because even though a venomous snake bit, it did not inject venom – it was a dry bite. If the bite victim has received a full dose of venom, traditional medicine cannot work and should never be used.
Fact 5: Venom attacks different people in different ways. For example, a bee sting can cause death to 1 in 100,000 people, so there is no precise way of saying how individuals will react.
In Bali, Lombok and Sumbawa we have many species of snakes. Most of them are harmless but several snakes can inflict injuries if harassed.
Javan Spitting Cobra
This snake is diurnal, which means it usually is seen in daylight hours. It is a stockily built snake up to 2m-long and is most commonly a dull brown colour. It has neurotoxic venom, which affects the cardio vascular system.
If the bite actually injects venom the victim knows almost immediately, as there is usually intense pain around the bite. This pain may spread to other parts of the body and nausea and dizziness often follow. After about 30 minutes there may be restriction in the chest and difficulty breathing, which if left untreated can cause respiratory failure.
These cobras also spit venom very accurately, aiming for the eyes of the attacker. Venom in the eyes will not kill you but it is painful and if isn’t washed out quickly it can lead to permanent eye damage.
To treat, use any water you can get and keep washing eyes until pain is relieved.
For cats and dogs use exactly the same treatment.
White Lipped Island Pit Viper
This is a solidly built snake bright green snake up to 1.2m-long. It often has a red tinge on its tail. It is usually found in bushes or at ground level during full moon or rainy periods.
Pit vipers use haemotoxic venom which attacks flesh and blood. Pain around the bite area is very severe and immediate. If untreated it can result in loss of limbs through infection, blood poisoning, and eventually gangrene.
This viper has a bad reputation but its venom is not strong enough to kill an adult. The only recorded deaths as a result of bites from this snake have been of children with infections from untreated bites.
This slender snake up to 1.5m-long is usually black with regularly spaced grey/white bands, but often plain black or shiny brown in Bali.
It has neurotoxic venom, which attacks the cardiovascular system, but it has small fangs and often is reluctant to bite. If it bites, there often are no noticeable side effects for several hours. Because of this, bite victims have been known to go to sleep and not wake up.
Banded Coral Snake
This is a rarely seen, small and slender snake up to 0.5m long. It has neurotoxic venom, but there have been no known bites in Bali so the immediate effects are unknown here.
Banded Sea Krait
A large black and white banded sea snake up to 3.5m long. It usually is seen in the sea but often come ashore to digest food, change skin and lay eggs.
Its venom is 50 times more potent than a cobra’s. If it is harassed enough to bite, its neurotoxic venom can stop your breathing within a few minutes. The Banded Sea Krait has caused deaths among fishermen who catch them in nets at night, and tourists who try to play with them.
This large powerful snake is found only in western Bali. It can grow up to 6m long in is mid brown with narrow cream/white bands.
It is very reluctant to waste venom and will therefore ‘wet bite’ only about 5% of the time. The venom is neurotoxic. The pain is described as immediate but not too severe, followed by nausea and headache.
Immediate treatment is required to prevent death. There has been only one recorded death in the last 20 years from a king cobra bite in Bali.
Other snakes which are mildly venomous and are considered of no danger to humans include.
Gold Ringed Mangrove Snake: A slender black and gold or black and white snake, which can be more than 2m long.
Dog Toothed Cat Snake: A long slender tree snake with similar venom to the Gold Ringed Mangrove (above).
Speckle Belly Keelback: Up to 1m long and usually found in or near water.
Non-venomous snake bites
Pythons are large powerful snakes with no venom, but if attacked they will defend themselves strongly. Bites from large pythons can require stitches or other minor surgery.
Never place a big wild python near your shoulders or neck. They are very powerful animals and large ones can hurt you.
Cover photo by Jasmine Vink