Do you want to learn about the types of snakes in Papua New Guinea?
If so, you’ve come to the right place. In the article below, I have listed the snakes you can expect to see. Then, for each species, you will find out how to identify that snake correctly, along with pictures, interesting facts, and RANGE MAPS!
You’ll see that the snakes that live in Papua New Guinea are very different from each other. They range from venomous species to snakes that use constriction to immobilize their prey. In addition, certain snakes are common to find living around people.
14 COMMON snakes that live in Papua New Guinea:
#1. White-lipped Pit Viper
- Trimeresurus albolabris
Also known as Green Tree Pit Viper and White-lipped Bamboo Pit Viper.
- Males are 60 cm (24 in) long. They also have light-colored side stripes, which the females lack.
- Females are 81 cm (32 in) long.
- Their coloring is green on the upper body, with lighter shades of yellow, light green, or white on the belly and sides of the head.
The White-lipped Pit Viper is one of the most widespread snakes in Papua New Guinea.
Their preferred habitat is shrublands, agricultural areas, forests, and suburban gardens. These vipers are ambush predators that wait for small mammals, birds, and frogs to come by. When a meal gets close, they attack, injecting venom until the prey dies.
White-lipped Vipers are solitary and most active at night, which helps them to avoid hunting during high temperatures. They prefer cooler weather because it’s easier to use their heat-sensitive pits. These organs pick up the body heat of animals, but that heat can be hard to distinguish on warmer nights.
White-lipped Pit Vipers also use their heat-sensitive pits to find cool areas where they can rest. Old animal burrows, leaf litter, and the base of shrubs are all likely spots to find these snakes, but it’s better to avoid them if you can. The White-lipped Pit Viper has hemotoxic venom, which can cause various symptoms. Some people report only mild irritation, but this snake’s bite can cause pain, blood clots, and death if left untreated.
#2. Banded Krait
- Bungarus fasciatus
- Adults are about 0.8 m (2.6 ft) long, but the largest recorded was 2.7 m (9 ft).
- Its body is covered in horizontal yellow and black bands. The underparts of the head are yellow.
- The head is black, with a broad shape, but not distinct from the body. Look for its distinctive keeled spine, which gives its body a triangular shape.
Banded Kraits can be seen in diverse habitats, ranging from forests to agricultural lands and open countryside plains. They often live near human settlements, especially villages, because of the large supply of rodents and water.
Due to their love of water, they can most commonly be seen during rainy seasons. They are also nocturnal and usually hunt at night, mainly feeding on other snakes but are also known to eat fish, skinks, frogs, and snake eggs.
If harassed, they will hide their heads under their coils and do not generally attempt to bite. But, since they are more active at night, it can be easy to stumble upon one and wind up in danger. The Banded Krait’s venom contains neurotoxins, and though bites are rare, it’s best to avoid this snake in Papua New Guinea.
#3. Common Mock Viper
- Psammodynastes pulverulentus
- Adults reach a maximum length of 65 cm (26 in).
- Their coloring is brown with darker brown and white flecks.
- The head is paddle-shaped and wider at the back.
Common Mock Vipers got their name by mimicking the most venomous snakes in Papua New Guinea.
Its impressive mimicking abilities include changing the shape of its pupils to resemble a viper and mimicking the viper’s attacking technique. However, despite its excellent acting skills, this species is not venomous, and its bite is harmless, though painful, to humans.
Common Mock Vipers live in tropical wet forests. Even though they are primarily terrestrial snakes, they can climb trees and branches. Sometimes, they use this ability to hang over the water and wait for prey to wander by.
#4. Oriental Ratsnake
- Ptyas mucosa
Also known as Darash Indian Ratsnake or Dhaman.
- Adults are 1.5-1.95 m (5-6.3 ft), while the record is 3.7 m (12 ft) long.
- Their color varies depending on habitat: pale browns in dry regions and nearly black in moist forest areas.
- Regardless of the upper coloring, the belly is a pale yellow to cream.
Look for Oriental Ratsnakes in rice paddies, wetlands, farmland, and suburban areas. They usually prey upon small reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals. Interestingly, adults subdue their prey by sitting on it, using their body weight to weaken it.
Oriental Ratsnakes are wary, quick to flee, and fast-moving. If they can’t get away, adults make a growling sound and inflate their necks to mimic the posture of the King Cobra. This mimicry is likely a response to King Cobras preying on juvenile Oriental Ratsnakes.
Aside from cobras, these snakes don’t face any other animal predators. However, in some regions, humans hunt them for their skin and meat. Currently, there are efforts to regulate hunting and protect the population.
#5. Burmese Python
- Python bivittatus
- Adults grow up to 5 m (16 ft) in length.
- They are dark colored with brown blotches bordered by black down the length of their bodies.
- Females are usually a little longer and heavier than males.
The Burmese Python is an excellent swimmer and climber, using its prehensile tail to grip branches as it moves through trees. They can remain underwater for up to 30 minutes but spend most of their time on land. Because of poaching, habitat destruction, and egg hunting for trade, Burmese Pythons are listed as a Vulnerable species by the IUCN in their native range.
Burmese Pythons are often sold as pets since they have attractive color morphs and an easygoing disposition.
Unfortunately, irresponsible pet owners have let Burmese Pythons escape, allowing this species to become invasive in the Florida Everglades. The Everglades provide a perfect habitat for these invasive snakes, with plenty of water and flat land. However, there are no predators here to keep the population in check, and they’ve come close to wiping out several native species because of their enormous numbers.
#6. King Cobra
- Ophiophagus hannah
- Adults are 3-3.6 m (10-12 ft) long, but the largest specimens can grow up to 5.4 m (18 ft).
- Their coloring is olive green with black and white bands on the body.
- They have a prominent hood that opens in a defensive stance and a rounded nose.
The King Cobra is the longest venomous snake in Papua New Guinea.
Despite its size, this species is not considered particularly aggressive. It usually avoids humans and slinks off when disturbed. However, it is known to defend incubating eggs aggressively and strikes intruders rapidly. A single attack can deliver multiple bites.
Interestingly, the venom of hatchlings is as potent as the adults’. The babies are brightly marked, but these colors often fade as they mature. In addition, they are often nervous and alert, which makes them highly aggressive if disturbed.
Whether you encounter a juvenile or an adult, it’s best to give this dangerous snake a lot of space. Its bite results in excruciating pain, blurred vision, dizziness, fatigue, and even paralysis. If the bite victim doesn’t receive medical help, they can die from cardiovascular and respiratory failure within 30 minutes of the bite. Stay back!
#7. Golden Tree Snake
- Chrysopelea ornata
- Adults are 115-130 cm (45-51 in) long.
- Their coloring is green, with black cross-hatching and yellow, red, or gold accents.
- They have slender bodies and flat heads with defined necks.
Golden Tree Snakes hunt for bats, lizards, and small rodents during the day. This species is an arboreal snake that lives mostly on tree branches. It has great gliding ability and is an excellent climber, easily moving from tree to tree.
It is mildly venomous and uses its venom to subdue its fast-moving prey. The snake stalks after the prey once it’s delivered a bite and seizes it by the neck, which is crushed in its strong jaws. Because their venom is mild, a bite from this species can be irritating and painful to humans but is not life-threatening.
Golden Tree Snakes have become increasingly available in the exotic pet trade in recent years. Unfortunately, many imported specimens have heavy parasite loads, and the stress of captivity often leads to untimely death. It’s much better to observe this species in the wild since it does poorly in captivity.
#8. Oriental Whipsnake
- Ahaetulla prasina
- Adults grow up to 1.8 m (6 ft) long.
- This species has a slender body with a long, pointed snout.
- Their coloring varies from light brown to dull yellow-green and fluorescent green. Some individuals have a checkered pattern of light and dark green scales.
The Oriental Whipsnake is one of the most colorful snakes in Papua New Guinea!
Its impressive range of colors makes it difficult to recognize because individuals look so different from one another. However, the slender body and incredibly large, spade-shaped head should help with your identification.
This species is arboreal, so it usually lives in forest edge habitats such as parklands, rural agricultural areas, and wooded residential areas. It’s also a diurnal snake, so the best place to find one is sunbathing or hunting during the day. They eat small nesting birds, lizards, and tree frogs.
Oriental Whipsnakes are mildly venomous, but the toxins are not strong enough to hurt humans. If you see one, observe from a respectful distance, but you don’t need to rush away.
#9. Reticulated Python
- Malayopython reticulatus
- Adults are 1.5-6.5 m (5-21 ft) long. They weigh 1-75 kg (2-165 lbs).
- Their coloring is a mix of brown, beige, black, gray, white, and yellow in a complex geometric pattern.
- The back typically has a series of irregular diamond shapes flanked by smaller markings with a light center.
The Reticulated Python is the largest snake in Papua New Guinea.
Look for this GIGANTIC species in woodlands, rainforests, and grasslands. It can also be found near rivers and lakes, as it is an excellent swimmer.
The Reticulated python is an ambush predator. It waits until the prey gets within striking distance, seizes it, and then constricts until the prey’s heartbeat stops. Its usual diet includes mammals and birds, but this species will snatch pets such as cats and dogs if they come across them.
This mammoth species is one of only a few snakes that prey on humans. A fully-grown Reticulated Python can open its jaws wide enough to swallow a human, and its powerful body can strangle even large adults rather quickly.
Reticulated Pythons are popular zoo attractions, and many zoos claim to have the largest one. However, it’s notoriously difficult to accurately measure this species while it’s alive. Their weight and tremendous strength mean that straightening this species is virtually impossible. Nevertheless, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, a Reticulated Python in Kansas City, Missouri, named “Medusa,” is the largest snake in captivity. It measures an estimated 7.67 m (25 ft) long and weighs 158 kg (348 lb).
#10. Indo-Chinese Rat Snake
- Ptyas korros
- Adults grow up to 108 cm (43 in) long.
- The upper body is olive, orange, or brown, and the belly is yellow. The tail is yellow, edged with black.
- This species has very large round eyes with round pupils.
The Indo-Chinese Rat Snake is active during the day when it hunts lizards, rodents, and sometimes birds. They can adapt to various habitats but prefer forested areas, grasslands, and plantations close to a water source. This species is common to find on walks and hikes because it’s relatively comfortable around people. Watch your step!
Indo-Chinese Rat Snakes are non-venomous, but their bite is still painful. Their first response to danger is to flee quickly. If that doesn’t work, they can expand their neck vertically, making them look taller and more imposing to predators. Finally, they will strike if forced into a confrontation.
#11. Painted Bronzeback
- Dendrelaphis pictus
- Adults are 60-100 cm (24-39 in) long.
- Their coloring is brown on top and white below, with a black line, a yellow line, and bright blue markings on the sides.
- This species is thin and long with a small head and large eyes.
The arboreal Painted Bronzeback lives mostly in forested areas near a water source. However, you may also spot one in artificial habitats such as parks and gardens. They rest and sleep high up in trees or bushes and only occasionally come to the ground to hunt. They often prey on lizards and frogs.
Painted Bronzebacks are non-venomous and shy; they will usually flee if disrupted. If handled, the snake will inflate its body and flatten its neck laterally to reveal its turquoise color, then open its mouth and show off its bright red tongue. If these scare tactics don’t work, it will give a painful bite.
#12. Copperhead Rat Snake
- Coelognathus radiatus
Also known as Radiated Ratsnake or Copper-headed Trinket Snake.
- Adults are 150-210 cm (59-83 in) long.
- Their coloring is brown, copper, gray, or tan, with black stripes that fade toward the tail.
- This species has a slender head with medium round eyes and round pupils.
Despite being non-venomous, this is one of the most aggressive snakes in Papua New Guinea!
Copperhead Rat Snakes are so vicious they’re often used as training snakes for people looking to get into handling venomous species, especially cobras. They’re highly defensive, making them difficult to control.
If they find themselves threatened, they inflate the neck to show bluish skin, bend the anterior half of the body into loops and open the mouth widely. If handled, they have a very quick strike and painful bite.
The Copperhead Rat Snake’s usual habitats are rocky, overgrown open spaces, grassy areas, shrublands, and jogging trails. They are mostly active during the day, so use caution if you go hiking or running in its range.
#13. Malayan Pit Viper
- Calloselasma rhodostoma
Also known as the Malayan Ground Snake, Malayan Moccasin, and Malayan Ground Pit Viper.
- Adults are 76-91 cm (30-36 in) long.
- Their coloring is reddish, pale brown, or grayish with a thin dark brown vertebral stripe.
- The scales around the mouth are pink or yellowish.
This snake is known in Papua New Guinea for being bad-tempered and quick to strike.
Even though deaths are not common, the bite of the Malayan Pit Viper is excruciating, and the venom can cause tissue death around the bite wound. Many victims are left with dysfunctional or amputated limbs. Seek medical treatment immediately!
Malayan Pit Viper venom is useful for medical purposes despite its dangerous effects on the body. For example, Ancrod, an enzyme in this snake’s venom, can treat blood clots and helps prevent heart attack and stroke.
#14. Brahminy Blindsnake
- Indotyphlops braminus
- Adults are 5.1-10.2 cm (2-4 in) long.
- Their coloring varies; charcoal gray, light yellow-beige, silver-gray, purplish, and white are common.
- The body shape is worm-like, and they are easily mistaken for earthworms.
This tiny species is the smallest snake in Papua New Guinea.
The Brahminy Blindsnake, as its name suggests, is almost completely blind. It has small, translucent eyes that can detect light but not form images. Although native to Papua New Guinea, this species is naturalized worldwide. It’s transported in the soil of potted plants, so the species earned the nickname Flowerpot Snake.
They spend almost all their time underground in ant and termite nests and live under logs, moist leaves, and stones. Look for them in suburban and even urban gardens and moist forests.
When distressed or attacked, the Brahminy Blindsnake will try to escape underground. If touched, it might press its tail on the attacker and release a smelly musk. Despite its rather creepy appearance, this snake is completely harmless to humans.
Do you want to learn about other animals in Papua New Guinea?
If so, check out these guides!
Which of these snakes have you seen before in Papua New Guinea?
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