Do you want to learn about the venomous snakes found in Sri Lanka?
If so, you have come to the right place. In the article below, I have listed the MOST COMMON venomous snakes you can expect to see. If I missed any, please leave a COMMENT at the bottom of the page. 🙂
You’ll see that the venomous snakes in Sri Lanka are very different from each other. They have different sizes, habitats, and even different types of venom. In addition, certain snakes are common to find living around people. For each species, you will find out how to identify that snake correctly, along with pictures, interesting facts, and RANGE MAPS!
6 Venomous Snakes that Live in Sri Lanka:
*If you encounter any of these species, PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB! Venomous snakes are dangerous animals and should be left alone. The more you agitate them, the more likely you could get bitten. DO NOT RELY ON THIS ARTICLE to correctly identify a snake that has recently bitten you, as colors and patterns can vary widely. If you have recently been bitten, GO DIRECTLY to the nearest hospital to get help and to determine if the snake is venomous.*
#1. Indian Cobra
- Naja naja
Also known as Asian Cobra, Binocellate Cobra, Spectacled Cobra.
- Adults are 1-1.5 m (3.2-5 ft) long.
- They are uniformly black on top, while the underside is light gray, tan, or brown. Horizontal black bars decorate the throat.
- A pattern similar to a pair of glasses can be seen on the back of the neck, in the center of this species’ hood.
From lush forests to wide-open plains, busy cities to farm fields, the venomous Indian Cobra is a terrifying legend of the snake world. It loves hiding in tree hollows, termite mounds, and rat holes. You might even spot one taking a dip in the water to keep cool.
A member of the “Big Four” deadliest snake species in Sri Lanka, the Indian Cobra’s venom is no joke.
Within minutes or hours, the victim starts to experience symptoms leading to muscle paralysis, respiratory failure, and cardiac arrest. Antivenom is vital within the first 30 minutes, so get treatment as soon as possible if you’re bitten!
In Asia’s ancient myths, Indian Cobras are revered and feared, representing power and illusion. While the practice is not allowed in modern times, snake charmers used to wow the crowd with the tunes of a flute guiding Indian Cobras to strike their fiercest poses.
#2. Common Krait
- Bungarus caeruleus
Also known as Bengal Krait, Indian Krait.
- Adults can reach 90-175 cm (35-69 in).
- Their colors range from black to red, striped with thin white cross bars along the body. The undersides are usually white.
- The body is smooth and shiny. Their tails are short with prominent white bands.
The Indian subcontinent is teeming with wildlife, and among its most dangerous inhabitants is the Common Krait. This venomous snake belongs to the notorious “Big Four” species responsible for the most snake bites in Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh.
Common Kraits have a diverse diet. They feed on rodents, lizards, frogs, and other snakes—even their own kind! You’ll find them in farms and scrub jungles, sometimes even making their way to human settlements. Contrary to urban tales, Common Kraits don’t sneak into bedrooms to suffocate snoozing humans—in fact, they help control rat populations.
With that said, keep your eyes peeled and your senses sharp in Sri Lanka. The Common Krait’s venom is packed with neurotoxins that can cause muscle paralysis and respiratory failure. The scary part is that bites initially cause little pain, lulling victims into a false sense of security, then claiming lives four to eight hours later. Remember, timely administration of antivenom can save lives!
#3. Common Seasnake
- Enhydrina schistosa
Also known as Beaked Sea Snake, Hook-nosed Sea Snake, Valakadeyan Sea Snake.
- Adults are 91-152 cm (36-60 in) long on average.
- Their pointy snouts hook downwards over the lips and have bigger scales than the rest of the body.
- Coloration is usually gray on top, with faint dark bars across the body. These snakes are whitish or yellowish on the sides and bottom.
The venomous Common Sea Snake loves to hang out in the tropical waters of Sri Lanka.
This agile swimmer has some impressive skills. It can dive down to a jaw-dropping 100 meters (328 feet) and stay underwater for up to five hours! Like an oar, it uses its tail to navigate the water.
But watch out; the Common Sea Snake’s venom is twice as potent as many land-dwelling snakes. A single bite is enough to take down 50 humans; That’s some serious firepower! So, if you ever encounter one, remember to give it the respect it deserves and keep your distance.
Common Sea Snakes have quite the appetite when it’s time to dine. Their favorite meals include fish, shrimp, and catfish. Sadly, these captivating creatures face threats such as pollution, habitat loss, and getting tangled in fishing nets. They’re even hunted for their meat, skin, organs, and venom (which is used to create antivenoms).
#4. Saw-scaled Viper
- Echis carinatus
Also known as Indian Saw-scaled Viper, Little Indian Viper, or Sindh Saw-scaled Viper.
- Adults average 38-80 cm (15-31 in) in length.
- They have flat, broad heads coupled with very short snouts. You’ll notice a cross-shaped marking on the top of their heads.
- Their eyes are remarkably large.
In Sri Lanka, there is a group of snakes known as the Big Four—responsible for most serious snake bite incidents. Among them, the mighty Saw-scaled Viper may be the smallest, but don’t be fooled by its size. A single bite from this little viper in Sri Lanka can cause havoc, leading to internal bleeding and even death within hours!
Be highly alert if you spot peculiar S-shaped imprints in the sand or hear distinctive rasping noises! These are unmistakable signs that a Saw-scaled Viper is nearby, ready to defend its territory. Highly aggressive and capable of lunging astonishing distances, this viper will coil itself into a spring and strike in the blink of an eye.
At night, Saw-scaled Vipers hunt for rats, lizards, scorpions, and centipedes. They live in shrublands and deserts, seeking solace in burrows and fallen logs. When it rains, these snakes quickly climb up trees and cacti to keep them dry.
#5. Asian coral snakes
- The many snakes belonging to this genus greatly vary in length, with the smallest species being 15 cm (6 inches) long and the largest species reaching 180 cm (71 inches) long!
- Asian coral snakes have a wide range of vivid colors, including red, yellow, blue, black, and white.
Snakes belonging to the Calliophis genus bring a sense of awe and wonder to the world of reptiles. This group of venomous snakes is commonly referred to as “Asian coral snakes.” You’ll find them in various regions, from India to Southeast Asia. Their strikingly bright colors and body markings serve as a warning to potential predators, announcing their venomous nature.
Having slender bodies, they easily slither through forests, grasslands, and even common gardens. Asian coral snakes mostly prey on other reptiles, such as lizards and other snake species. Quite the stealthy hunters, they burrow deep in the ground or hide among leaf litter, then quickly sink their fangs into any passing prey.
Asian coral snakes are among nature’s most formidable creatures. Their venom is highly potent and neurotoxic, causing paralysis and necrosis in bite victims. Luckily, they are not typically aggressive toward humans. Instead, they prefer to retreat and hide if given a chance, so remember to keep a respectful distance if you encounter one!
#6. 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.
Do you want to learn about other animals in Sri Lanka?
If so, check out these guides!
Which of these snakes have you seen before in Sri Lanka?
Leave a COMMENT below!