According to recent reports, snake numbers are on the decline wordwide. While I can't confirm this, I've certainly learned that really large ones are definitely hard to come by. No matter the species, most specimens you meet stay well below the record size. So you can imagine our excitement when we found this massive Many-banded Krait (Bungarus m. multicinctus
) waiting to cross a forest road at 1 AM - especially after seeing not a single measly snake for four straight hours on one of our best roads. We estimated this big bruiser at 130 cm (~52 inches), the largest krait I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of them in the past two years.
I was cruising with Weijie, a 19-year old student of Life Sciences at Taiwan National University and a rabid, indefatigable herper - this guy thinks nothing of 20-mile solo ditch walks at night through uninhabited forest. Since he had only started field herping this summer, he had never used a snake hook before, so there was a bit of drama when I asked him to keep an eye on the snake while I parked the car curbside. He didn't know how to use the hook and at first let the krait escape into the ditch. But what he lacked in technique, he definitely made up for in gumption, so he dove after the snake into the bush and rescued the day (getting shredded by some sort of evil vegetation in the process).
During the photo shoot, he also turned out to possess just the right mixture of common sense and controlled bravado, and he fearlessly went onto the tarmac for close-ups of the often wildly and erratically gyrating serpent who had a tendency to plan its escape routes straight in the direction of the nearest human. In fact, Weijie did all the nice headshots with the tongue flicks shown here, because as his quasi-mentor I felt I had the right to shove my macro lens-equipped Pentax into his hands and murmur something about old age and a bad knee. It's great to have a dedicated team to back you up! B. multicinctus
' toxicity has been mentioned here before, but here's a short refresher course for those who're still thinking "meh, looks just like a Cali king" : "B. m. multicinctus
produces the most powerful venom of any terrestrial snake outside Australia. The tooth marks from a bite of this snake are indistinct, and the wound site evinces neither swelling nor excessive bleeding. Victims frequently are unaware they have even been bitten at all, as the initial symptom is generally only a slight itchiness at the bite wound site. Within hours or even minutes, however, vision begins to blur, cramps, spasms and muscle paralysis sets in and respiratory functions begin to weaken, as the neurotoxic venom begins to take effect. The mortality rate of bite victims who do not receive antivenom treatment is reported to be as high as 85%.
While B. m. multicinctus packs a powerful neurotoxic punch, it is not aggressive at all and seldom attempts to bite unless threatened or provoked. When disturbed, it will almost always either freeze to avoid detection, or try to flee." (Snakesoftaiwan.com)
This individual was the perfect representative for the above-mentioned typical krait traits: no attempt whatsoever to bite, just continued tries to squirm away like an earthworm; and its behavior when disturbed with the hook was nicely conforming with all the standards (further elaboration here
I'm not sure about the age of this snake, but I think it must have been at least a decade old. All the white scales were yellowing, not unlike old ivory, which might or might not be a sign for old age. (Anyone?)