Malaysia is home to an exhilarating mix of dynamic cities, pristine beaches, epic rainforests, and an abundance of cultural influences. Plus, some street food dishes that certainly deserve a spot on any bucket list.
But, like many of its Southeast Asian neighbors, it is also home to a variety of less than desirable wildlife. For the full rundown, check out the most dangerous animals in Malaysia. However, for now, we’re going to give our undivided attention to one of the most feared creatures in the world…the snake.
With over 160 species of snake, and around 35 being venomous, Malaysia is a part of the world where you will want to watch your step. Whether it’s the world’s longest venomous snake or one capable of a mean spit, we have the lowdown on seven slithering serpents you wouldn’t want to meet on your Malaysian travels.
Malayan Spitting Cobra (Naja sumatrana)
The Malayan spitting cobra (also known as the Equatorial spitting cobra) is found in many Southeast Asian nations, including Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and of course, Malaysia. Taking on a black form in Malaysia, this highly venomous species is not to be messed with.
Although the Malayan spitting cobra will usually steer clear of confrontation, they can certainly do a fair bit of damage if feeling threatened. And when this happens, expect to see them stand up tall, expand their hood and hiss loudly, a sight sure to terrify even the bravest of travelers. As its name suggests, it’s not just a bite you have to be wary of. This guy can hurl a mean spit at you, which can travel four to eight feet and has the potential to blind its victim if the eye is targeted.
So how can you avoid this unsettling encounter? Well, luckily, they like to mainly stick to jungle terrain, so if you’re not planning on too many treks in the Malaysian forests, you should remain safe. However, that’s not to say they haven’t been found in more urban areas also, so if you do spot something with an uncanny resemblance to this guy, don’t bother trying to get a closer look to be sure.
Malayan Pit Viper (Calloselasma modostoma)
Found in the Malaysian Peninsula, this vicious viper is thought to be responsible for around 700 snakebites annually, the majority of snake bites in Malaysia. Characteristics of this viper include a brownish, greyish, or pinkish body with brown triangles and a triangular-shaped head, as well as a depression between the eyes and nostrils, which is actually a handy little heat sensor to differentiate their prey from the surrounding temperature.
What makes this one particularly dangerous though is its ability to camouflage itself amongst the logs, leaf piles, and thickets, of which it likes to reside. Watching your step and getting a sufficient pair of sturdy boots will be top priority if entering their territory. If bitten, symptoms can include severe pain, swelling, and tissue necrosis. And if not treated in time, many victims can be left with amputated limbs. So, if you want to return home with all the limbs you came with, seek medical help immediately if a nasty confrontation with one of these guys occurs.
Malayan Krait (Bungarus candidus)
This highly venomous snake is luckily pretty recognizable compared to some of its other relatives. With its black and white crossbands (think convict of the serpent world) sticking out like a sore thumb, you shouldn’t be in any doubt when witnessing a Malayan krait (also known as a blue krait).
With a preference for locations near water, they are generally considered to be quite lethargic creatures. However, before you go thinking that means you have plenty of time to make your escape, think again. If approached or provoked in any way, they are extremely quick to strike, without the display of warning signs certain other snakes have the courtesy to give you.
Reaching a total length of around 3.5 feet, this species mainly feeds on other snakes, however, it will also occasionally feast on other small animals, such as lizards, frogs, and mice. But if this guy gets a bite of human flesh, the highly potent neurotoxins found in the venom can be deadly.
King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah)
Next up we have the top dog of the cobras, the king cobra. Reaching up to average lengths of 10 to 13 feet, this guy is the largest venomous snake in the world and has a fearsome reputation. With its iconic hood and ability to stand up tall, one glimpse of him is enough to terrify.
Commonly found slithering around forest streams, it is the female you have to be most wary of. These ladies are known to be particularly aggressive when guarding eggs, and they tend to stay for up to three months at the nest.
One bite from a king cobra can be fatal within as little as 30 minutes and in 2018, it claimed the life of a famous snake hunter, nicknamed ‘the snake whisperer’. Abu Zarin Hussin was part of the cobra fighting department of a local fire brigade and was an advocate of capturing snakes without harming them. However, he suffered a fatal bite at one such capture attempt in the city of Pahang.
Banded Krait (Bungaras fasciatus)
Growing up to around eight feet in length, this is another snake in Malaysia you definitely would not want to encounter. The banded krait is another highly venomous species, whose bite can lead to respiratory failure, causing suffocation if not treated quickly enough. However, the good news, is that contact with humans is rare as they are a shy bunch and tend to hide rather than attack. They are often seen lying in grass, pits, or drains, especially when it is raining.
With its easily identifiable black and yellow crossbands, you shouldn’t have too much trouble recognizing this guy. Although being sluggish normally, they become erratic when attacking, with a frenzied mix of head movements and lunges. Luckily, this one takes a lot to be disturbed, so unless you’re going out of your way to provoke, you should be safe enough at a distance. However, it’s probably always best to steer clear of snake territory anyway.
Blue Coral Snake (Calliophis bivirgatus)
Although being one of the most strikingly beautiful snakes on the list, with its electric blue stripes and vibrant red head and tail, this guy’s venom is no joke. The blue coral snake has the largest venom glands of any snake, which extend more than a quarter of its body length.
But the most terrifying of all is its effect. Unlike other snake bites, where you generally have enough time to react, a bite from this one can be deadly in an instant. Their highly potent venom is so powerful it can affect the vital systems almost immediately. It is thought that the reason for their mighty venom is their appetite for other deadly animals, such as cobras, giving them the nickname ‘killers of killers’.
But before you go trying to cancel that Malaysian holiday for fear of this guy, let us put your mind at ease. Living in tropical forests, you are very unlikely to come across one on your day-to-day travels, and even if you do, they generally tend to flee if disturbed or produce a warning sign by pushing their tail up, so you know it’s time to leave.
Sumatran Pit Viper (Trimeresurus sumatranus)
Last up, we have the Sumatran pit viper. Another venomous species found in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, who likes to inhabit rainforests, as well as swamps and plantations. It is green and yellow in color and reaches lengths of around 5.3 feet. But it’s the fangs you need to watch out for. Working with over 10mm crushers, this large snake can inject a fair amount of venom into the unlucky victim. But for the most part these victims are frogs, birds, and small mammals and this viper will often be seen wrapped around branches ready to hunt its prey.
However, if you do find yourself being one of their human victims, symptoms of a bite can show from as little as a few minutes to several hours later. They include severe pain, swelling, bruising and trouble breathing. Like any snake contact, it is always best to seek medical help as quickly as possible to prevent anything more serious.
Which snake is responsible for most snake bites in Malaysia?
The Malayan pit viper is responsible for the majority of snake bites in Malaysia due to the abundance of these guys, as well as their ability to camouflage well. It is imperative to seek medical assistance as soon as you become aware of any bite, as many have had to have amputated limbs due to delay in treatment.
Are there venomous snakes in Malaysia?
There are around 35 species of venomous snakes in Malaysia. They belong to the Elapidae family (including the king cobra and banded krait) and Viperidae family (including the Malayan pit viper and Sumatran pit viper). However, although venomous, fatalities are fairly rare. Common symptoms of a snakebite include pain, swelling and drowsiness, and medical help should always be sought immediately.
Are there snakes in Kuala Lumpur?
While most snake sightings occur in the forested, jungle-type terrains, there have been sightings within the streets of Kuala Lumpur and around homes and gardens. They tend to seek out warm, dry places, therefore can often be found in nooks and crannies. Some of the most common sightings in Kuala Lumpur are the common wolf snake and reticulated python.
Want to know if snakes make the list of the seven most dangerous animals in Indonesia? Find out here.