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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







Black Whipsnake

Species : Demansia vestigiata
Maximum Size : 115 cm

The Black Whipsnake occurs in open woodlands, savanna, cultivated areas and around lowland villages. It is diurnal and mildly venomous.

This slender and fast-moving snake will typically flee from disturbance, but larger specimens may stand their ground and rear up if suddenly disturbed.

Its head is narrow, with large eyes and pale lips. The tail is long and slender. Its dorsal scales are dark brown to black and its ventral scales are greyish. The tail may be lighter than the rest of the body.

This species feeds almost exclusively on lizards, supplemented with frogs when available.

The genus Demansia currently includes 13 species, which are mainly centred on Australia, however two species are known to occur on the island of New Guinea - the Black Whipsnake Demansia vestigiata (formerly D. atra), described here, and the smaller Black-necked Whipsnake Demansia calodera. 

According to Reptile Database, the Papuan Whipsnake Demansia papuensis appears, rather confusingly, to be confined to Australia.)

The Black Whipsnake occurs in southern parts of both Papua New Guinea and the Indonesian province of Papua. It also occurs in northern Australia.

Figs 1 and 2 : A pair of Black Whipsnake in a duel. This behaviour typically takes place between two males in a show of strength over a female. Seen at Varirata National Park at around 750 metres elevation. Photos thanks to Jeff Crocombe.

Fig 3 : Aerial view of savanna habitat in southern Papua New Guinea - a typical haunt for the Black Whipsnake. Such habitat comprises mainly human influenced fire-climax vegetation interspersed with open forest.

References : H6

Shea, G.M. & Scanlon 2007. Revision of the small tropical whipsnakes previously referred to Demansia olivacea (Gray, 1842) and Demansia torquata (Guenther, 1862) (Squamata: Elapidae). Rec. Austral. Mus. 59 (2-3): 117-142



Fig 1
ゥ  Jeff Crocombe
Fig 2
ゥ  Jeff Crocombe

Fig 3