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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
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Red-headed Krait

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3











Species : Bungarus flaviceps
Maximum Size : 2.1 metres

The Red-headed Krait is a rare species which inhabits forested lowlands, hills and lower montane areas below 900 metres elevation.
This potentially highly venomous snake has a black or bluish-black body which is triangular in cross-section. The vertebral scales are enlarged forming a clear ridge along the dorsal line : in some specimens these scales may be pale yellowish.

The head is bright red, sometimes orange or yellow, and this colour extends slightly onto the neck. The short tail is also bright red, sometimes orange or yellow, and this colour extends slightly onto the lowermost part of the body. The belly is pale.

The rather blunt head is distinct from the robust body, and the eyes are relatively small.

Two subspecies are recognised : the widespread form being B. f. flaviceps, which occurs throughout the species range, and a lower montane form, B. f. baluensis, which appears restricted to Sabah, Malaysian Borneo.  The latter has a more extensive red colouration on the lower body, interspersed with black and white bands.

There is some similarity between this species and the Blue Malayan Coral Snake Calliophis bivirgata, however in the latter the belly is bright red.

The venom of this species is little studied, but it must be assumed that it is highly venomous and potentially dangerous in the same manner as the Banded Krait Bungarus fasciatus.

The Red-headed Krait occurs in southern Myanmar,  southern Thailand, parts of Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia), Peninsular Malaysia and the islands of Sumatra, Borneo and Java. The species is not known to occur in Singapore.

Figs 1 and 2 : This specimen, measuring an estimated 1.75 metres, was spotted at night as it explored the rocky banks of Sungai Relau, Taman Negara, Peninsular Malaysia. The snake appeared to be hunting for prey, possibly other reptiles.

Fig 3 : Sungai Relau by day.

References : H12, H14, H15