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| Last Updated:: 04/10/2014

Poisonous snakes

All the major venomous species of snakes found in India are also found in Kerala. Kerala is recognized as having a major problem with snakebite. The five common poisonous snakes found in Kerala are Indian Cobra, King Cobra, Russel’s Viper, Saw-scaled viper and Krait. Out of these, Indian Cobra, Russel’s Viper, Saw-scaled viper and Krait are the most dangerous since King Cobra usually habit in dense forests and hence rarely comes in contact with humans.


Indian Cobra


Scientific Name : Naja naja

Malayalam : Moorkhan

A highly poisonous snake which grows up to 6 feet in length. Cobras can raise the skin on either side of the neck to a hood which makes it different from other snakes. They are usually found in open forests and farmlands. They can be found in abandoned rat holes and termite mounds. Cobras are good swimmers also. They feed on rodents, lizards, frogs etc. The hood on its dorsal side bears a mark which is characteristic of Naja naja. Venom is neurotoxic (affects nervous system and brain). The Oriental Ratsnake Ptyas mucosus is often mistaken for the cobra; however this snake is much longer and can easily be told apart by the stronger ridged appearance of its body. Other snakes which resemble Naja naja are the Banded Racer Argyrogena fasciolata and the Indian Smooth Snake Coronella brachyura.


King Cobra


Scientific Name: Naja hannah

Malayalam: Rajavembala

This snake is usually found in thick forests and grows to a lenth of 15 feet. The hood has no markings. Its venom is neurotoxic.This venom is injected by the snake using its half inch fangs. The toxic compounds in this venom tends to affect the central nervous system, and eventually causes the death of the individual. They are the only snakes in the world that build nests for their eggs, which they guard ferociously until the hatchlings emerge. The diet of King Cobra consists of different types of snakes, including venomous snake species like the krait, and sizable species like the pythons. Among the various species of snakes, the rat snake is the most common food of the King Cobra. At times, especially when there is scarcity of food, this snake may also resort to much smaller prey, like lizards and rodents.


Russel's Viper


Scientific Name: Vipera russelli

Malayalam: Mandali, Rakthamandali, Manchatti

Russel’s Vipers kill more people in India than any other snake. It is light brown in color with three longitudinal chains of large spots on the back side of its body. This snake always make a hissing sound. It grows to a length of 4’-5’.This snake is viviparous. These are usually found in farmlands and near human settlements where rodents are available in plenty. They tend to avoid dense forests and humid environments like marshes and rain forests. Venum is haemotoxic (Affects the blood vascular system. Destroys the blood cells, vessels and heart causing internal bleeding).Feeds mainly on rodents. It pursues its prey by night. The prey once in reach is subjected to a lethal dose of venom and allowed to die. It is swallowed once dead. This snake frequently ventures down burrows in search of prey and may enter houses when seeking out rats.


Saw-Scaled Viper


Scientific Name: Echis carinatus

Malayalam: Anali

This snake grows up to a length of 2’-3’. The body is grayish, reddish, or light brown in colour with white spots. Head is triangular distinct from the neck and bears a white arrow mark. Venum is haemotoxic.The venom from this species is used in the manufacture of several drugs. One is called echistatin, which is an anticoagulant. Even though many other snake venoms contain similar toxins, echistatin is not only especially potent, but also simplistic in structure, which makes it easier to replicate. Indeed, it is obtained not only through the purification of whole venom, but also as a product of chemical synthesis.




Scientific Name: Bungarus caeruleus

Malayalam: Vellikettan, Mothiravalayan, Ettadi veeran, Ettadi Moorkhan, Samkhuvarayan

Krait is a common snake with many species. The common species found in Kerala is Bungarus Coeruleus with blue or dark bluish grey colour and stripes across. These are found near human habitats due to availability of rodents. They are also found in farmlands and open forests. Venom is neurotoxic.Feeds mainly on rodents, frogs and other snakes. The prey is pursued and a lethal dose of venom injected. The prey is then let go and consumed once dead. It is notorious for its appetite for snakes and frequently consumes blind snakes and other species including other members of the genus bungarus. When in pursuit of rodents it often ends up in human dwellings.

Effective first aid in the event of snakebite:

1. Reassure the victim

Calm the victim down. Unnecessary panic will only raise the pulse rate and blood pressure and moves the venom into the system faster. Tell the victim that 70% of snakebites are from non-poisonous species. Of the remaining 30%, only half will actually involve injecting venom.

2 Immobilize the bitten limb without compression.

If the bite is on a hand or arm place it in a sling bandage or use a piece of cloth to support the arm. In the case of a leg bite, use a splint to support both legs and bandage them together. Do not tie the bandages tightly, we are only trying to immobilize not apply any pressure.

3 Get the patient to Hospital as fast as safely possible.

Don’t waste time washing the wound, seeking traditional remedies or applying any drugs or chemicals to the victim. Science has shown that traditional remedies do not work and simply waste valuable time. Snakestones do not absorb venom and many herbal remedies make the situation worse. Keep the patient as immobile as possible

4 Tell the Doctor any of the following signs appearing on the way to the hospital.

Difficulty in breathing. If the patient stops breathing, give artificial respiration. In Cobra and Krait bites this will save the victims life.
Drooping eyelids
Bleeding from the gums or any unusual bruising appearing.
Increases in any swelling. Carry a pen and mark the limit of the swelling every 10 minutes
Difficulty in speaking
Bleeding from the wound that does not seem to stop