India shares a unique relationship with these legless reptiles. They are revered as gods also killed at sight. The myths that surround snakes even captured the imagination of Indian film makers, spreading the phobia further. Chennai has been always the forerunner in the country when it came to awareness of these poor misunderstood creatures. Organizations like Chennai Snake Park Trust and the MCBT have been spreading the awareness for decades. And many programs are available in Chennai where one can learn about snakes and also to rescue and relocate them safely.
There are more than 2700 species of snakes worldwide out of which 276 species are found in India. Only about 50 species of snakes are well known to South India. All Chennai snakes are good swimmers and climbers. Snakes may have evolved from lizards which adapted to burrowing during the Cretaceous period and the diversity of modern snakes appeared during the Paleocene period.
Here are some common snakes that you might come across in Chennai.
Whom to call?
Chennai Region Forest Department : 044-22200335
THE BIG 4 Venomous snakes
There are 4 known venomous species of snakes in Chennai that you should know. They are:
The Indian Cobra (Naja naja) Nalla Pambu or Naga pambu.
Also, know as the spectacled cobra is among the earliest recorded venomous snakes of India. Their venom is highly neurotoxic. Cobras are the 2nd most common Chennai Snakes. They are most active during the night and feed on a variety of animals including small mammals, birds, lizards and other snakes. Characteristic features include the wide black band on the underside of the neck, and the hood marking design which shows half-rings on either side of the hood. They grow upto 6 feet in length. Commonly found almost everywhere in the city. More common near farms and fields.
Common Krait (Bungarus caeruleus) Tamil name: Kattu Viriyan.
Also, known as the Indian krait can grow upto 4 feet in length. They have neurotoxic venom that induces muscle paralysis in their preys. It’s generally glossy black in color marked with white cross bands in pairs. They primarily feed on mammals, lizards, frogs and other smaller snakes. Mistaken as krait many other species of snakes are killed in our Chennai city
Russels Viper (Daboia russelii) Tamil name: Kannadi viriyan
The Russels viper has a triangular head, flattened and distinct from the neck.the color pattern consists of a deep yellow, tan, or brown ground color, with three series of dark brown spots that run the length of the body. Each of these spots has a black ring around it. Closely resembling leaf litter. They grow upto 4 feet in length are one of the species that cause the most snakebite incidents and deaths among the venomous snakes. Outskirts of the city, near farms, and hillocks.
Saw Scaled Viper (Echis carinatus) Tamil Name: Surutta pambu
The little Indian viper is the smallest member of the big 4 and also the most aggressive. They are not known to grow more than 2-3 feet and deliver hemotoxic venom frequently inducing blood coagulation. Their head is distinct from neck and snout is short and rounded.
Saw Scaled Viper are crepuscular animals that are found hiding in burrows, fallen logs and rock fissures. They feed on rodents, lizards, frogs and other arthropods. Commonly found on the outskirts, especially on the east coast and OMR region.
Common Non-Venomous Chennai Snakes.
Rat snake (Ptyas mucosa) Tamil Name: Sara Pambu
Sara pambu. Are non-venomous snakes that primarily feed on rodents and birds. They are the most common Chennai Snakes. Rat Snakes are diurnal species showing arboreal and terrestrial activity. They are fast movers and grow upto 10 feet in length. This is the most common snake found in Indian suburbs as they thrive in areas with high rat populations.Commonly mistaken to be a cobra and are often killed.
Green vine Snake (Ahaetulla nasuta) Tamil Name: Pacha Pambu.
The green vine snake is diurnal and mildly venomous. The reptile normally feeds on frogs and lizards using its binocular vision to hunt. They are slow-moving, relying on camouflaging as a vine in foliage. The snake is narrow and green in color showing black and white markings on the dorsal side. They are arboreal and grow upto 4 feet in length. No, it doesn’t strike your eyes.
Checkered keelback (Xenochrophis piscator), Tamil Name: Thanni pambu
The Asiatic water snake is a common species of non-venomous snake found all over Asia. Coloration consists of dark spots arranged quincuncially and often separated by white or black longitudinal bands on a pale ground, or of dark crossbands, with or without whitish spots. Two oblique black streaks, one below and the other behind the eye, are nearly constant.This snake is found in or near freshwater lakes or rivers. It feeds mainly on small fish and frogs.
Bronzeback tree snake (Dendrelaphis tristis), Tamil name: Komberi Mookan
Komberi Mookan or the Common Bronzeback tree snake has a very long and thin body usually looks white from the lateral side; predominantly common bronze back got the brown dorsal body, flat head which is clearly broader than the neck.Hides in tree holes, rock gaps at heights, dense bushes etc. Feeds mainly on lizards and frogs and small birds. Known to grow 3-4 feet in length.
Wolf Snake.(Lycodon aulicus) Tamil Name: Manai pambu or Olae pambu
Commonly known as the Indian wolf snake, is a species of non-venomous snake which belongs to one of our chennai Snakes that bears the mild resemblance to the Krait. They are dark brown with single white brands running across the breadth of the body.Primarily nocturnal with minimum activity during the day. They feed on lizards frogs and skinks.
For more information on the Indian snake species and identification guide check out the pocket identification guide Flashcard Game