Definitions

bungarum

Bungarus fasciatus

Bungarus fasciatus a venomous elapid snake species found in India and Southeast Asia. It is commonly called the Banded Krait.

Range

The banded krait occurs in the whole of the Indo-Chinese subregion, the Malaysian peninsula and archipelago and Southern China.

It has been recorded from northeast India through Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and southern China to Malaysia and the main Indonesian islands of Borneo (Java and Sumatra), as well as Singapore.

In India, it is generally found in the North-East. It has been recorded in Bihar and Orissa and as far south and west as Hyderabad, Awadh, the Godavari and Mahanadi valleys. In Maharashtra it is found in Chandrapur & Gadchiroli districts.

Status

Not uncommon in Assam and Bangladesh but becomes progressively uncommon westwards in India.

Habitat

Banded kraits may be seen in a variety of habitats ranging from forests to agricultural lands. They inhabit termite mounds and rodent holes close to water, and often live near human settlement, especially villages because of their supply of rodents and water. They prefer the open plains of the countryside.

The banded krait has been found in Myanmar up to an altitude of 5000 feet.

Description

B. fasciatus is easily identified by its alternate black and yellow bands, its triangular body cross-section and the marked vertebral ridge consisting of enlarged vertebral shields along its body. The head is broad and depressed. The eye is black. It has arrow-head like yellow markings on its otherwise black head and has yellow lips, lore, chin and throat.

The banded krait has been recorded to grow up to a length of 2125mm, but normally the maximum length encountered is 1800mm or less.

The snake has an entire anal scale and single subcaudals. The tail is small and ends like a finger-tip, generally being one tenth the length of the snake.

Photos of identification features

Behaviour

Though venomous the banded krait is a shy snake, not typically seen, and is mainly nocturnal. When harassed they will usually hide their head under their coils, and do not generally attempt to bite, though at night they are much more active and widely considered to be more dangerous then.

During the day they lie up in grass, pits or drains. The snakes are lethargic and sluggish even under provocation. They are most commonly seen in the rains.

Food

The banded krait feeds mainly on other snakes, but is also known to eat fish, frogs, skinks and snake eggs. Among the snakes taken by banded kraits are: -

The prey is swallowed head first, after it has been rendered inactive by the venom.

Breeding habits

Little is known of its breeding habits. In Myanmar a female has been dug out while incubating a clutch of 8 eggs, four of which hatched in May. Young have been recorded to measure 298 to 311mm on hatching. The snake is believed to become adult in the third year of its life and of approximate length 914mm by then.

Venom

B. fasciatus venom is neurotoxic and has been estimated by Col. Frank Wall in 1911 to be 7 to 14 times more potent than cobra venom. There are no authenticated records of human beings having been bitten. A bullock was reported to have died within 20 minutes of being bitten.

The polyvalent antivenin, developed by Alan Van Dyke and available in India, is not meant to be used with this snake. No specific antivenin is available for this snake.

Photo gallery

Common names

  • Hindi - raaj saamp.
  • Bengali - sankni, shankhamooti shaanp.
  • Oriya - rana.
  • Telugu - Bungarum paamu meaning the golden snake. The scientific name of the genus is also derived from the Telugu word bungarum meaning gold, this being an allusion to the yellow rings around its body.
  • Thai - ngu sam liam, meaning the triangular snake.
  • Marathi - patteri manyar.

In Literature

  • Venom from a banded krait saved Baby Saleem from Cholera in Salman Rushdie's book, Midnight's Children.
  • Also, Ronald Rosenblatt of the on-line "Fortean Explorer" has suggested that the "swamp adder" mentioned in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" might actually be a semi-fictionalized depiction of the banded krait.

Notes

References

  • Boulenger, George A., (1890), The Fauna of British India including Ceylon and Burma, Reptilia and Batrachia. Taylor and Francis, London.
  • Daniels, J.C. (2002), Book of Indian Reptiles and Amphibians. BNHS. Oxford University Press. Mumbai.
  • Smith, Malcolm A. (1943), The Fauna of British India, Ceylon and Burma including the whole of the Indo-Chinese Sub-region, Reptilia and Amphibia. Vol I - Loricata and Testudines, Vol II-Sauria, Vol III-Serpentes. Taylor and Francis, London.
  • Whitaker, Romulus. (2002), Common Indian Snakes: A Field Guide. Macmillan India Limited, ISBN 0-333-90198-3.

External links

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