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Snakes in Singapore: How to Keep You and Your Family Safe

Last week, Nanyang Technologial University (NTU) graduate student Abhishek Ambede, 25, snapped a stunning photo of a king cobra and python intertwined. Several students and staff witnessed the two snakes wrestle for nearly 15-20 minutes before animal control came and safely took them to the zoo. While rare to see two snakes of this size together, snakes are not all that uncommon in Singapore.


Here’s what you need to know about snakes in Singapore:

  • Pythons are non-venomous and quite shy. They will avoid human contact and only attack when they feel threatened. They attack by squeezing their prey.
  • Cobras are venomous and also not naturally very aggressive. They will strike when threatened.
  • Both cobras and pythons can swim and climb trees.
  • Pythons are more common than cobras in Singapore.
  • Cobras can spit their venom at victims in addition to biting with their fangs. 
  • Both snakes can hear but sense sound through contact with the ground – meaning they can probably feel you coming before hearing you.
  • Both snakes can grow VERY long (up to 10 meters!) but most of the wild snakes in Singapore are less than 5 meters. Pythons tend to be longer than cobras.
  • Both feed on rodents, and small animals and swallow their food whole.


How to Keep Children and Pets Safe:

  • Most snake sightings in Singapore occur in more heavily wooded areas. While not impossible, it is unlikely to spot large, dangerous snakes in heavy traffic areas. However, keeping a neat and tidy garden can deter snakes from finding a home in your home.
  • Keep grass cut short and weeds to a minimum.
  • Don’t pile up compost or other garden clippings where snakes can hide and seek shelter.
  • Ponds, water features and water sources can attract snakes.
  • Remove any empty planters, trash bins or other objects where snakes could hide and seek shelter.
  • Keep your dogs on leashes (especially in unfamiliar areas).


What to do if you see a snakes:

  • According to Acres, should you encounter a snake in the wild – out in nature – walk away slowly and quietly and try to avoid the animal.
  • Snakes will usually slither away from humans so take care not to provoke them. Even the non-venomous pythons can and will bite if they feel threatened.  
  • If the snake is in a built environment – the road, a building or confined area – call the Acres 24-hr wildlife rescue hotline: 9783 7782.
  • Most snakes are more active at night. Try to avoid walking or running on wooded or grassy trails in the evening and at night.
  • Some snakes travel through drain pipes. Take care not to walk near or play near these areas.
  • Don’t ever approach a snake, even if it appears to be dead or trapped. Many snakes “play dead” when they sense impending danger. They can even slow down their heart rate to make for very convincing acting! 


If bitten:

  • Seek medical care immediately.
  • Keep the victim calm and immobilise the bite. Try to keep the bite below the heart.
  • Do not add anything to the wound (antiseptic, alcohol, aspirin, etc.)


By Kathleen Siddell, August 2015

Photo:  Abhishek Ambede

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