Venomous Terrestrial Snakes of Pakistan
Special Note: The information on this page was taken from the field guide, A Guide to The Snakes of Pakistan, Edition Chimaira Frankfurt am Main 2002, by Dr. Muhammad Sharif Khan. I am extremely grateful to both the author Dr. Muhammad Sharif Khan and the publisher Andreas S. Brahm for allowing me to use the information from this book, under special permission. As such, all information on this page is the copyright property of Dr. Muhammad Sharif Khan and Andreas S. Brahm and should not be used without the written permission of the copyright holders.
Family: ELAPIDAE (Kraits & Cobras)
Family of deadliest venomous snakes containing cobras, kraits, mambas and coral. They are morphologically colubrids, except that they possess a pair of short immovable, hollow fangs, longer than rest of the teeth, connected with poison through a duct opening at the tip of the fang. Moreover, characteristically, the loreal scale is absent from head scales. Elapids are represented in Pakistan by two genera of 4-5 species.
Bungarine snakes, the “kraits”, are medium-sized, thin snakes, with small dark eyes which are hardly visible in life. Smooth scales, black to dark brown dorsum with a steelish luster, paired narrow white bands extend across dorsum at regular intervals.
Kraits are shy, in danger prefer to lie low, when provoked body rolls into a ball, and hisses. The head is kept under coils, while the tail is kept high and is waved to and fro, to distract attention of enemy. The “balling” snake suddenly strikes when molested (khan and tasnim, 1986b).
Genus Bungarus is represented in Pakistan by three species:
- Common Krait (Bungarus caeruleus)
- Sindhi Krait (Bungarus sindanus)
- Northern Punjab Krait (Bangarus sindanus razai)
Snakes of this genus can expand ribs of anterior half of their body so to stretch the skin of this region into a “hood”, and are capable of raising it vertically up above These snakes are usually known as “nags”, are long, thick, heavy bodied, often exceeding 1500 mm in total length. They are deadly poisonous and most-feared of the subcontinent.
Genus Naja is represented in Pakistan by two species:
Family: VIPERIDAE (Pitless vipers)
This family is represented in Pakistan by five genera and seven species and subspecies.
- Russell’s or Chain Viper (Daboia russelii)
- Saw-scaled Viper (Echis carinatus) (New)
- Sochurek’s or Eastern Saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus sochureki) (New)
- Multiscale or Transcaspian Saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus multisquamatus) (New)
- Astola Saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus astolae) (New)
- Macmahon’s or Leaf Nosed Viper (Eristicophis macmahonii)
- Persian Horned Viper (Pseudocerastes persicus)
- Levantine Viper or Mountain Adder(Macrovipera lebetina)
Family: CROTALIDAE (Pit vipers)
Snout pointed, a deep loreal pit between eye and nostril; head-top relatively flat with large shields, usually small azygos scales split off from the main head scales; nostril centered between two nasal scales; postocular and subocular are fused to form a large scale; which does not line the mouth.
Pit vipers are represented by a single species in Pakistan, belonging to the genus Gloydius:
- Himalayan Pit Viper (Gloydius himlayanus)
A Guide to The Snakes of Pakistan, Muhammad Sharif Khan, Edition Chimaira Frankfurt am Main 2002 (www.chimaira.de)
Venomous Snakes of the Middle East (Identification Guide), Defence Intelligence Document, U.S Defence Intelligence Agency
Dr. Muhammad Sharif Khan, Herpetological Lab Rabwah, Pakistan
Pakistan Museum of Natural History