Wildlife of Pakistan


Snakes of Pakistan

Venomous Terrestrial Snakes

Indian Python

(Python Molurus)

PHOTO CREDIT: Bedi Sons (Indian Wildlife)

Local name: Azdaha (Urdu)

Description and Biology:

The Indian python is one of the world's largest snakes, sometimes reaching lengths of more than 20 feet. Pythons prey on birds and other reptiles, but they prefer small mammals, such as rats. In many parts of their remaining natural range, pythons keep rodent populations in check -- a valuable ecological role that is generally unappreciated by local human inhabitants. Pythons -- like snakes everywhere -- tend to be regarded as dangerous and are often killed on sight. The Indian Python does not wriggle like other snakes, but moves by wave-like movements of its ribs. It is not poisonous and kills its prey by constriction with its body coils, before swallowing its victim head first. It is an good swimmer as well.

Habitat and Distribution:

The Indian pyhton is mainly a jungle dweller, but in Pakistan it is found in vegetation near rivers and lakes. The major threat to the Indian python is a familiar one: loss of habitat to expanding human populations. Their favorite habitat was scrub land, considered waste land by local people. But with the introduction of modern farming methods in such areas are being converted for agricultural use. Now it is only found in Southern Sind, where its numbers are diminishing. Only a few pythons have been reported in district Sanghar in Sindh. It is also hunted indiscriminately for its precious skin.

Indian or Spectacled Cobra

(Naja Naja)


Local name: Sheesh Nag, Kala Nag (Urdu)

Description and Biology:

Two subspecies of cobras are found in Pakistan, the Indian or spectacled cobra (naja naja naja) and the Central Asian or Oxus cobra (naja naja oxiana). Both these subspecies of cobra are about the same size. Average length is 1.9 meters, with a maximum length of 2.4 meters. N.n.naja has a spectacled marking on back of the neck (also visible from front on rare specimens). The hood appearance varies greatly. The body coloration is yellow to dark brown and black for both sexes. Males are generally heavier, shorter than females, but tails longer. N. oxiana is similar in appearence, but lacks the spectacle marking as in N.n.naja. This cobra is diurnal; mostly active during evening and early morning. It may enter human dwellings when hunting. Normaly, it is not considered aggressive and will avoid confrontation with humans. But, when threatened or cornered, will lift upper body, and will spread its hood. When bitting, it hold on and chews savagely. May strike repeatedly. This snake can be exceptionally quick-moving and agile. The fangs and venom glads of both sub-species are large. The venom is highly toxic. Snake bite symptoms begin approximately 8 minutes after bite. Victims experiences anxiety, the pulse quickens, grows weak and irregular. The victim soon falls into deep coma.

Habitat and Distribution:

The Indian Cobra is found in desert areas, but it prefers areas with some vegetation, such as damp grassland, which often occurs around villages or areas with some cultivation.

N.n.naja is found in eastern Pakistan as far west as Karachi. It may be found in flat grasslands, among scattered trees, near rice fields and other cultivated areas, near settlements. Usually not found in deserts or rainforests. It occurs at sea levels and higher elevations. This cobra sub-species is found in Punjab, Baluchistan and Sind where it is quiet common. N.n.oxiana is rare in Pakistan and is found in Northern Pakistan at areas of elevations as high as 2,100 meters. It is found in N.W.F.P and Baluchistan

The main threat to this snake is from snake charmers who capture it each year to stage fights with moongooses in rural and urban areas.

Saw Scaled Viper or Carpet Viper

(Echis Carinatus)


Local name: Lundi (Urdu)

Description and Biology:

Two sub-species of the Saw scaled viper are found in Pakistan. Echis carinates astoles is only found at Astola island off Makran coast in Baluchistan. The other sub-pecie is Echis carinatus sochureki, which is found in Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. The average length is 0.4 to 0.6 meters. the body is slender to moderately stout and slightly flattened vertically. The head is short, distinctly wider than neck and has alight-colored trident, cruciform or arrow-shaped mark on the head. There is a pale stripe from each eye to angle of mouth. The throat and chin are white. The topside of E.carinatus is buff or tan, to olive brown or chestnut with dark-edged whitish spots along backbone, narrow, undulating white line alongs sides (upper portions of loops more conspicuous than lower portions). The underside is white, grayish-white, yellowish-white, pale pinkish-brown, stippled with dark gray. The tail is short, tapers abruptly and is about 10 percent of total body length.

This snake is primarily nocturnal in hot weather (may be active at dusk) and is sometimes diurnal in cool weather. It may be found basking during early morning in bushes more than 2 meters above ground. It basks in open during cooler weather, but is found more frequently under rocks or in mounds of dead plant stalks. This snake can bury itself in sand with only the head exposed. It is fairly active and can move rapidly in a side winding motion. In dry weather it hunts prey almost entirely at night, but may hunt by day in cool weather. Always alert this snake can become easily excited. It can be really agressive and is likely to flee when encountered, but has been reported to chase victims agressively. When threatened is assumes a defensive figure as a C-Coil, rubbing inflated loops of body together to make a distinctive hiss-like rasping sound. Strikes quickly and repeatedly with considerable reach for a small snake. This snake is considered to be the world's most dangerous snake because of its highly toxic venom, its abundance near cultivated areas, and its aggressive, easily excitable temperament.

Habitat and Distribution:

The Saw Scaled Vipers is an inhabitant of desert areas. It is found in large numbers in deserts and dry areas and is also found in sandy areas, rocky areas, and scrub forests from sea level to about 1,800 meters. In Pakistan it is found in Thar and Cholistan deserts in Sind and Punjab and also Astola island off Markan cosat in Baluchistan.

Russell's Viper

(Vipera Russelli)


Local name: Koriwala (Urdu)

Description and Biology:

This is a large snake with an average length of 0.7 to 1.3 meters and a maximum length of 1.7 meters. The head is rather long, triangular, slightly distinct from neck, with large, conspicuous nostrils on side of snout. The Fangs are large and the tail short. The ground color may be dark brown, brownish-yellow,, or brownish-gray. Immature specimens are usually clear orange to brownish-orange. Dorsal pattern consists of black or brown oval spots edged with black, white, or both. Spots in middle row may fuse together to form zig-zag pattern. Two rows of oval spots run along each side of body. The tail is striped. Belly pinkish-brown or whitish with black spots; becoming darker towards tail. Three seperate semi triangular spots on top of head are situated to form triangle with vertex between eyes. A dark band runs diagonally from eye to corner of mouth.

This snake is primarily nocturnal (especially during hot weather). Lethargic during day, but can be quiet active at night. It shelters in rodents burrows, old termite mounds, rock crevices, piles of leaves, or other debris. Also found near human dwellings searching for prey. May be active during day in cool weather. Can be very excitable. Coils and will hiss when disturbed. When excited, body will vibrate and emit a low rasping sound resulting from scales of one part of coiled body rubbing upon another. It generally strikes only at objects within its effective striking range, but may strike quickly without provocation. The venom of this snake can deliver 2 to 3 times the lethal venom dose and causes most of the snakebite fatalities in the areas where it occurs.

Habitat and Distribution:

The Russell's viper is found in Pakistan from India-Pakistan border to Indus Valley in provinces of Sind and Punjab. The habitat varies. It is not found in dense forest or permanent marsh. Occurs in plains, savannahs, foothills montane areas (moist, cool upland slopes below timberline) at elevations upto 2,200 meters.

Indian or Sind Krait

(Bungares Caeruleus Sindanus)


Local name: Sung Choor (Urdu)

Description and Biology:

The average length of this snake is 1.0 meters with a maximum lenght of 1.8 meters. It is moderately slender. Has a smooth. glossy appearance. The color varies. It can be blue-black, pale bluish-gray, steel blue, brown, uniformly black. There are paired narrow white, yellow, or grayish crossbands. Young specimens may have white spots instead of crossbands along first one-third of body. The underside is white. The head is egg-shaped, slightly distint from neck. The eyes are small, snout short, upper lip white or yellow and teh tail is short with the tip pointed.

This snake is nocturnal. It is very active and agile at night. It often hides in rodent holes, loose soil, beneath debris, so is rarely seen during day. When agitated, it will coil up with head concealed, body flattened, and make jerky movements. May also lift its tail. Reluctant to bite, but may make a quick snapping bite. Generally docile, unagressive during day, but may become aggressive during night. This is the most dangerous of Bunguarus species. The venom is highly toxic. It bites rarely, but in one study 77 percent of victims died.

Habitat and Distribution:

The Indian Krait is found in Pakistan from coastal lowlands north and eastward to Waziristan and Quetta regions. Also found near southwestern Pakistan coast not far from Iran-Pakistan border. This snake is found in dry open plains, in termite mounds, in burrows of small rodents, beneath debris, at elevations as high as 1,700 meters. It needs ample water supply, so may be found in moist and wet areas such as wells or tanks containing water. Often found near or in human habitation.

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