The Philippines is a popular holiday destination for its beautiful coastline, clear waters and stunning greenery, not to mention its fantastic weather. However, these factors are also why its 7,641 islands are home to a wide variety of wildlife, including snakes.
Last year, the Philippines welcomed over eight million tourists, attracted to its heritage towns, beaches and nature, and despite some slightly scary local wildlife the islands are deemed a generally safe place to travel. But for some people, the idea of visiting a holiday destination which is home to venomous snakes is slightly off putting and could well dictate what parts of the country you choose to visit, the activities you do, or whether you go at all!
Trekking the various rain forests and mountains can be an amazing experience but it is advised to stick to the designated footpaths and not wander into tall grass, or highly vegetated areas. It is also worth bearing in mind that snakes are extremely wary of humans and are unlikely to strike unless they feel very threatened, as a last form of defence. Common sense will usually prevent any nasty encounters.
In this article we will list the 7 most dangerous snakes in the Philippines, where they can be found and what makes them so threatening.
Wagler’s Pit Viper
Also known as the Temple Pit Viper, the Wagler is said to be the most common form of Pit Viper found in South East Asia and can be found in lowland forests and mangrove regions. This snake is commonly identified by its triangular-shaped head.
Like all Pit Vipers, Wagler’s are venomous but not considered to be particularly aggressive, especially towards humans.
Although they are typically located in low level vegetation, this snake can also be found resting in trees, many feet above the ground. This species will rest in trees for days at a time while digesting a meal and can be found on the ground when it is search of its next one.
Wagler’s Pit Vipers have heat sensors on either side of their heads which are used to detect prey at night, their diet commonly consists of small rodents, such as rats and some birds.
It is easy to spot the difference between male and females, as males are generally more slender, with a lime green underbelly and red and cream spots/ patches on its top, while the end of their tail is a reddish-brown colour. Females typically have a thicker abdomen and are black/ dark on the top of the body, with yellow and white bands underneath.
Pit Viper venom attacks red blood cells and not the nervous system which is uncommon amongst snakes.
Interesting Fact – Pit Vipers give birth to their young instead of laying eggs.
A carnivorous snake that can grow to 18-foot in length in some cases, and weighs up to 20 pounds, with a lifespan of around 20 years.
This is amongst the most venomous snakes in the world and when ‘standing’ in a striking pose it can face a human eye-to-eye. King Cobras can lift a third of their body off the floor and still maintain momentum for an attack, making them one of the most notorious snakes in the region.
The good news is, King Cobras are generally shy and will try their hardest to avoid human contact. If threatened, this snake will show its famous hood and let off a loud hiss as a warning.
Despite being the longest venomous snake in the world, its venom is not as potent as some of its relatives, however, that is negated by the sheer amount of neurotoxin it can deliver. In a single bite, the King Cobra can unleash up to 2/10 of a fluid ounce, enough to kill 20 humans or an adult elephant. These toxins attack the brain and result in respiratory and cardiac failure.
In terms of diet, the King Cobra generally feeds on other snakes, lizards, eggs and small mammals.
These giant reptiles can be found in rain forests, bamboo thickets, mangroves, mountain grassland and rivers.
Interesting Fact – The King Cobra is the only snake which will build a nest for its eggs which it will defend until they have hatched.
Yellow-Lipped Sea Krait
This highly venomous sea snake is easy to identify with its black head, with a yellow upper lip, snout and cheeks. The Yellow-Lipped Sea Krait’s body is a light grey colour, with black bands and a yellow-ish underbelly – its tail is also paddle-like, making it an adept swimmer.
Like other sea snakes, this Krait has strong neurotoxic venom and its prey consists of small fish and eels, it can grow up to 4.5 feet in length and fully grown adults can weigh up to 1.8kg.
In the Philippines, this semi-aquatic snake can also be found on land but is not aggressive by nature and will only attack a human if it feels threatened. This species can often rest in places like the exhaust of a boat, or water intake mechanisms, they are also attracted to light, drawing them towards coastline hotels and buildings.
This sea snake is somewhat of a delicacy and are caught for their skin and meat in the Philippines, which is then smoked and exported to Japan, a gourmet ingredient in Okinawan cuisine.
Interesting Fact – Yellow-Lipped Sea Kraits lay up to ten eggs, per clutch and are very good at hiding them in tight crevices and cracks, with only two nests definitively reported by conservationists.
Equatorial Spitting Cobra
One of the most formidable snakes of the Philippines, the Equatorial Spitting Cobra should be treated with extreme caution as it is highly venomous.
Also know as the Sumatran Cobra (Naja sumatrana), it can be found in lowlands and have adapted to live in towns and cities, predominantly residential areas with lots of greenery. On hot days, this species of snake will retreat to covered, shady areas, such as an outside wall cavity or an open drain.
Although this species is not typically aggressive, it is wise to take heed of any warning signs as, as its name suggests, this snake can spray venom at its perceived attacker and unless this is washed away immediately it can cause severe lasting damage to tissue in and around the eyes.
When attacking, this snake will raise a third of itself in an upright position and display its hood, letting off a loud hiss. If the cobra still feels threatened then its next step will be to spray venom, or even strike. A bite from this snake can often be fatal.
This snake is native to the southern Philippine regions and is identifiable by its bluish-black colour, pale neck and thick torso. Its common prey includes, rats, mice and some amphibians, such as the Asian Toad.
Lake Taal Snake
This rare species of venomous sea snake can only be located in Lake Taal and is one of only two known sea snakes which can only be found in freshwater, the other being the Crocker’s Sea Snake which is native to a single lake on Rennell Island, of the Solomon Islands.
It’s colouring is similar to most sea snakes, with dark skin and yellow bands from top to bottom. The Lake Taal snake is however, shorter than most species of sea snake (between 50cm-70cm). As well as a paddle-like tail, this species also has valves in its nostrils to prevent water entering its nasal or oral passages.
Lake Taal is a volcanic crater lake, located in Batangas and these snakes spend their entire life within the acidic waters of the lake, this includes breeding. They feed on small fish and there are no available estimates of its population, although its numbers have supposedly dwindled due to pollution and human interaction.
Palawan Long-Glanded Coral Snake
Long-Glanded Coral Snakes have some of the most unique venom in the world, resulting in an immediate shock to the system, causing spasms and an overload of the nervous system.
These snakes generally hunt other venomous snakes, including young King Cobras and they have some of the biggest venom glands in the world, covering a quarter of its length. Its venom works extremely quickly but does not kill right away, instead it activates all the nerves of fast-moving prey (potential predators like Cobras) which results in paralysis.
Commonly referred to as one of the most beautiful and striking snakes in the world, this species has shocking blue stripes, with a head & tail of neon red. As its name suggests, it is native to the province of Palawan.
Interesting Fact – The toxins secreted by the Long-Glanded Coral Snake could be used for improved pain treatment for humans.
Philippine Cobra – The Deadliest snake in the Philippines?
The Philippine Cobra (Naja philippinensis) also called the Northern Philippine Cobra has been saved till last as this is the world’s most deadly cobra and the third most dangerous snake on the planet.
Its ability to spit venom up to 3 metres with precision accuracy makes this the most feared snake in the Philippines. This deadly, spitting cobra is native to Luzon, Catanduanes, Masbate and Mindoro but sightings have also been reported on some of the neighbouring islands. This cobra is known to live close to lakes, rivers and other freshwater areas.
Its diet is made up of; frogs, lizards, smaller snakes, mice and rats and its predators consist of adult King Cobras, the Mongoose, birds and humans.
Average adults grow to over 3 feet in length but some can grow to as long as 6ft 6 inches and their colouring is light-to-medium brown.
A bite from these snakes results in minimal tissue damage but extreme neurotoxicity which spreads quickly, leading to necrosis and respiratory paralysis. Research shows that deaths from this species could be as a high as 107.1 per 100,000 people, per year in a certain area.
FAQs about Snakes in Philippines
Are there venomous snakes in the Philippines?
The Philippines is home to a variety of different snake species and some of them are indeed venomous, including a range of cobras, vipers, coral snakes and sea snakes which can potentially kill a human if they feel threatened.
However, the vast majority of snakes on the Philippine islands are harmless and almost all snakes will actively avoid interaction with humans.
What is the biggest snake in the Philippines?
The biggest snake in the Philippines is the Reticulated Python, the only python to be found in the country’s rain forests. It is the longest species of snake on Earth and can reach 25 feet in length, weighing in excess of 300 pounds.
How many snakes are there in the Philippines?
There are said to be around 175 species of snake in the Philippines, although new discoveries are still being made to this day on some of the smaller, less-explored archipelagos.