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Types of Snakes in India

India has dense forests and a suitable climate that offers a comfortable habitat to a large species of reptiles, including snakes. There are more than 270 snake species in India, amongst them, 70 species of snakes are highly venomous. Krait, Cobra, Saw-scaled viper and Russell’s viper are the big four most dangerous snake species in the country.

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The snakes are worshipped in the country but these snakes are also the reason for approximately 20,000 lost lives each year. King Cobra being the most poisonous snake in the country is the most deadly and dangerous of all.  The largest species of snake in India is that of the Indian python. The most commonly found snake is the Rat snake also known as dhamana in the local language. It is a non-venomous snake and is also one of the fastest snakes and hence it is very difficult to get hold of it.

Let’s take a look at some of the most famous types of snakes in India-

  1. Indian Cobra (Naja Naja)- It is one of the most venomous snakes in the country and is also known as ‘Nag’. These types of snakes generally are found in fields, open forest edges and in places close to the villages. They feed on lizards, frogs and rodents. Indian Cobra is considered as a ‘Holy Snake’ and is considered as the snake of Lord Shiva associated with the lingam (Lord Shiva’s emblem). During the festival of Naag Panchmi the Indian Cobra is worshipped by the deities all over the country. 
  2. Indian Krait (Bungarus Caeruleus)- This species of snake is highly neurotoxic and if induced in any person’s body through snake bite it can lead to muscle paralysis and can even lead to death. Branded Krait, common krait and Indian krait are three popular species of Krait Snakes. Apart from these there are 9 other species and 5 sub-species of these snakes. These are also known as Bungarus and are one of the most deadly snakes in the world. They are found in the deep jungles of the country.  
  3. Russell’s Viper (Daboia russelii)-  It is the smallest snake amongst the big four snakes of the country and has an average length of around 4 ft. In local language it is also known as Koriwala or Daboia. It is a highly venomous snake and after Krait it is the next most deadly snake in India. Russell’s viper’s snake bite causes thousands of deaths each year. This brownish-gray or dark brown snake feeds on lizards, small birds and rodents.
  4. Saw scaled Viper (Echis carinatus)- This snake type has a rough scaled skin and large eyes, a wide head (even wider than the neck) and hefty body. It lives in places that are sandy, rocky with soft soil or it is also found in scrub lands. It lives by eating frogs, lizards and arthropods like centipedes, scorpions and insects. It is a small viper belonging to one of the 8 species of small viper venomous snakes. It is a dangerous snake and can be fatal to one’s life.
  5. The King Cobra (Ophiophagus Hannah)- It is the largest snake in India with a standard length of 13-15 ft. This large snake can reach up to a maximum of 18 feet (5.5 meters). This huge size also makes it the longest venomous snake in the world. This enormous beast lives in humid jungle, rainforests, cool swamps and around bamboo forests. It is olive-green, black with faint or tan and has light yellow cross bands in the lower body. They are found most commonly in Kerala. The forests of Kerala are also a habitat to other reptiles like king viper, cobra, python, turtles and crocodiles.
  6. Pit Viper (Trimeresurus malabaricus)- This green Pit Viper is also called the tree viper or bamboo snake. It is the most commonly found snakes amongst the other Pit Viper species. They mainly live in vines, bushes and bamboos. These snakes are highly venomous and have an extremely cool heat sensing system.  It has a length of 2.5 feet and feeds on lizards, frogs and insects.  The Malabar pit viper, another pit viper species is mostly found at the Western Ghats of India. Other poisonous snakes from viper species are Hump-nosed pit viper and green tree viper.

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