“Our good webmaster has a new reptilian visitor to his home. I too have had some. Though beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I feel that my visitors are more photogenic, and therefore take the liberty of posting their pictures.
“The photos show a Paradise Flying Snake, Chrysopelea paradisi (also known as Paradise Gliding Snake), one of the two species of flying snakes in Singapore. This one dropped in from the big fig tree in my garden.
“The other local species is the extremely rare Chrysopelea pelias, the Twin-Barred Tree Snake, which has a strangely disjointed distribution. It is found in a few isolated highland locations in Perak, Pahang and Selangor, and in Mandai, Singapore. The only one I have ever seen in the wild was on the outskirts of our Zoo.
“In the world, there are five species of Flying Snakes. Chrysopelea ornata is a native of Continental Asia. Its range extends into Peninsular Malaya, but not as far south as Singapore.
“The remaining two island species are poorly studied and confined to Sri Lanka and the Moluccas.
“The flying snakes don’t just drop from trees. They actually control their glides. How they do so is explained in the video HERE.
“Professor Jake Socha, who conducted the research on their flight, did some of his work in Singapore.
“In the past, Chrysopelea paradisi used to be fairly common. The Chinese name of ‘coconut snake’ is descriptive of the fact that it was often encountered by workers in the coconut estates. I have personally seen this species ascend the vertical trunks of palm trees. Today, though it is far less common, I would still not consider it rare.
“Like Bronze Backs, Whip Snakes and all the other local tree snake species, Chrysopelea are shy and nervous. They are extremely fast, and do their best to get out of your way as quickly as possible.
“When cornered, they bite very freely. Though they are said to be slightly venomous, I have never suffered any ill effects. One thing to watch out for – while almost all other snakes strike either downwards or on a horizontal plane, Chrysopelea is the only genus in my experience that can launch an attack upwards.
“Some time in the 1960s, I was standing about two meters from one which was cornered on the ground, when suddenly, I felt a slash on my upraised arm. The snake made off in the confusion.
“Now, many years later, after viewing the video, and seeing how the snake swings itself upwards to take off, I can imagine how that happened.
“Should you encounter a Chrysopelea, please appreciate this shy and beautiful snake from a distance, then let it go its way. This species is harmless to human beings, and is too skittish to be ever tamed as a pet.”
Lee Chiu San
25th November 2016