Paradise Flying Snake (Chrysopelea paradisi)

on 30th November 2016

“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.

ParadiseGlidingSnake [LeeChiuSan]

“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.

ParadiseGlidingSnake [LeeChiuSan]

“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.

ParadiseGlidingSnake [LeeChiuSan]

“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

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

2 Responses

  1. The “Auto-Correct’ function took on a mind of its own in the above article. This snake’s proper name should be spelt as ‘paradisi’ and not ‘paradise’.

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