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  • Writer's pictureEu Jin Koh

Arboreal Snakes


The work of Arborists often comes with unexpected risks: trips, traffic, unattentive pedestrians and wildlife. While the former 3 can be managed through proper risk management and safe work procedures, the unpredictability of the wildlife living on or within the tree(s) we work on are hazards that need to be managed. One of the common sighted animals on trees are snakes, which can pose a significant psychological and physical risk if you are unable to tell if it’s a threat or not. Not all snakes are poisonous and most prefer to slither away when disturbed.


Here are the top 4 snakes most commonly spotted on our trees:


1. Red Tailed Racer (non venomous)


The Red Tailed Racer is one of the less commonly spotted snakes in Singapore, likely due to the deep gradient of green that runs across its body that hides it within the trees. Only its red tail may betray its location, with the moderately sized snake slithering casually in the trees. Non-venomous and generally non aggressive, it may, however, inflate its neck when threatened, so stay clear of it when this behaviour is observed to avoid being bitten. Its habitat is mostly confined to our nature reserves, particularly those of the Central Catchment and Bukit Timah Nature Reserves. It preys on other arboreal creatures such as bats, birds and bird eggs.



2. Mangrove Tree Snake


Easily identifiable with its yellow bands, this moderately sized black snake is occasionally spotted, as its name suggests, around the mangrove forests and other forests near water bodies. Despite its markings, it is not very venomous and generally poses little risk to humans if it bites, though swelling and redness may occur. It usually hunts for rodents, birds and bats at night, and remains relatively still during the day. Do pay extra attention to what you’re grabbing on while doing work on trees near water bodies!



3. Paradise Tree Snake


This is probably the most commonly encountered snake over the course of our work with trees. Shining an iridescent yellow-green with flashes of red as it moves, this snake stands out amongst the foliage with its unique pattern of colours. It is also known as the Paradise Gliding Snake for its ability to glide from tree to tree, though the writer has yet to personally witness such an amazing feat. Active during the day, it hunts primarily for lizards, “chewing” its venom with its rear-set fangs into its prey. This venom is relatively harmless to humans and this snake tends to avoid human contact, slithering away if you get too close.



4. Oriental Whip Snake


Very hard to spot as it blends into the green canopy of the trees, this long, green snake is easily mistaken as a green vine due to its shape and colour. Camouflaging against the leaves, it is mostly recognized when its slit-shaped pupils are spotted, which are dark black in colour and set upon yellowish eyes. A relatively shy creature, it prefers to move away when disturbed or while in close proximity to humans. Active both during the day and night, it hunts small animals with its rear set fangs and similar to the Paradise Tree Snake, its venom does relatively harmless to humans



Sources

Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, Singapore, accessed at:


National Parks Board, Singapore, accessed at:



Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservatory Biological Institute, USA, accessed at:


Wild Singapore, Singapore, accessed at:


Wiki NUS, SIngapore, accessed at:




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