The Common Krait is a fascinating species of snake found in India, known for its striking black and white bands and highly venomous bite. Despite its beauty, the Common Krait can pose a significant threat to humans, making it a feared and respected predator in its native habitat. In this article, we’ll explore the biology, behavior, and dangers of the Common Krait, as well as some tips for staying safe around this fascinating snake.
About the Common Krait
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling features the well-known story of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, where a krait threatens a boy but is defeated by a mongoose. The story takes place in India, where kraits (Bungarus spp.) are common.
Kraits are called different names in different regions due to linguistic differences. Some of the names are:
Karait, Kalach, Kala gandait , Kattige haavu, Domnachiti, Shiyar Chanda, Katla paamu, Kala taro, Manyar, kanadar, Chitti , Kattu viriyan, Yennai viriyan, Yettadi viriyan, Velli Kattan, Ettadi veeran, Karawala, and Katta Kadambale.
The physical characteristics of the common krait, also known as Bungarus caeruleus, are fascinating and unique. This venomous snake, measuring around 3 feet, is one of the deadliest in India. It is known for its distinct coloration, which ranges from black to grey with white stripes that are more visible on the lower part of the body. These stripes help the snake to camouflage itself in its environment.
The krait’s slender and cylindrical body is well-adapted for moving through tight spaces and hunting its prey, making it an efficient predator.
Distribution and habitat
The common krait, one of the deadliest snakes in India, can be found in a variety of habitats. Due to their preference for rodents, they tend to occupy places where rodents are found, such as rat holes, old houses, and semi-aquatic environments.
Kraits are nocturnal creatures and hunt at night, increasing the risk of a potentially deadly bite during this time. Their distribution ranges from Sindh to West Bengal, throughout South India and Sri Lanka, and they have also been recorded in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal.
Diet and hunting behavior
The common krait is a nocturnal predator that feeds primarily on other snakes, lizards, and rodents. Their venom contains powerful neurotoxins that paralyze their prey, allowing the krait to consume it at its leisure.
Kraits are known for their stealthy hunting behavior, patiently waiting for their prey to come within striking distance before delivering a quick and deadly bite. They are capable of consuming prey that is significantly larger than themselves due to their ability to dislocate their jaws.
These fascinating creatures play an important role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem and are essential to controlling rodent populations.
Common Krait bite
Krait envenomation is quite common in India, Taiwan, Vietnam, and other Asian countries. In a study by Ha (2009)1, 60 krait envenomations were studied. The results showed that the mortality rate was 7% out of all those bitten, with a mean age of the victims being 33 and 71% of the victims being males. The average duration of time that passed between the bite and the first sign of symptoms ranged from 30 minutes to 24 hours.
Deaths from the krait are usually from respiratory failure. In Sri Lanka, deaths from krait bites are common.
The most common symptoms were drooping of the eyelids and dilation of the pupils. More severe symptoms included: limb paralysis and paralysis of respiratory muscles (ibid). Of the 60 people, 52 needed mechanical ventilation for eight days as a consequence of the krait’s venom.
Venom and toxicity
The venom of the common krait is a potent neurotoxin that can cause respiratory failure and death. The venom is composed of several different toxins, including α-bungarotoxin, which blocks the action of acetylcholine at the neuromuscular junction, and presynaptic β-bungarotoxins, which inhibit the release of acetylcholine.
The venom can cause muscle paralysis and respiratory failure, which can be fatal if left untreated. Kraits are responsible for many snakebite fatalities in India, and prompt medical treatment is essential for survival. Despite their deadly venom, kraits are not naturally aggressive towards humans and will only bite if threatened or provoked.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
The Common Krait is a fascinating species when it comes to reproduction and life cycle. Male Kraits reach sexual maturity at around 18 months, while females mature between 18-24 months. Breeding season begins with summer and it is an oviparous snake, meaning females lay eggs. Females can lay up to 12-14 eggs at a time and guard their clutches until the young hatch. The hatching process can take up to two months, and after they emerge from the eggs, the young kraits are fully independent and ready to fend for themselves.
Conservation status and threats
While many snake species are facing threats from habitat destruction and human activities, the common krait, Bungarus caeruleus, appears to be relatively secure at present. There are no known major threats to their population, and as a result, they are currently classified as a species of “least concern” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List. However, it is still important to take measures to protect these snakes and their habitats to ensure their continued survival.
Are common kraits aggressive?
Common kraits are known to be relatively docile and non-aggressive towards humans, making them less likely to attack unless they feel threatened or cornered. This is not to say that kraits should be underestimated or approached carelessly, as they are still highly venomous and potentially deadly. It is always best to exercise caution and avoid contact with wild kraits, and seek medical attention immediately if bitten.
How poisonous is the krait snake?
The Indian Krait is one of the most poisonous snakes in Asia. Its venom is lethal and contains presynaptic neurotoxins with phospholipase A2 activity. It can cause muscle paralysis and respiratory failure. It’s important to seek immediate medical attention if bitten by a krait snake.
How do you treat a krait bite?
Immediate medical attention is crucial in treating a krait bite. The victim should be taken to a hospital as quickly as possible. The bite area should not be tampered with, as this can spread the venom further. In the hospital, antivenom treatment is administered, and supportive care is provided to manage symptoms such as muscle paralysis and breathing difficulties.
What is the biggest krait snake?
The Common Krait (Bungarus caeruleus) is the largest species of krait, reaching an average length of up to 1.5 to 1.8 meters (5 to 6 feet). However, the length can vary depending on the individual and location.
In conclusion, the Indian Krait is a highly venomous and fascinating snake that can be found throughout India and neighboring countries. With its distinctive appearance and nocturnal hunting behavior, the Krait is both a unique and dangerous species. While their venom may be deadly, it’s important to remember that these snakes generally only attack humans if they feel threatened or cornered. If you’re interested in learning more about venomous snakes, be sure to check out the VenomousSnakes blog for additional information and resources. Stay safe and always approach these animals with caution!
1 Ha, T.H., Hojer, J., Nguyen. T.D. Clinical Features of 60 Consecutive ICU-treated Patients Envenomed By Bungarus Multicinctus. Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health 40(3) pp. 518-524 (2009).