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12 Mind-Blowing Facts About Pink-Headed Reed Snakes (Calamaria schlegeli)

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The pink headed reed snake, with the scientific name Calamaria schlegeli, is a small, non-venomous species found in parts of Asia. As the name suggests, these snakes have a distinctive pinkish-red head that contrasts with the black and white bands on their bodies.

While not commonly kept as pets, the pink headed reed snake is a fascinating reptile that has adapted to thrive in its native wetland habitat. Read on to uncover 12 surprising facts about this lesser known snake species.

1. They are found across Southeast Asia

The pink headed reed snake has a wide distribution across Southeast Asia. Their range stretches from parts of southern China (Yunnan province) and northeast India through Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia (Sumatra, Borneo).

2. It lives in freshwater marshes and swamps

True to its name, the pink headed reed snake inhabits densely vegetated wetlands. It thrives in freshwater marshes, swamps, rice paddies, and along the grassy banks of slow moving rivers and streams. This aquatic habitat provides both food sources and safety.

3. Excellent climbers and swimmers

To navigate through heavily vegetated wetlands, pink headed reed snakes are excellent climbers and swimmers. They can climb vertical grasses and reeds and swim with ease across water channels in search of food or mates.

4. Feasts on frogs and fish

The diet of the pink headed reed snake consists mainly of small fish, frog tadpoles and eggs, and aquatic insects. Its rear fangs and mild venom help subdue slippery prey like fish and frogs.

5. Born live bearers

Unlike most snake species that lay eggs, pink headed reed snakes give birth to live young. Females retain eggs inside their body until they hatch and then give birth to anywhere from 3 to 15 tiny snakelets.

6. Highly cryptic markings

Pink headed reed snakes have a black and white banded body pattern that provides camouflage in their reedy marsh homes. By hiding in vegetation, they can safely ambush passing prey while avoiding larger predators.

7. Average 2 feet long

Pink headed reed snakes are small, averaging just 2 feet (60 cm) long as adults. Some individuals may reach 2.5 feet (75 cm). Their thin bodies allow them to easily navigate through grasses and aquatic plants.

8. Mildly venomous but harmless to humans

While pink headed reed snakes produce very mild venom, they are rear-fanged and cannot deliver venom to humans. Their non-aggressive nature and small size also makes them harmless.

9. Nocturnal and secretive

Pink headed reed snakes are primarily nocturnal, active at night when hunting prey. During the day, they remain hidden in marsh vegetation or buried in mud, only sometimes basking in the sun. This secretive nature makes observations rare.

10. Populations are declining

Due to wetland habitat loss across its native range, pink headed reed snake populations are decreasing. In some areas, the conversion of wetlands for agriculture has destroyed critical habitat.

11. Sometimes kept as pets

While still uncommon, pink headed reed snakes are now occasionally captive bred and sold in the exotic pet trade. Their small size makes them suitable for enthusiasts wanting a unique wetland-type terrarium.

12. Classified as Least Concern

The pink headed reed snake is currently classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. But continued habitat loss could threaten localized populations and even the overall species’ survival.

The pink headed reed snake is a fascinating wetland species uniquely adapted to its aquatic environment. Yet destruction of the marshes, swamps, and paddies they call home threatens their future. While captivating to observe in a vivarium, preserving rice fields and other wetlands is key to ensuring the pink headed reed snake continues to thrive for generations.


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