Because the Philippines is composed of numerous islands, each with slightly different habitats, animals and evolutionary pressures, the country features incredibly rich wildlife diversity. With species inhabiting the oceans, land and trees of the islands, the Philippines is home to more than 175 snake species. Additionally, several superlative taxa inhabit the country, including the world’s longest snake, longest venomous snake and the genus that produces the longest venom glands known.
Reticulated pythons (Python reticulatus) are the only pythons that inhabit the rainforests of the Philippines. The longest snake species in the world, reticulated pythons may reach more than 25 feet in length and weigh more than 300 pounds. Primarily nocturnal, reticulated pythons kill rats, birds, pigs and goats by constriction. Humans hunt reticulated pythons extensively throughout southeast Asia and use the large snakes for their meat and skins.
The longest venomous snakes in the world -- king cobras (Ophiophagus hannah) -- inhabit the Philippines. Additionally, three “true” cobras live throughout the Philippines, including Northern Philippine cobras (Naja philippinensis), Southern Philippine cobras (N. samarensis) and equatorial spitting cobras (N. sumatrana). While king cobras primarily prey on snakes, the other cobras are generalists that include frogs, rodents and lizards in their diet as well.
Three coral snake species live in the Philippines, including the long-glanded coral snakes (Maticora interstinalis). With venom glands that are as long as one-third of the snake’s body, only a few closely related species have longer venom glands than long-glanded coral snakes do.
Additionally, 20 different sea snake and sea krait species swim in the waters surrounding the Philippines. Most are completely aquatic and give birth in the water, but the amphibious sea kraits (Laticauda sp.) venture onto dry ground to deposit eggs. Most sea snakes and kraits are extremely venomous, but very shy and unlikely to bite unless restrained or provoked.
About 14 blind snakes from the family Typhlopidae are native to the Philippines. However, because of the secretive nature of these snakes, scientists frequently document the presence of new species. Blind snakes are very small, harmless, burrowing creatures that subsist on termites, ants and their larvae. Blind snakes are named for their reduced, vestigial eyes.
Several venomous pit vipers live in the Philippines. Authorities debate the classification of the many forms native to the region, but all share a number of similarities. All are medium-sized arboreal snakes with large, folding fangs in the front of their mouth. Like most pit vipers, which use their thermoreceptive pits to locate warm-blooded prey, the pit vipers living in the Philippines are generally nocturnal. People often encourage the beautiful Wagler’s pit viper (Tropidolaemus wagleri) to live in temples and courtyards and consider its presence as a sign of good fortune.
Over 100 colubrid species inhabit the Philippines. Red-tailed green rat snakes (Elaphe oxycephala) are semi-arboreal, constricting snakes that hunt rodents and birds. The banded wolf snake (Lycodon suncinctus) is a common, wide-ranging species that spends most of its time on the forest floor, feeding on small lizards. The Philippines are home to 10 species of reed snakes (Calamaria sp.), which spend their time underground, consuming worms and soft-bodied invertebrates. Several bronzeback (Dendrelaphis sp.) species live in the Philippines, including the largest representative of the genus, the striped bronzeback (Dendrelaphis caudolineatus), which reaches 5 feet in length. These diurnally active snakes hunt for lizards, frogs and birds in the trees.