Species of Thailand
Long-tailed rat snake
Thai: งูกาบหมากถ้ำ, ngu gaap maag tham
Binomial name: Elaphe taeniura, Edward Drinker Cope, 1861
The beauty rat snake (Elaphe taeniura), also called the beauty ratsnake, the beauty snake, or the cave racer, is a species of snake in the family Colubridae. The species is native to the eastern and southeastern regions of Asia. It is a long, thin, semi-arboreal species of snake with several recognized subspecies. This constrictor feeds on rodents, and though it is favored in some locations as a natural pest control or pet, it is also considered an invasive species in other locations.
Living about 15–25 years, the average length of the beauty rat snake (including the tail) is about 1.2 - 1.8 m, with an unofficial record of a little less than 2.8 meters property of Simona and Janey, 2 girls from Den Haag (Netherland). The snake is called Obi One Kenobi.
Generally speaking, the ground color is yellowish-brown to olive which becomes darker at the end of the tail. The skin on the back of the neck and head are uniform in color and the back is marked typically with two pairs of round black spots that meld together. Starting at the back corner of eacheye, a black stripe reaches back to each corner of the mouth which is pale cream around the upper labial area.
Subspecies of this species include:
- Chinese beauty snake (Elaphe taeniura taeniura) - Native to China. This subspecies has 11 different morphs.
- Ridley's beauty snake, cave dwelling ratsnake, cave racer (Elaphe taeniura ridleyi) - Native to Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia. Bred in captivity in Cameron Highlands. Is listed as Vulnerable on the China Species Red List. (As the name implies, often lives deep within caves where its diet consists mainly of bats. They have a yellow to beige background color that darkens to a grey-black towards the tail. A white to cream mid-dorsal stripe starts about half of the way down the body and continues to the tip of tail. Both sides of the head are marked just behind the eye with a black stripe surrounded by blue.)
- Mocquard's beauty rat snake (Elaphe taeniura mocquardi) - Native to southeastern China and northern Vietnam, as well as the island of Hainan.
- Taiwan/Taiwanese beauty snake, stripe tail ratsnake (Elaphe taeniura friesei, previously Elaphe taeniura friesi) - Native to Taiwan.
- Vietnamese blue beauty/blue beauty snake (Elaphe taeniura callicyanous) - Native to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.
- Helfenberger’s beauty snake (Elaphe taeniura helfenbergeri) - Native to Myanmar and Thailand.
- Elaphe taeniura grabowskyi - Native to Sumatra and the provinces of East Malaysia and Kalimantan on the island of Borneo.
- Elaphe taeniura schmackeri - Native to the Ryukyu Islands of Japan.
- Elaphe taeniura yunnanensis - Native to China, India, Laos, Myanmar, eastern Thailand and Vietnam.
- Elaphe taeniura ssp. - Native to Burma, Thailand and Vietnam.
Geographic range and habitat
The range of the species covers much of southern and southeastern Asia, excluding western and northeastern China. Within these countries, these snakes can be typically found in the rain forests as well as within caves. Currently, there is no specific information on the beauty rat snake's preferred caves, rain forests and climate available.
Due to their preference for caves, these snakes have become able climbers and are known to move along cave walls. This ability becomes a strong asset for them when it comes to hunting. In addition, likely due to its cave-dwelling habits, beauty rat snakes are cathemeral, meaning that they are active at random times during the 24-hour day regardless of whether it is day or night outside.
Relatively small, the beauty rat snake typically feeds on ground rodents such as mice and, due to the snake's climbing abilities, even bats that are roosting within the caves they share. In addition to small mammals, beauty rat snakes have also been known to eat birds and bird eggs occasionally. Further information on hunting habits of the beauty rat snake is not currently available.
The beauty rat snake species is oviparous and mating usually results about a month after hibernation period which is during times where the temperature is around 18 - 20 C F. After laying 4-12 eggs, the female will incubate and defend them for about 70 days, only taking occasional breaks to hunt. Recently hatched young range about 11+3/4 - 17+3/4 disp=flip cm in length. About 2 weeks later they will begin to shed their first skin. Within the next 14 months, hatchlings grow to be about 135 cm ftin long and are able to breed another 4 months later.
Threats and Predators
Though beauty rat snakes are typically in less accessible caves, the top predators of these serpents are birds and mammals. Currently, there is no specific information of the predators of beauty rat snakes available.
Due to their diets, the beauty rat snakes (as well as other rodent-eating serpents) provide a form of natural pest control that can be a benefit to people and other species that are affected by rodents.
Interaction with humans
The beauty rat snake is largely traded in the Chinese snake skin and live snake trade. Overall, the Chinese beauty snake, Taiwan beauty snake and Vietnamese blue beauty snake are the most popular of the subspecies to be kept as pets. Pop culture has also been influenced by the beauty rat snake by having Mozler, the main monster from the 1988 Hong Kong film Thunder of Gigantic Serpent, be of the same species. Though Mozler displays a calm temperament, this is seen mainly in captive bred snakes. Wild caught snakes can have difficult dispositions despite being kept as pets for several years.
As an invasive species
Though the overall species is native to Asia, certain subspecies have become invasive in regions of Asia to which they are not local. The cause of their invasion varies but one of the leading causes is individuals that have been transported by the pet trade and escaping or being released by owners. Another reason has been military movement of resources which has created routes along which serpents can move.
On the island of Okinawa one subspecies of beauty rat snake, suspected to be the Taiwanese beauty snake, has been established as an invasive species since the late 1970s. The Taiwanese beauty snake was originally brought onto the islands to be displayed at zoos as well as for medicinal purposes but now has spread through forests and urban locations. According to the article Invasive Species of Japan, the "spread of Taiwanese Beauty Snake to northern part of Okinawa Island could threaten endemic and endangered birds and mammals, such as Gallirallus okinawae, Erithacus komadori namiyei, Diplothrix legata, Tokudaia muenninki, etc." As of yet, there is no further published information on the exact impact of the Taiwanese beauty snake's invasion into Okinawa.
Policies and laws
Currently, according to the Invasive Alien Species (IAS) Act, it is illegal in Japan to own, transport or bring any Taiwanese beauty snake into the country. The IAS Act also maintains a list differentiating between Invasive Alien Species (IAS) Uncategorized Alien Species (UAS) and Living Organisms Required to have a Certificate Attached (LORCA) while they are brought into the country. The Taiwanese beauty snake is the only subspecies of beauty rat snake labeled as an IAS. The subspecies Orthiophis taeniurus schmackeri is the only one listed as an exemption of the UAS category but all subspecies (exempting the prohibited Taiwanese beauty snake) classify as LORCAs.
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- Elaphe taeniura
- Cave racer
- Beauty snake
- งูกาบหมากถ้ำ, ngu gaap maag tham
- งูกาบหมากดำ, ngu gaap maag damm (Ridley’s racer)
- งูกาบหมากยูนนาน, ngu gaap maag Yunaan (Yunnan racer)
Elaphe taeniura callicyanous, Klaus-Dieter Schulz, 2010
Common name: Blue beauty rat snake, Vietnamese blue beauty
Range: Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand
Elaphe taeniura friesi, Werner, 1927
Common name: Taiwan beauty snake, Taiwan beauty rat snake
Elaphe taeniura grabowskyi, Johann Gustav Fischer, 1885
Common name: Grabowsky's beauty snake
Range: Indonesia & Malaysia
Elaphe taeniura helfenbergeri, Klaus-Dieter Schulz, 2010
Common name: Helfenberger's beauty snake
Range: Myanmar, Thailand
Elaphe taeniura mocquardi, Klaus-Dieter Schulz, 1996
Common name: Mocquard's beauty rat snake
Range: China, Vietnam, Thailand
Elaphe taeniura ridleyi, A. Butler, 1899
Common name: Cave-dwelling rat snake, Ridley’s racer
Range: Malaysia, Singapore (?), South Thailand (Up to Kaeng Krachan National Park)
Elaphe taeniura schmackeri, Oskar Boettger, 1895
Common name: Sakishima beauty snake
Range: Japan (Ryukyu Islands).
Elaphe taeniura taeniurus, Edward Drinker Cope, 1861
Common name: Chinese beauty snake
Elaphe taeniura yunnanensis, John Anderson, 1879
Common name: Yunnan beauty rat snake
Range: China, India, Laos, Myanmar, Eastern/Northern Thailand and Vietnam
- Orthriophis taeniurus ridleyi, Sacha (2015)
- Orthriophis taeniurus, Van Stanley Bartholomew Wallach et al. (2014)
- Orthriophis taeniurus callicyanous, Laita (2013)
- Orthriophis taeniurus grabowskyi, Roberts & Klaus-Dieter Schulz (2012)
- Orthriophis taeniurus schmackeri, Klaus-Dieter Schulz (2010)
- Orthriophis taeniurus ridleyi, Klaus-Dieter Schulz (2010)
- Orthriophis taeniurus mocquardi, Klaus-Dieter Schulz (2010)
- Orthriophis taeniurus helfenbergeri, Klaus-Dieter Schulz (2010)
- Orthriophis taeniurus grabowskyi, Klaus-Dieter Schulz (2010)
- Orthriophis taeniurus friesi, Klaus-Dieter Schulz (2010)
- Orthriophis taeniurus taeniurus, Klaus-Dieter Schulz (2010)
- Orthriophis taeniurus callicyanous, Klaus-Dieter Schulz (2010)
- Orthriophis taeniurus yunnanensis, Klaus-Dieter Schulz (2010)
- Orthriophis taeniurus, G. O. U. Wogan et al. (2008)
- Elaphe taeniura, Larry Lee Grismer et al. (2007)
- Elaphe taeniura mocquardi, Switak (2006)
- Orthriophis taeniurus ridleyi, Wolfgang Grossmann & Frank Tillack (2005)
- Orthriophis taeniurus ridleyi, Wolfgang Grossmann & Frank Tillack (2004)
- Elaphe taeniura schmackeri, Richard C Goris & Norio Maeda (2004)
- Orthriophis taeniurus yunnanensis, Romulus Whitaker & Ashok Captain (2004)
- Orthriophis taeniurus friesi, Andreas Gumprecht (2003)
- Orthriophis taeniurus yunnanensis, Andreas Gumprecht (2003)
- Orthriophis taeniurus, Urs Utiger et al. (2002)
- Elaphe taeniura grabowskyi, Rudolf Malkmus et al. (2002)
- Elaphe taeniura, Thomas Ziegler (2002)
- Elaphe taeniura ridleyi, Wirot Nutphand (2001)
- Elaphe taeniura friesi, Franz Tiedemann & Heinz Grillitsch (1999)
- Elaphe taeniura ridleyi, Tanya Chan-Ard et al. (1999)
- Elaphe taeniura yunnanensis, Merel J. Cox et al. (1998)
- Elaphe taeniura ridleyi, Merel J. Cox et al. (1998)
- Elaphe taeniura, Ulrich Manthey & Wolfgang Grossmann (1997)
- Elaphe taeniura, Klaus-Dieter Schulz (1996)
- Elaphe taeniura mocquardi, Klaus-Dieter Schulz (1996)
- Orthriophis taeniurus mocquardi, Klaus-Dieter Schulz (1996)
- Elaphe taeniura ssp., Klaus-Dieter Schulz (1996)
- Elaphe taeniura yunnanensis, Klaus-Dieter Schulz (1996)
- Elaphe taeniura mocquardi x, Elaphe taeniura yunnanensis SCHULZ (1996)
- Elaphe taeniura taeniura, Merel J. Cox (1991)
- Elaphe taeniura grabowskyi, Ulrich Manthey (1983)
- Elaphe taenura, Ulrich Manthey & Wolfgang Denzer (1982)
- Elaphe taenura sic grabowskii, Ulrich Manthey & Wolfgang Denzer (1982)
- Elaphe taeniura grabowskyi, Edward Harrison Taylor (1965)
- Elaphe taeniura taeniura, Edward Harrison Taylor (1965)
- Elaphe taeniura, Malcolm Arthur Smith (1943)
- Coluber taeniurus pallidus, Carl Hialmar Rendahl (1937)
- Elaphe taeniura yunnanensis, R. Mell (1931)
- Elaphe taeniura grabowskyi, Malcolm Arthur Smith (1930)
- Elaphe taeniura vaillanti, (François Mocquard) R. Mell (1929)
- Orthriophis taeniurus friesi, Franz Werner (1927)
- Coluber friesi, Franz Steindachner cited in Werner (1927)
- Coluber taeniurus var. friesi, Franz Werner (1927)
- Elaphe taeniura, Thomas Barbour (1912)
- Elaphe taeniurus, Leonhard Hess Stejneger (1907)
- Elaphe schmackeri, Leonhard Hess Stejneger (1907)
- Coluber vaillanti, François Mocquard (1905)
- Orthriophis taeniurus ridleyi, A. Butler (1899)
- Coluber schmackeri, George Albert Boulenger (1896)
- Coluber schmackeri, Oskar Boettger (1895)
- Orthriophis taeniurus schmackeri, Oskar Boettger (1895)
- Coluber tæniurus, George Albert Boulenger (1890)
- Coluber taeniurus, George Albert Boulenger (1890)
- Elaphis taeniurus, George Albert Boulenger (1887)
- Elaphis grabowskyi, Johann Gustav Fischer (1885)
- Orthriophis taeniurus grabowskyi, Johann Gustav Fischer (1885)
- Elaphis yunnanensis, John Anderson (1879)
- Orthriophis taeniurus yunnanensis, John Anderson (1879)
- Coluber Nuthalli, William Theobald (1868)
- Elaphe tæniurus, Edward Drinker Cope (1861)
- Elaphe taeniurus, Edward Drinker Cope (1861)
- Ao Luek District, Krabi
- Ban Hong District, Lamphun
- Ban Rai District, Uthai Thani
- Bannang Sata District, Yala
- Chai Prakan District, Chiang Mai
- Chaloem Rattanakosin National Park
- Chiang Dao District, Chiang Mai
- Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary
- Chiang Kham District, Phayao
- Doi Chong National Park
- Doi Pha Hom Pok National Park
- Doi Phu Kha National Park
- Hua Hin District, Prachuap Khiri Khan
- Kaeng Krachan National Park
- Khanom District, Nakhon Si Thammarat
- Khao Banthat Wildlife Sanctuary
- Khao Luang National Park
- Khao Nan National Park
- Khao Phanom Bencha National Park
- Khao Soi Dao Wildlife Sanctuary
- Khao Sok National Park
- Khao Yoi District, Phetchaburi
- Khlong Saeng Wildlife Sanctuary
- Khlong Wang Chao National Park
- Khon San District, Chaiyaphum
- Kra Buri District, Ranong
- Lam Khlong Ngu National Park
- Lan Saka District, Nakhon Si Thammarat
- Mae Ramat District, Tak
- Mae Sot District, Tak
- Mae Wong National Park
- Mueang Chonburi District, Chonburi
- Mueang Chumphon District, Chumphon
- Mueang Phatthalung District, Phatthalung
- Mueang Ranong District, Ranong
- Mueang Yala District, Yala
- Noen Maprang District, Phitsanulok
- Pa Sang District, Lamphun
- Pai District, Mae Hong Son
- Pak Chong District, Nakhon Ratchasima
- Pang Mapha District, Mae Hong Son
- Phanom District, Surat Thani
- Phu Luang Wildlife Sanctuary
- Phu Pha Man National Park
- Pua District, Nan
- Sai Yok District, Kanchanaburi
- Sai Yok National Park
- Salak Pra Wildlife Sanctuary
- Si Satchanalai National Park
- Tai Rom Yen National Park
- Tha Sae District, Chumphon
- Tha Song Yang District, Tak
- Tha Yang District, Phetchaburi
- Thale Ban National Park
- Tham Pha Thai National Park
- Than Bok Khorani National Park
- Than To District, Yala
- Thong Pha Phum District, Kanchanaburi
- Thung Salaeng Luang National Park
- Thung Tako District, Chumphon
- Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary
- Ton Nga-Chang Wildlife Sanctuary
- Umphang District, Tak
- Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary
- Waeng District, Narathiwat
- Wang Saphung District, Loei
Range map of Elaphe taeniura in Thailand
Important note; our range maps are based on limited data we have collected. The data is not necessarily accurate or complete.
Special thanks to Ton Smits, Parinya Pawangkhanant, Ian Dugdale and many others for their contribution for range data.
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