Snakes in Singapore

The Reticulated Python is endemic to Singapore and although it is rare to see them, some huge specimens have been recorded recently!

Hidden in the canopy above a children's playground
Hidden in the canopy above a children’s playground

I have seen a huge python in Ulu Temburong National Park in Brunei Darussalam which was eating its prey as it lay in the jungle foliage, and that was scary enough for me. I don’t remember seeing too many other wild pythons on my travels though, not even in Sumatra or Sulawesi. I can also recall witnessing a few poisonous snakes in YangMingShan National Park in Taiwan, and being threatened with a King Cobra by a local thug in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Fortunately, apart from those incidents, I have been to travel around Asia pretty snake-free!

Yet meeting a huge snake (either a constrictor or a venomous one) in the jungle is considered par for the course. If you swam in marshlands and lowland swamps you would probably encounter a saltwater crocodile; and if you swam in the unguarded seas off the coast of Australia you would possibly get mauled by a shark. The best advice is: if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen!

This is how much of Singapore used to look before Sir Stamford Raffles arrived
This is how much of Singapore used to look before Sir Stamford Raffles arrived

We must remember that Singapore was once covered in primary rainforest, and as recently as the 1860s there were tigers roaming the island. These tigers were man-eaters and their response the influx of Chinese immigrants at the time was to eat them! The British, under Sir Stamford Raffles, perhaps ill-advisedly (and being more than a little racist) sent Indian convicts into the jungles in an attempt to kill the tigers. The last remaining tiger was apparently shot in the 1930s. So, what all this means, is that even though tigers have become long-extinct in Singapore, we must still accept that due to the terrain and climate, there are always going to be other unwanted creatures around that were formerly of the jungle – and that includes snakes!

This huge python was found on a fence near a bus stop
This huge python was found on a fence near a bus stop

But finding huge reticulated pythons in Singapore? That is much different, as you can see them trying to cross the busy roads (unsuccessfully), and hiding in bushes pretty close to schools and residential areas. In fact, very recently, a woman was bitten by a 6ft python in her own home as it was hiding in the toilet basin as she lifted up the toilet lid! Wow, I bet that was a bit of a shock!

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is a natural habitat for the reticulated python
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is a natural habitat for the reticulated python

In all my travels in Singapore, I have not seen any wild snakes. Not even a small one! I see plenty of monkeys and monitor lizards (and some of them are HUGE!), and quite a lot of birdlife, but never any snakes, so clearly sightings are rare. They can be usually found in dense foliage – and there isn’t too much of that in Singapore any more. Maybe they could be sighted at Bukit Timah and Macritchie Nature Reserves, and very possibly somewhere around Kent Ridge Park or the Botanical Gardens, but the best bet to see a reticulated python in Singapore would be in the sewer systems and storm drains – and the locals don’t spend too much time in those areas, so thankfully Human-snake interaction is rare.

I did come across this video, filmed on an iPhone, of a citizen’s arrest of a python that was hiding the storm drain near to Boon Lay Place, a large residential area. It’s a crude video, but you can see the handler get bitten quite badly by the angry snake, although eventually they do manage to bag it up and take it out of harm’s way.

For some information, including some advice on what to do if you encounter a reticulated python when in Singapore, check out this piece from The Straits Times.

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10 thoughts on “Snakes in Singapore

  1. Had a few close encounters with snakes when I was conducting research for my dissertation in the Peruvian Amazon. A rather big anaconda was a little to close for comfort one day. Also on particularly long transect through the the jungle I accidentally stepped on a small snake’s tail. Only noticing when i glanced down and saw it biting my boot!!

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    1. Wow, sounds scary! We don’t have anaconda in Asia thankfully, I heard they are even heavier and more powerful then the reticulated pythons. But despite your scares, I am sure you had a great time in the Amazon!

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  2. I spend a bit of time looking for snakes in the usual places like Sungei Buloh, Dairy Farm and Central Catchement. I find about one snake for every four hours of looking, although I’m told that this average is quite poor…

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  3. Was in the Singapore river at night and saw a HUGE snake. At first thought it was a floating log until I noticed it was moving…disappeared into a storm water drain. Would hate to be any living thing in that drain on that evening.

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