SPECIES: CHRYSOPELEA ORNATA
IUCN REDLIST: LEAST CONCERN
The golden tree snake is naturally accustomed to arboreal (on the ground) life in rainforests, dry deciduous forests, plantations, agricultural areas and rural gardens. Like its relative the Paradise Tree Snake, this snake is able to glide through the air. The snake can climb to significant heights in trees or even the walls of buildings. They are very often seen moving up coconut palms or vertical rock faces in curves, using their scales to grip the surfaces.
There are three subspecies of the Golden Tree Snake. The Chrysopelea ornata has two major colour forms, which are largely determined by geographic locality. In Sri Lanka and the southern extent of its Indian range, the snake is primarily greenish yellow or pale green. The second colour variety which occurs in Southeast Asia does not have the reddish vertebral spots, and has less prominent black crossbars. This snake’s head is quite flat with a thin neck and atypical blunt nose, large eyes which sometimes are red depending on the angle. They will grow up to 140 cm (almost 5 feet). The snake is rear fanged meaning once the snake has grabbed its prey it will not let go and the prey cannot escape.
This Golden tree snake is diurnal and despite being mildly venomous (not harmful to humans unless allergic) it has been observed killing some of its prey by crushing it and breaking the prey’s neck. The snake is reportedly shy and fast. Usually the snake is impossible to capture when humans come in contact with it in apartments and their homes. The snake is very common and is solitary but can live within close proximity to its own species without attack. As a carnivore the golden tree snake eats small geckos, lizards, large Tokay geckos (often seen feeding on this species), rodents, bird eggs, insects, other snakes occasionally and bats.
Little is known about the breeding habits of the golden tree snake because nobody can seem to get them to mate while captive. The mating season is in June and the snake picks high tree holes and crevices for roosting and egg laying. Being oviparous it lays 6-12 elongated eggs in May-June and they hatch in June. Baby snakes are 11-15cm long.
ECOSYSTEM ROLE & HUMAN BENEFITS
**Further information to be added***
The golden tree snake is a predator so it’s presence helps to regulate lower level species numbers, which will prevent populations growing exponentially.
In Asian countries golden tree snakes are caught and cooked and sold as food, they are also caught and sold in the pet trade. But the main impact on this species is deforestation and developments, where the removal of trees impacts their ability to hunt and catch prey.
The Golden Tree Snake is one of the few “flying snakes”. These snakes cannot actually fly, but glide to some degree by flattening out their body, forming wide cavity with their underbelly, and twisting in the air as they jump from high branches. It is believed that this behaviour is used to move about the forest, catch prey, and as a defence mechanism against predators. They can cover as much as 100m in a single leap if they start from a tall enough tree.
** This data set was written by Luke Anning of Bournemouth University, England and edited by Stephanie Young**
***Identification of these species has been made through, photographic documentation cross referenced with external specialists and identification books. Any errors in our database will be rectified upon notification, if you feel that we have misidentified any species please help us to improve our research through our contact us page. All people involved will be acknowledge in the website and reports***
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