Meet The 8 Rarest Snakes In The World

rarest snakes in the world
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Written by Colby Maxwell

Updated: October 31, 2023

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Snakes are one of those animals that many people fear while being unaware of just how prevalent in our lives they are. Aside from the arctic regions, snakes can be found in almost every environment and are usually nearby, even when we don’t see them.

Still, there are some snakes that we will never see, even at a zoo or reptile exhibit. These rare snakes live in some of the most isolated places on earth, with only a few remaining members of their species. Today, we will be looking at some of the rarest snakes in the world.

You aren’t likely to find these in your backyard!

The 8 Rarest Snakes In The World

Almost all of the rarest snakes in the world have something in common. Either they are threatened by habitat destruction by way of humans, are incredibly isolated with a dwindling population, or are being attacked by non-native predators that humans likely introduced.

Despite being the primary cause for the downfall of these snakes, humans also have the ability to save them. In many cases, these rare snake populations have made tremendous recoveries in the wake of human intervention and conservation.

Let’s go over our list of the rarest snakes in the entire world.

1. Antiguan Racer

The Antiguan racer was once thought of as the rarest snake species on Earth.

©Wallamalloo69 at English Wikipedia / Public domain, Wikimedia Commons – Original / License

For a long time, the Antiguan racer was considered the rarest snake in the world. Thankfully, it isn’t classified as such today, but it is still critically threatened. The snake became threatened after the introduction of the Asian mongoose, black rats, and brown rats. These predators, plus human cohabitation, led them to the brink of extinction. At one point, they were believed to have been extinct, but a population was discovered on Great Bird Island off the coast of Antigua.

At one point, the population dipped below 150, but today, with massive conservation efforts, they have rebounded slightly and have a somewhat stable population. They are still considered critically endangered.

2. St. Lucian Racer

Most Beautiful Islands in the World - Saint Lucia

Saint Lucia

©Simon Dannhauer/Shutterstock.com

The St. Lucian racer suffered a similar fate to the Antiguan racer, but it hasn’t recovered to its Caribbean cousin’s extent. Currently, the St. Lucian racer is considered the rarest snake globally, with an estimated 18 individuals left in the wild. The snake became threatened when black rats and the Asian mongoose were introduced to the island, killing large numbers of the snake and eating its eggs.

The St. Lucian racer was believed to have become extinct in 1936 but was later rediscovered in 1973 on the island of Maria Major. Today, they are the focus of conservation efforts across the island as people hope to save this native snake.

3. Trang Blind Snake and Roxane’s Blind Snake

There are many species of blind snakes, all of them small and easy to miss. Most blind snakes burrow under the soil and rarely come up. Their underground habits, combined with how small they are, make them some of the hardest snakes to keep tabs on.

The Trang blind snake and Roxane’s blind snake are two species that are incredibly rare to this day. In fact, both species are so rare that they were never seen again after they were discovered. They are likely still around, but with how hard they are to find, it is difficult to know how many there are or where they exist, other than Thailand.

4. Striped Blind Snake

Striped blind snakes are so rare that there isn’t much information available about them. They are small burrowing snakes that live underground, making them very hard to find. They can also be found under logs and in forest vegetation as high as 1400m above sea level. Striped blind snakes are very small, measuring only 48cm in the largest-ever specimen. They are characterized by eyes that are covered by skin to the point of near invisibility, and a series of 10 pairs of alternating dark and light stripes.

The striped blind snake was believed to have been extinct for 172 years, but a dead individual was found in 2019 in Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, located in Singapore. This type of snake has been documented in Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and southern Thailand. They are not dangerous to humans.

5. Orlov’s Viper

orlov's viper

Orlov’s viper lives in a tiny area around the Black Sea in Europe.

©reptiles4all/Shutterstock.com

While we don’t normally think of Russia as a place where snakes live, Orlov’s viper proves us wrong. This venomous viper lives in the Black Sea region of Russia, with a historical range that extends into the Caucasus. With how small their range is and the habit humans have of poaching them, there are estimated to be less than 250 adults in the wild. For reference, the entire territory of Orlov’s viper is only 38 square miles.

6. Aruban Rattlesnake

aruban rattlesnake

There are fewer than 230 Aruban

rattlesnakes

left in the wild.

©Ondrej Prosicky/Shutterstock.com

As the name would have you believe, the Aruban rattlesnake is found on the Caribbean island of Aruba. Aruba is a semi-arid environment with patches of rocky desert found from the coast to the island’s interior. With the livable habitat of the snake being so small (only 9.5 square miles) and human encroachment looming, it’s no surprise there are likely fewer than 230 Aruban rattlesnakes in the wild, with 100 in captivity.

They are primarily threatened by the spreading population of human establishment and the introduction of goats that destroy the vegetation necessary for the prey of the snakes.

7. Albany Adder

The Albany adder is so rare that it has only been identified by 12 individuals since it was first discovered.

©Julius Rückert / Creative Commons – Original / License

The Albany adder was first documented in 1937 and has only been documented 12 times since then. These snakes lived in the eastern and southern Cape Providence of South Africa and were considered extinct for many years.

It was only in 2016 that the remains of a dead Albany adder were discovered in a roadkill site, confirming the species is still existing. However, they are extremely rare and unlikely to be seen again anytime soon.

8. Short-Nosed Sea Snake

The Ashmore reef population of short-nosed sea snakes is near extinction.

©Kate L. Sanders, Tina Schroeder, Michael L. Guinea, and Arne R. Rasmussen / Creative Commons – Original / License

The short-nosed sea snake can be found in the reefs of the Arafura Sea, a region between Australia and Western New Guinea. These snakes are often called the Sahul reed snake and are critically endangered with only two known populations. The coastal population and the Ashmore reef population are occasionally considered distinct subspecies, which, if true, would mean that the Ashmore reef snake is likely facing extinction.

The Ashmore reef population was considered extinct until a sighting in 2021 confirmed there were still short-nosed sea snakes there.

Other Snake Species That Are Endangered

This list of the 8 rarest snakes on Earth might soon become longer if we’re not able to save other snake species that are under threat of extinction.

Around the world, hundreds of snake species are endangered due to habitat loss, poaching, and climate change. Many live in small, restricted habitats, making them even more vulnerable.

A few of these species include:

  • Pfeffer’s reed snakes: These snakes live in wooded areas and grasslands and are currently found in isolated populations in the Ryukyu Islands of Japan.
  • Peters’ bright snakes: These long, thin, brown snakes come out at night and exist only on a single island off the coast of Africa.
  • March’s Palm Pit Viper: The population of venomous, tree-dwelling snakes living in the forests of Central America is in severe decline.

Find out which other snakes are on the endangered list here.

March’s Palm Pit Viper (Bothriechis marchi)

The population of March’s palm pit vipers in Central America is in severe decline.

©Animantium Productions/Shutterstock.com

A Rare Sea Snake Species Was Discovered By A Group Of Grandmothers

olive-headed sea snake

The olive-headed sea snake was discovered by “The Fantastic Grandmothers.”

©Claire Goiran and Richard Shine / CC BY 3.0 – Original / License

A group of friends aged in their 60s and 70s who call themselves “The Fantastic Grandmothers” came across the greater sea snake species, also known as olive-headed sea snakes while snorkeling in New Caledonia. Pale yellow with dark brown bands, this species is the largest sea snake in that area of the South Pacific and can grow up to 5 feet long. While these snakes are venomous, they are not aggressive and there has been no record of anyone being bitten where the population lives in Baie des Citrons, which is popular with locals and tourists.

Greater sea snakes’ tails have markings that are unique, like fingerprints, and the grandmothers have been helping scientists in New Caledonia and Australia by taking photos of each snake they discover. They have been able to collect valuable data, including information on reproduction patterns. Between 2016 and 2018, they logged 277 sightings of at least 140 different greater sea snakes.

How Many Snakes Are There In The World?

It’s not possible to determine the exact number of individual snakes in the world, especially considering their reclusive nature. We can estimate that there are 3,500 species of snakes on Earth. Of these, 600 are venomous species.

The country with the most snake species is Brazil. It has more than 375 species, including well-known constrictors such as the boa constrictor and anaconda.

And there’s good news for anyone who suffers from “ophidiophobia” (an extreme fear of snakes) — there are countries in the world that have zero snakes! Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, New Zealand, and Antarctica are all free of snakes.

Summary Of The 8 Rarest Snakes In The World

Let’s take a look back at the 8 rarest snakes extant on Earth:

RankSnakeLocation
1Antiguan RacerAntigua
2St. Lucian RacerMaria Major, St. Lucian Islands
3Eastern and Southern Cape Providence of South AfricaThailand
4Striped Blind SnakeIndonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Southern Thailand
5Orlov’s Viper Black Sea region of Russia
6Aruban RattlesnakeCaribbean Island of Aruba
7Albany AdderEastern and southern Cape Providence of South Africa
8Short-Nosed Sea Snake Arafura Sea between Australia and Western New Guinea

Honorable Mention: Other Rare Snakes

malagasy leaf-nosed snake

Malagasy Leaf-nosed snake (

Langaha madagascariensis

)

©reptiles4all/Shutterstock.com

The snakes mentioned here are rare due to a variety of factors ranging from habitat degradation, and climate change, to poaching and characteristics. Unfortunately, many of them are on the brink of extinction, and there are some that were already thought to have been extinct only to make a comeback with new sightings. It is extremely important to bring awareness to the plight of these reptiles and the changing environment to potentially prevent any further losses.

There are a few additional snakes that are thought of as rare, perhaps not due to their numbers but more so for their characteristics, and abilities, and deserve an honorable mention.

  • Elephant Trunk Snake (Acrochordus javanicus) – also known as the Javan file snake, this reptile, with its wide, flat head, and body that is comprised of baggy skin earned its name for its resemblance to an elephant’s trunk. This non-venomous, aquatic snake, endemic to Australia and Asia, is thought to be rare due to it being one of the only 100% fully aquatic snakes in existence.
  • Tiger Keelback Snake (Rhabdophis tigrinus) – endemic to East Asia, this snake is one of the very few animals that is both venomous and poisonous. Its toxins come from its main food source, toxic toads, which they store in an area on their necks. Should a predator bite them in this area, toxins will be sprayed into their mouths, but if this doesn’t work, the tiger keelback can then bite, and inject its venom.
  • Malagasy Leaf-Nosed Snake (Langaha madagascariensis) – endemic to Madagascar, this reptile doesn’t typically look like other snakes but rather mimics a branch or a vine, and the females are the ones with the leaf-shaped noses. Males have a pointed nose that appears to look like a sharpened pencil. They aren’t generally aggressive and although they do have a mild venom, it isn’t harmful to humans.

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About the Author

Colby is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering outdoors, unique animal stories, and science news. Colby has been writing about science news and animals for five years and holds a bachelor's degree from SEU. A resident of NYC, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone about what birds he saw at his local birdfeeder.

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