Meet 7 Snakes of the Mekong River

Written by Alan Lemus
Updated: September 9, 2022
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Have you ever heard of the Mekong River? It is the third longest river in Asia that connects many countries along its path. If you walk along the river, you will get to explore Tibetan Plateau, China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The Mekong River has had many interesting names over the decades by locals but some of the common ones are Mekon River, May-Kiang River, and Cambodia River. 

But Mekong River is not only host to interesting names, but it also is home to various endangered species on the planet. Only between the years 2012 and 2013, there were 367 species discovered in the world’s twelfth longest river. Today, we will be discussing the different types of snakes found in this enchanting river. 

There are more than 3000 species of snakes discovered to date around the globe. In 2020 alone, there were 35 reptiles spotted by scientists with the help of this river. But the interesting thing about these finds is that the Mekong river hosts some of the most unique snake species. They are constricted to a few, and in many cases, only one region. 

#1 Zugs’ Odd-Scaled Snake

This unique snake species was discovered in Vietnam. It differs from other snakes because of its scales as you can surely tell by its name. The kind of overlapping patterns of scales normally found in snakes is not found in this particular species. 

You will see non-overlapping scales, purple-colored skin, and a set of teeth that can gobble up soft-bodied animals. They were also found to have eyes that can easily adapt to the nocturnal environment, giving a slight hint about their hunting behavior. However, not much can be said about this species as they were only recently discovered in the year 2019. Moreover, only one such specimen of this species has been found to date which passes a concerning judgment on its population size. 

#2 Painted Bronzeback

This particular snake species was found in Thailand. It has a staggering length of 5 feet and is identified on the basis of a black stripe that runs along both the eyes onto their body length. Their top is covered with a beautiful bronze color and a yellow underbelly. Another notable feature is the shining blue coloration at the end of the scales. They are not venomous but can bite if provoked. 

Due to the deforestation and destruction of natural habitat in the Mekong River, the species of the Brightly-Colored Bronzeback is endangered. They are often mistaken for the Bronzeback but both of these snakes are non-venomous

#3 Rainbow-Headed Snake

This snake on our list is exactly how it sounds. You will see a rainbow on the snake’s head because the scales there reflect light in the form of a rainbow. It has been found in only two locations as of now. There was talk about its extinction but when the second specimen was discovered, it gave hopes for its survival. 

Apart from the unique color patterns, you will also find a different arrangement of the scales which is why this snake has a different genus altogether. You can also spot a few horns along its body and on its head. A fun fact about this snake is that it has been compared with Ziggy Stardust that is a fictional character created by David Bowie.  

#4 Vine Snakes

This is another interesting species of snake found in the Mekong river. They are endemic to Sri Lanka but later were discovered in some parts of India. These vine snakes have a long and slender body along with a striking green color, resembling that of vines. Having this attribute, they adorn a natural disguise for camouflage

They slither across trees and hide in the green atmosphere as they await their prey. One thing that is different in these snakes is that their eyes have horizontal pupils and not the vertical slits you usually explore amongst the reptiles. In addition, they are venomous beings that do release a poisonous venom but it is unknown if it is fatal to humans

#5 Jagor’s Water Snakes

This snake on our list was also endemic to Thailand. But with its distribution, it was also found in various other regions. This snake has a short but very thick body. It is blackish brown in color which allows it to conceal itself easily. It does not have any striation on its scales making it yet another unique find in the Mekong river. 

Although it is an aggressive snake, its bite is not dangerous to humans. However, if it is provoked, it might attack you in self-defense. It also has a pair of fangs located on the rear that helps it further in its aggressiveness against its prey.  

#6 Kukri Snakes

Another snake species from the Mekong river that is threatened is the Kukri snake. It has a long body and a stature that you often find on the snakes people show in movies. These snakes were discovered in the land of Sri Lanka and various parts of the Indian region. With a brownish green or orange color, this snake is nocturnal and hunts on various insects at night like earthworms and larvae too. Its most distinctive feature is the black bands found on its body. They are spread across their whole length and have different placements and widths on the body.

They have a different set of scales for each region of their body but why are they called kukri snakes, you may ask? That is because of their hind teeth. They are quite large with a broad length and a curved shape. They almost resemble a Gurkha sword which is why the sword and this snake share the same name. 

#7 Zorro-Masked Water Snake

This is a species of masked snakes to be exact that was recently discovered in the Mekong River. They also possess the bands that the Kukri snakes have but the Zorro Masked Water Snake has alternating colored bands. You can identify them based on the cream and brown bands found along the length of their body. They are found excessively in Sri Lanka. 

Another interesting thing about these snakes is that they are found in abundance unlike the other snakes on our list. Moreover, you can tell by looking at this snake that its skin is the snakeskin you often come across in the fashion industry. You know where we are going, right? They may be aggressive hunters but humans largely hunt these snakes for their skin and as a source of protein. 


All in all, these are some of the snakes present in the Mekong River. Although the river touches a lot of countries, most of these snakes are only found in one region and their population remains threatened. Seeing the different and unique attributes these snakes possess, it is a shame that there has been little to no effort shown to conservating their population size. However, they are spectacular species that are to be studied further before scientists can dive in and do more to conserve the different snake species. 

Up Next…

Check out some of our other snake articles below.

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©

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About the Author

Alan is a freelance writer and an avid traveler. He specializes in travel content. When he visits home he enjoys spending time with his family Rottie, Opie.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are there snakes in the Mekong River?

There are many different species of snakes found in and along the Mekong River.

Is the Mekong River freshwater or saltwater?

Winding almost 3,000 miles from the Tibetan plateau down to the South China Sea, the Mekong River boasts the world’s largest inland fishery. It accounts for up to 25 percent of the global freshwater catch and provides livelihoods for tens of millions of people.

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