Although Hong Kong is best known for being one of the world’s metropolises, with more skyscrapers than anywhere else, about three quarters of the city is in fact natural. Hong Kong is home to 24 natural parks and a variety of wildlife; wildlife that includes snakes.
Of Hong Kong’s 52 different snake species, 46 are land snakes and six are sea snakes. According to the local government, 14 species of land snakes are venomous, eight of which can inflict fatal bites if not treated in time.
On average, there are more than 100 snake bites every year in Hong Kong, the majority are caused by bamboo snakes, but, according to the city’s Hospital Authority, the last recorded death from a snake bite was over 20 years ago. The public is encouraged to be vigilant, especially if hiking or walking near vegetation. Any case of snakebite should report to a hospital as soon as possible for professional medical treatment.
Bright green with a triangular shaped head, the bamboo viper is Hong Kong’s most common venomous snake and is found throughout the territory at all altitudes. Mostly nocturnal, it can give a nasty bite, which causes a large amount of swelling. However, death is rare among healthy people who get treatment.
Identified by a red patch on the neck, the red-necked keelback is one of the city’s most common venomous snakes and the one you are most likely to see if you go hiking in the Hong Kong hills. Mostly active during the day, this snake only has venom in its back teeth.
With its distinctive black and white bands (often 30 or more), the many-banded krait is Hong Kong’s most deadly snake, and it has been known to cause fatalities. Averaging 1 to 1.5 meters (3 to 5 feet) in length, its neurotoxic venom attacks the nervous system and can lead to respiratory paralysis and heart failure. It also has the ability to flex its neck in different directions to twist and bite. At first their bite may not cause serious swelling or pain, symptoms usually only occur one to six hours afterward.
Now rare in Hong Kong due to loss of habitat, the banded krait can be identified by its large alternating black and yellow bands. It’s bite can also be fatal and cause death within 15 hours.
Another common species of snake found in Hong Kong, the Chinese cobra is usually black, grey or light brown with a distinctive white monocle pattern on its neck. Once again, it’s extremely venomous and has caused fatalities in Hong Kong.
As the world’s largest venomous snake, the king cobra can grow up to 6 meters (almost 20 ft), and its lethal bite can lead to death within thirty minutes. Although not common in Hong Kong, sightings are occasionally reported. Perhaps most menacingly of all, the king cobra can literally stand up to look a full grown person in the eye.
With its distinctive reddish-brown colour, the coral snake is another of Hong Kong’s extremely venomous species. Mostly nocturnal, it tends to hide in the soil and leaf litter of the forest floor during the day. Watch your step.
Grey in colour with brown blotches on its body, the mountain pit viper is very rarely encountered in Hong Kong. Mostly nocturnal, it tends to inhabit the higher elevations of the mountains and is rarely seen. It is venomous and may strike if provoked, but it has never been known to cause a human fatality in Hong Kong.