Ahaetulla prasina (Reinwardt, 1827)

Jade Vine Snake (mildly venomous)

Jade Vine Snake

Description: A thin snake, averaging 90-120 cm in total length, but can reach 180 cm. Bright grass green above, without markings. Scales smooth. Head rather leaf-shaped, tapering gradually to a long pointed snout, enabling the snake to use binocular vision. Eye pupil horizontal. Ventrals light green and notched. A pale yellow stripe on either side of belly. Tail prehensile and very long, accounting for about one-third of total length.

Habits and habitat: A snake of tropical forest. Mostly arboreal, perching on bushes or trees. An excellent climber; using its prehensile tail to obtain a firm grip. Sometimes sways from side to side, resembling the movement of twigs in the wind. Due to its thin vine-like body and green coloration, is almost invisible among thick vegetation. When alarmed, inflates the forepart of the body, making the pale bluish and black skin stand out vividly. Will then strike, but sometimes with its mouth closed. Can move swiftly among branches to make an escape. Is diurnal. Hunts by sight. Because of its binocular vision, can accurately judge the distance of the prey and make an effective strike. Although mildly venomous, is inoffensive and not dangerous to humans.

Diet: Feeds on lizards and birds.

Reproduction:Viviparous. Is reported to give birth to 7-10 young at a time. New-born snakes average 24 cm in total length.

Distribution: Its status in Hong Kong is uncertain. Two old preserved specimens were obtained from Shek Kwu Chau Medical Centre in 1988, unfortunately without data. No further specimen has been found on that island or anywhere else in Hong Kong despite intensive searching in recent years. Moreover, the scale count of the Shek Kwu Chau specimens does not fit that of Chinese populations of this species, but is within the range of Southeast Asian populations. Further records are required to clarify its status in Hong Kong. Is distributed from central and southern China, South and southeastern Asia to Indonesia.

Diagnostic features: Dorsal and ventral surface green; head leaf-like, spatulate; pointed snout; horizontal pupils; tail one-third body length, prehensile.