Khappra, Sindh khappra, Waziristan khappra, Astola
and restricted to common|
snake is considered to be the world's most
dangerous snake because of its highly toxic venom,
its abundance near cultivated areas, and its
aggressive, easily excitable temperament|
viper (Echis carinatus)
Photo Credit: H.H. Schleich
and sub species:
Echis is represented in Pakistan by one species and 4-5 subspecies:
Viper (Echis carinatus)
or Eastern Saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus sochureki)
or Transcaspian Saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus
Saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus astolae)
average length of this snake is 0.4 to 0.6 meters. The body is slender
to moderately stout and slightly flattened vertically. The head is
short, distinctly wider than neck and has alight-colored trident,
cruciform or arrow-shaped mark on the head. There is a pale stripe from
each eye to angle of mouth. The throat and chin are white. The topside
of E.carinatus is buff or tan, to olive brown or chestnut with
dark-edged whitish spots along backbone, narrow, undulating white line
along sides (upper portions of loops more conspicuous than lower
portions). The underside is white, grayish-white, yellowish-white, pale
pinkish-brown, stippled with dark gray. The tail is short, tapers
abruptly and is about 10 percent of total body length.
to the Pakistani species and subspecies of genus Echis
Continuous lateral wavy white line;
34-40 midbody scale rows.. ...........................................E.
Lateral wavy white line divided in separate arcs;
25-38 midbody scale rows;
Genials large, regularly arranged;
middorsal scales with humped keels .................................E.
Genials small, irregularly arranged;
mid-dorsal scales with straight keels ...............................E.carinatus
with broad dark blotches................................E.c.astolae
Body brownish with white bordered dark spots .................
stocky, tail very short and abruptly tapering from vent. Head short,
distinctly wider from neck, covered with small strongly keeled imbricate
scales, 8—12 between supraoculars; nostrils small, dosolateral;
supralabials 8—12, separated from ocular by one or two rows of small
scales, 10—13 in- fralabials; anterior genial broad, followed by three
pairs of slightly enlarged scales; 24-37 scales at midbody, strongly
keeled; scales of 3rd to 7th lateral rows strongly oblique, with
cirrated keels; ventrals 132-188, subcaudals 23-39, anal single. Dorsum
light brown to yellowish brown, sometimes olive brown. A median row of
28—37 whitish blotches with dark edges. Sides with undulating white
line, dorsal loops are more prominent, but are diluted ventrally. Head
with light arrow- head mark, posterior three prongs extend a
considerable distance. A pale stripe from eye to angle of mouth. Labials
lighter, with small dots. Ventrum white to light pinkish, with fine dark
gray spottings. Snout-vent length 600-625 mm, tail length 51-56 mm.
viper (Echis carinatus)
Photo Credit: unknown
head scales, except 3-4 larger supraoculars; 29-33 midbody scale rows;
middorsal scales with flat keel; oviparous. Dorsum tan, grayish or
brown, with a median row of 30 whitish, (never yellowish) blotches with
dark brown edges. Wide U-shaped ventrally open lateral marks and
distinct dark spots. Ventrum whitish, with dark gray spottings. Head
with light arrow head mark directed towards snout. A light loreal stripe
extends to the angle of mouth.
mark always cross-shaped; lateral white line continuous undulating;
narrow transverse white bands on middorsum; 34-40 midbody scale counts
(highest of all subspecies); ventrals 169-199 (highest of all
whitish, with a pattern of dark brown blotches, 1-3 lateral rows of dark
brown spots, no lateral light arcs, a three-pronged light mark on head
directed towards snout. A light lateral line from temporals meeting
atfrontal region, giving a branch to snout.
subspecies of genus Echis
a) Echis carinatus
b) Echis carinatus multisquamatus
c) Echis carinatus sochureki
Photo Credit: Dr. Muhammad Sharif Khan
snake is primarily nocturnal in hot weather (may be active at dusk) and
is sometimes diurnal in cool weather. It may be found basking during
early morning in bushes more than 2 meters above ground. It basks in
open during cooler weather, but is found more frequently under rocks or
in mounds of dead plant stalks. This snake can bury itself in sand with
only the head exposed. It is fairly active and can move rapidly in a
side winding motion. In dry weather it hunts prey almost entirely at
night, but may hunt by day in cool weather. Always alert this snake can
become easily excited. It can be really aggressive and is likely to flee
when encountered, but has been reported to chase victims aggressively.
Usually confines itself to the roots of a shrub, waiting for its prey.
As prey, which is often a sand lizard, comes within range, it is
attacked. Ill-tempered, hisses loudly and goes on striking savagely,
often pursues its prey for some distance. It is reported to follow
pedestrians for considerable distances. It can take a jump of 1-2 feet
high and can climb into branches of low bushes to avoid heat at ground,
and to feed on nestlings of desert birds. When on the defensive, it
rolls itself in characteristic loops, reminding of figure '8'. The loops
work against each other, sawing side scales produce characteristic
rustling noise which is enhanced by hissing sound. People believe a
snake in this position is dissolving its venom and is said to be very
poisonous. This snake is considered to be the world's most dangerous
snake because of its highly toxic venom, its abundance near cultivated
areas, and its aggressive, easily excitable temperament.
season extends from mid-February to late April. Viviparous races give
birth to 6-28 young, while oviparous lay almost as many hard-shelled
white eggs. Juveniles are met with from March to July. In northern areas
of Pakistan, this snake hibernates during winter. Often in bright clear
day basking snakes are observed, while in southern warmer areas it is
not known to hibernate.
includes common toad Bufo stomaticus, Hoplobatmchus tigerinus, lizards:
Crossobamon orientalis, Acantho' dactylus contorts, Ophiomorous
tridactylus and deserticole arthropods. Captives feed on a variety of
geckos, lacertids, bird eggs and nestlings..
distributed from northern Africa, through Middle East, southern former
Russia, descending to Iran, Afghanistan, most of Pakistan, excluding
high northern mountains, India, and Sri Lanka. Several species and
subspecies of genus Echis has been distinguished throughout its
wide Saharo-Sindhian range, of which at least four to five are
represented in Pakistan.
scale viper is recorded from sandy and rocky alluvial habitat, with
sparse xerophytic to moderately dense grass and scrub vegetation. It
is found in large numbers in deserts and dry areas and is also found in
sandy areas, rocky areas, and scrub forests from sea level to about
1,800 meters. In
mountainous habitat, it lives under rock blocks, while in sub-mountain
region, it inhabits hedges and other scrubby vegetation, prominently
avoids marshy areas and very dense vegetation.
carinatus sochureki is found in Northern India, whole of Pakistan,
except high mountains in north, southern Afghanistan, central Iran to
Iranian Gulf coast and Khuzestan.
is found from Caspian Sea, through Turkmenistan, into Bukhara, Samarkand
and Tashkent, to Tajikistan along Afghan border, up to Hindukush,
northeastern Balochistan, NWFP and eastern Iran.
carinatus astolae has been reported from island Astola, off the
Makran coast, Pakistan.
c. sochureki ()
Echis c. astole (o)
Echis c. multisquamatus ()
Credit: Dr. Muhammad Sharif Khan
Guide to The Snakes of Pakistan, Muhammad Sharif Khan, Edition
Chimaira Frankfurt am Main 2002
Snakes of the Middle East (Identification Guide), Defence
Intelligence Document, U.S Defence Intelligence Agency
Muhammad Sharif Khan, Herpetological Lab Rabwah, Pakistan