Sea snakes pose danger for careless swimmers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 January, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 January, 2000, 12:00am

Snakes are known to be land animals but they can also be found in the sea. Have you ever gone diving or snorkelling in Hong Kong and come across a swimming snake in the sea? Snakes swimming in the sea are sea snakes.

Finding snakes underwater can be very dangerous and an alarming experience but thankfully local sea snakes rarely show any signs of aggression. Despite their inoffensive nature, they are highly venomous. The bite may at first seem insignificant but the paralysis that results can be fatal.

Since they rarely attack, even when provoked, victims are usually poisoned by accidentally standing on a snake or fishermen who carelessly remove entangled snakes from their nets.

Sea snakes differ from their land-based relatives by having a specially adapted, flattened tail, which is perfectly designed to propel them through the water. All sea snakes are air-breathing and can be seen swimming to the surface to gulp in air. Most of them love to stay in shallow water less than 10 metres deep and they spend their entire life in the sea. They are shy and commonly found hiding between rocks and boulders.

Sea snakes are active day hunters and can be found searching in rock and coral crevices for small fish.

Some species of sea snake occur in Hong Kong but all are rare. The banded sea snake can be seen in markets sometimes.

Keep sea snakes at a distance and never attempt to handle one. Tread carefully in areas where they are known to be found.

WWF HK is a charity environmental organisation established in 1981 which aims to build a future in which people can live in harmony with nature. For information, call 2526-1011 or e-mail to