Malaysia, a tropical country in South Asia, is home to a high level of rich biodiversity, including many unique and endemic species of reptiles. These reptiles are under constant threat to their population with some already extinct in their natural ranges. The reptiles form a major tourist attraction while some are exploited for food and others bred as pets. For some of the reptiles, conservation measures have been put up while for others, and no effort has been made.
White-Fronted Water Snake (Amphiesma flavifrons)
The white-fronted water snake is a non venomous colubrid endemic to Borneo in Sabah and Sarawak. The snake is mainly seen swimming in rivers with its head above the water. Its total body length is about 21 inches with the tail about 7 inches of the total body length. The snake has a slender body with around 19 mid-body scales, about 19 ventrals, and subcaudals numbering between 92 and 101. The dorsal body has an olive-gray coloration with a cream-yellow spot on the snout. The snake feeds on frogs, frog eggs, and tadpoles.
Alfred’s Blind Skink (Dibamus alfredi)
Alfred’s blind skink is a species of blind lizard which occupies tropical and subtropical forests occurring at high altitudes of above 1,000 meters. In Malaysia, the lizard is found in the Malayan rain forests, Bukit Besar, Na Prado, and Palau Tioman. The lizard is limbless, but males have short hind legs for mating. The lizard lacks exposed ears. Their bodies are tiny, and they live mainly underground making them look like worms.
Malayan Snail-Eating Turtle (Malayemys macrocephala)
The turtle is a carnivorous reptile that feeds mainly on snails, and sometimes dines on earthworms, aquatic insects, crustaceans, and small fish as well. In Malaysia, the turtle occupies the extreme northern Peninsula. The turtle lays a clutch of 4 to 6 eggs which are incubated for about 167 days. The turtle takes about three years for males to reach maturity and about five years for females. The habitats for this turtle include muddy bottoms of freshwater sources where there is plenty of vegetation and very little currents such as streams, canals marshes, and rice puddles. The snail eating turtle has been ranked as vulnerable due to over-exploitation for food and habitat destruction due to pollution. The export of the turtle has been regulated in Malaysia to conserve it.
Twin-Barred Tree Snake (Chrysopelea pelias)
This tree snake is a rarely seen, terrestrial, oviparous snake with beautiful patterns on its reddish upper body, and has black-edged white bars, white-speckled light brown flanks, and a yellow-white ventral surface. The snake has a quiet temperament and is mildly venomous. The snake glides by stretching its body into a flattened strip using its ribs and can cover a horizontal distance of 100 meters in a single glide. In Malaysia, the snake is found in Malaya, Penang Island, Palau Tioman, and East Malaysia. Though the species is rare, it is considered under least concern category due to its wide distribution across the Malayan peninsula and its tolerance to altered habitats. Threats to its population include habitat loss and degradation, and no conservation measures have been put up.
Other Notable Reptiles of Malaysia
Peninsular and archipelagic Malaysia alike house many species of snakes, lizards, turtles, crocodiles, and other reptiles. Agricultural activities, hunting, and over-exploitation, are the major threats facing the reptiles in Malaysia. Other reptiles native to Malaysia include the Siamese crocodile (which is a critically endangered species), the checkered keelback, the reticulated python, Dumeril’s monitor, the Malayan forest gecko, and the false gharial.