The red-necked keelback

Writer: Isaac Cohen   |  Editor: Liu Minxia  |  From: Shenzhen Daily

A juvenile red-necked keelback is seen winding its way among grass in Bijia Mountain, Futian District. Photos by Isaac Cohen

The red-necked keelback

One of the most interesting animals you can ever find in Shenzhen is the red-necked keelback (Rhabdophis subminiatus), a snake thatcan grow up to 80 centimeters in length. They maybe found around Shenzhen’s mountainous parks during the daytime.


The red-necked keelback is covered throughout in beautiful olive-green scales except for its neck, where a strikingly red patch gives the animal its name. Juveniles have a black patch next to their red neck, usually followed by a ring of bright yellow; but as the animal ages, this yellow coloration loses brightness. The eye of this snake is big and round, and the tail is short and differentiated from the body.


A red-necked keelback is seen winding its way among grass in Bijia Mountain, Futian District. 

But what makes this species of reptile so special? This fascinating animal is one of the few animals on our planet that is both venomous and poisonous. A venomous animal can produce specific proteins that, when injected through fangs or stings, generate harmful effects on the body of their victims; in contrast, a poisonous animal will cause harmful effects if consumed.


The red-necked keelback can produce highly toxic venom capable of killing a big animal, including a human.However, this animal seldom shows aggressive behavior and usually flees the scene ofan encounter. The red portion of the neck will secrete a poisonous substance that, if consumed by another animal, will give pain to its attacker. This poison results from the metabolism of toxic toads the snake consumes and later exudates through its skin.


A red-necked keelback is seen eating its prey (a frog) in Bijia Mountain, Futian District. 

Snakes can look scary, and sometimes we prefer not to get in their way. Still, the truth is that these fascinating animals are fundamental to maintaining a healthy ecosystem by acting as predators of other species that otherwise will grow in numbers without control and become plagues to our city. So let´s protect them and their habitats so we can keep enjoying ourecological paradise of Shenzhen.