View More View Less
  • Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine John Radcliffe Hospital, Headington, Oxford, UK

2 March 1990

To the Editor:

The paper by Visudhiphan and others, “Bites by dark green pit vipers in Bangkok,” perpetuates the myth, created in the Thai and European literature, that the smaller and darker of the 2 species of arboreal green pit viper found in the Bangkok area is Trimeresurus popeorum Smith, 1937. Recent work has established that this species, known by the Thai names “ngoo kiaw hang mai torng kiaw” or “si kiaw gae,” is in fact T. macrops. The true T. popeorum is a reclusive hill-dwelling species which has never reliably been reported from the Bangkok area and nor implicated in any case of human snake bite. The 2 species are easily distinguishable by their coloring and characteristics of the head scales.

The terminological error in the paper by Visudhiphan and others is not of purely academic importance. A recent study (C. Viravan, S. Looareesuwan, and D. A. Warrell, personal communication) demonstrated that Trimeresurus vipers were responsible for 28% of all snakebites in Thailand.