Leucism in two species of kraits in Nepal

Save The Snakes’ Conservation Partner in Nepal, Kamal Devkota, and his team (Dev Narayan Mandal, Mark O’Shea and Hinrich Kaiser) have documented two independent cases of leucism in two krait species, Wall’s Krait, (Bungarus walli) and Greater Black Krait, (B. niger). Leucism is a genetic condition, in which the complete or near-complete lack of colour in the skin combines with pigmented irises (Fleck et al., 2016). This condition is often confused with albinism, however, in albinism, the body pigmentation is completely lacking, and eyes appear to be pink.

The two kraits were observed independently on two rescue calls. Bungarus niger was observed on 25 April 2020 and B. walli was observed on a snake rescue on 3 June 2020 in the Dhanusha District of Nepal. The individuals are the first rescues of these species in Nepal and the first species of this colouration. Both snakes were rescued by Mithia Wildlife Trust. Leucism is a rare condition in snakes and these new sightings in Nepal present an opportunity to further understand this condition in snakes and find other snakes that present this condition.

Kamal is doing fantastic snake educational work with Nepal Toxinology Association to reduce human-snake conflict, create awareness about snakes and reduce snake killings. This study shows that there are opportunities for such observations in Nepal and this could contribute to a better understanding of snakes in Nepal.

Photo credit: Dev Narayan Mandal and Ganesh Sah

Fleck, K., Erhardt, G., Luehken, G. (2016): From single nucleotide substitutions up to chromosomal deletions: genetic cause of leucism-associated disorders in animals. Berliner und Münchener tierärztliche Wochenschrift 129(7–8): 269–281.