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List of top 10 deadliest snakes in the world

Snakes are known for their hissing, slithering, and unfortunately biting nature. Each year, these reptiles bite an estimated 5.4 million

By Ground Report
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List of top 10 deadliest snakes in the world

Snakes are known for their hissing, slithering, and unfortunately biting nature. Each year, these reptiles bite an estimated 5.4 million people, causing an alarming number of deaths, ranging from 81,000 to 138,000 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.

Venomous snakes

Venomous snakes have evolved a lethal mechanism to kill their prey. They produce toxic substances in a modified salivary gland and inject this poison into their victims using their fangs. Over millions of years, this poison has evolved to cause severe reactions in victims, including immobilization, haemorrhage, tissue death, and inflammation.

Research from India alone indicates a grim reality 58,000 deaths result from about one million cases of snakebite each year, according to the WHO. Worryingly, this toll is likely to rise due to the impact of climate change. A 2018 study from the University of Kelaniya in Sri Lanka concluded that climate change could increase the number of snakebites by a staggering 31.3 per cent over the next 25 to 50 years.

Data about snakebites in South Asia remains patchy, a fact that prompted the WHO to add snakebite poisoning to its list of neglected tropical diseases in June 2017. Since 2007, when 40,000 snakebites occurred, killing 8,200 people in Pakistan. Nepal's official Ministry of Health and Population also lacks comprehensive data, despite estimates suggesting 40,000 people are bitten by snakes every year, with about 3,000 deaths.

The WHO estimated that 33,000 snakebites in Sri Lanka between 2012 and 2013 had resulted in 400 deaths, but these numbers are believed to be severely underreported due to the lack of research in the region.

"Because they're underreported, it's thought to be maybe not as large of an issue," said Rmaah Memon, a resident physician at Harvard Affiliated Emergency Medicine Residency.

How dangerous are snakebites?

Studies estimate that each year, about five million snake bites occur worldwide, while 81,000 to 138,000 people die, and about 400,000 people are left with permanent disabilities and amputations. India has the highest burden of such deaths, with snake bites reportedly killing 54,600 people and maiming nearly 2.5 million in 2019 alone. A staggering 86 percent of global deaths and disabilities due to snake bites were from South Asia, with Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan recording the most fatalities.

India is home to over 300 species of snakes, of which nearly 60 are known to be venomous. However, about 9 in 10 deaths are caused by the 'Big Four' – the spectacled cobra (Naja naja), common krait (Bungarus caeruleus), saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus), and Russell's viper (Daboia russelii).

However, not all snakes are dangerous. Only around 15 per cent (450) of snake species are venomous, and out of those, only about a third (150) have the potential to kill or seriously harm humans with a single bite.

Venomous snakes are responsible for numerous fatalities and severe injuries, including tissue necrosis that can lead to amputations. Snake bites are most prevalent and severe in developing countries, particularly in rural areas where antivenom is less accessible. Read on to discover the top 10 deadliest venomous snakes.

Deadliest snakes in world

Name Location Description
Saw-scaled viper (Echis carinatus) Middle East, Central Asia Aggressive and found in densely populated areas; responsible for about 5,000 human fatalities per year in India.
Inland taipan (Oxyuranus microlepidotus) Central east Australia Most toxic snake; one bite can kill at least 100 adult humans, but rarely encounters humans due to remote habitat.
Black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) Sub-Saharan Africa Extremely potent venom and aggressive; can kill within 30 minutes if untreated, with a 100% mortality rate for untreated bites.
Russel’s viper (Daboia russelii) Indian Subcontinent Known for excruciatingly painful bites; accounts for 43% of all snakebites in India; part of the "Big Four" snakes.
Common krait (Bungarus caeruleus) Indian Subcontinent Highly toxic with an untreated mortality rate of around 80%; nocturnal hunter; bite often not painful initially, leading to false reassurance.
Indian cobra (Naja naja) Indian Subcontinent Iconic and highly venomous; frequently encounters humans due to its rodent hunting in populated areas; part of the "Big Four."
Puff adder (Bitis arietans) Africa Responsible for more fatalities than any other African snake; often stays put when threatened, making it dangerous; untreated bites can lead to necrosis and gangrene.
Common death adder (Acanthophis antarcticus) Australia Relies on camouflage; very potent venom with an untreated mortality rate of about 60%; under threat from invasive cane toads.
King cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia World’s longest venomous snake; holds cultural significance; threatened by habitat destruction and poaching; killing it is a serious offense in India.
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus adamanteus) Southeastern United States Deadliest snake in North America; large and heavy with powerful hemotoxin; untreated bite has a mortality rate of around 20%.

How is climate change affecting snakebites?

Climate change is exacerbating the risk of snakebites. Emory University research in 2023 found the likelihood of being bitten by a snake increases 6% for every 1°C rise in daily temperatures. "An increase in odds of snake bite by 6% per degree Celsius is a strong effect," said lead author Noah Scovronick.

As temperatures rise, some snake habitats become too dry, forcing snakes to move into human-populated areas, increasing interaction risks. "Conditions can become too dry for snakes to thrive," explained Michael Starkey of Save the Snakes.

The Emory study analyzed over 5,000 snakebite hospitalizations in Georgia from 2014-2020 and found this significant temperature link. Scovronick stated, "The large temperature effects we found, combined with the fact that snakebites often affect populations without access to adequate health care – particularly in other parts of the world – indicates that rising temperatures are a reason for concern."

He emphasized needing more research estimating snakebite burdens under different climate scenarios, saying "We need to spend more effort understanding the potential health burdens from snakebite in the context of climate change."

Rising temperatures unsuiting habitats and driving snakes toward humans is worsening the already major global health issue of snakebites amid climate change.

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