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These four SNAKES can be found around the Maltese Islands
Four species of snake are found in Malta and Gozo.

Francesca Xuereb

Snakes! Some hate them, some tolerate them (maybe even love them?), while others respect them from a distance. Either way, World Snake Day is held annually on 16 July in order to raise awareness about the different snake species worldwide, which amount to over 3,500!

Despite the diversity among all of these species, snakes have got a bad reputation – but they’re not all as scary or venomous as they’re made out to be. In fact, as explained by local NGO Wildlife Rescue Team Malta, none of the four species that can be found on the Maltese Islands are venomous*!

Additionally, all four of these species are protected by law.

The Algerian Whipsnake/ Is-Serp L-Aħdar

(Hemorrhois algirus)

Malta is the only European country where the Algerian Whipsnake can be found, as it is native to North Africa. It can usually be seen in the areas of Manoel Island, Ta’ Xbiex, Pieta, Floriana, Valletta, and Marsa. This snake’s colour can range from light brown to green, with short black lines across their body. It mostly feeds on small animals such as mice, lizards, and geckos.

Algerian Whip Snake (Hemorrhois algirus)

The European Cat Snake/ It-Teleskopu

(Telescopus fallax)

This snake is native to the Mediterranean, as well as the Caucasus regions (which include Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and parts of Southern Russia). The Cat Snake got its name from its eyes’ vertical pupils – resembling those of a cat. Its body is silvery in colour, with alternating black squares along its body. The snake can be found all across the Maltese Islands – with a sighting even recorded in Gozo’s Ramla l-Ħamra bay. It’s typically nocturnal and feeds on nocturnal geckos.

European Cat Snake (Telescopus fallax) ©

*While the four snake species in Malta are not venomous to humans – the European Cat Snake has venomous fangs at the back of its throat which it uses to paralyse small prey whilst swallowing. Its front fangs – which humans would come into contact with during a normal bite – do not contain any venom. So, us humans are fine!

The Leopard Snake/ Il-Lifgħa

(Zamenis situla)

The Leopard Snake, like the Algerian Whipsnake, is native to North Africa, with Malta being the only European country where it can be found. Its usually grey or yellowish in colour, with reddish-brown spots that have black borders. This snake can be found all over Malta, and a case was even recorded in Victoria, Gozo.

Zamenis situla (Malta)

According to the legend, Saint Paul was bitten by a Leopard snake whilst shipwrecked in Malta. The locals expected him to die, but he just shook the snake off and from then on, all of the snakes in Malta were free from poison. At least that’s how the legend goes.

The Western Whipsnake/ Is-Serp l-Iswed

(Coluber viridiflavus)

Apart from Malta, this snake can be found in a host of European countries: Andorra, Croatia, France, Italy, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland – and possibly even Luxembourg!

Living up to their Maltese name, this snake has an entirely black body in adulthood, while younger snakes of this species have a greyish green colour. It is the most commonly sighted snake in the Maltese Islands and is the species that Wildlife Rescue Team gets the most calls for.

Coluber viridiflavus

While this snake isn’t venomous – none of these four snakes are – it will lash out in self-defence if it feels threatened. If this happens, it will only be a superficial and harmless bite.

Have you seen any of these snakes?

 Trevor Willis/Flickr, Nick Dobbs/Flickr, Frank Deschandol/Flickr, David Bembic/Flickr

19th May 2024


Francesca Xuereb
Written by
Francesca Xuereb
Equipped with puns and references galore, Francesca is a writer who's interested in almost anything and everything. When not creating or consuming memes, she can probably be found listening to music, playing video games, reading, and going down endless Internet rabbit holes.

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