Highly Venomous Sea Snakes Show Up on New Zealand Beaches

Only weeks after one of the world's most deadly snake species was seen for the first time in two decades in the ocean's twilight zone, yet another highly dangerous sea snake was discovered along international shorelines.

According to a report from The New Zealand Herald, the sea snake was found by an unsuspecting beach-going family at Tangimoana Beach on the Manawatū coast in New Zealand over the weekend. The family was reportedly looking for shells, not knowing they had to be on the lookout for a deadly reptile for which no known anti-venom exists.

The group, consisting of an 11-year-old boy, his two cousins, and other adult family members, claimed to have caught the snake and stored it in a bucket of seawater while they tried to determine what species it was.

A woman at a nearby dairy shop told them that they had caught a yellow-bellied sea snake, which, according to the Australian Museum, can deliver a powerful bite with enough toxins to paralyze or kill any humans that come across it.

Although The New Zealand Herald reported that two previous snakes found at Woolleys Bay and Tokerau Beach were found "alive and wriggling" by horrified viewers last month, this snake did ultimately did not survive.

"I didn't know what to do with it," the boy told the outlet. "I chopped its head off, put it in a bag and threw it out."

king cobra swimming through river
A third highly venomous sea snake thought to be extinct was discovered in New Zealand. Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images

The New Zealand Herald reported that this is the first time since April 2018 that yellow-bellied sea snakes were found in the country. The outlet reported that sea snakes as a whole are a rare sighting in the country, with no more than 10 found annually.

The Australian Museum noted that the species' potent neurotoxins and myotoxins are incredibly deadly and require immediate medical attention, even though most bites from yellow-bellied sea snakes present with no initial pain and little to no swelling.

However, there is no known anti-venom available in New Zealand due to the expense and short shelf-life. Any bite from this sea snake would result in eventual death, The New Zealand Herald reports.

The shocking influx of yellow-bellied sea snakes in New Zealand is believed to stem from Australia and warmer areas of the Pacific Ocean, as they can travel but not breed in colder waters like the Manawatū coast.

Meanwhile, in the ocean's twilight zone last month, another species of highly venomous short-nosed sea snakes originally thought to be extinct was rediscovered in Western Australia. It was the first time they were seen in the area in over 20 years.

"You used to find about 50 snakes per day if you were walking the reef site," sea snake expert Blanche D'Anastasi said. "By 2002 it was down to 20 snakes per day, by 2010 it was down to 10, and then in 2012 there were no snakes left in the shallows."