Sunday, August 3, 2008

Venomous Patients

My work with the aquarium has certainly introduced me to a variety of new species and situations. Certainly the most unique have been some of the new additions to their special venomous exhibit. Over the last few weeks, I've had the opportunity to exam and collect blood samples from 3 of the most notorious venomous snakes in the world. Previously -- related to this exhibit -- I had collected samples from copperheads, diamondback rattlesnakes, and pit vipers. But these latest 3 really were amazing.

First was a gaboon viper (which I neglected to take a picture of). Known as having the longest fangs among snakes, this guy was large, broad and amazingly calm.

Next was a king cobra. Huge and fast, this species may be the most photographed and feared of all snakes. With the ability to stand up to 3/4 of their body length, this particular specimen (being 11 feet long) could easily meet most people eye-to-eye. When comparing venoms, the cobra's is not the most deadly of the venomous snakes. However, they make up for it in volume. A fully charged king cobra can deliver 400 grams of venom in one bite...and it only takes 20 grams to kill an adult man. The size of this cobra's head is, more or less, the size of your hand. He is considered a mid-range king cobra in size. A skull of a king cobra has been found that fits snuggly in a gallon jug. That snake is estimated to have been pushing 30 feet long!

Last was the green mamba. Small, fast, and almost unnatural in the brilliancy of its green color, the green mamba is one of the deadliest snakes in Africa. Strictly arboreal, the green mamba's venom is less toxic than that of the larger, more aggressive black mamba, but still very deadly. The thing that struck me about this snake (and the cobra as well) was their intelligence. Their keepers have commented that they are much more interactive and seemingly observant of their surroundings than other snakes, besides being amazing and beautiful creatures.