Continuing our series of articles about snakes in Thailand, we are going to look at the snake responsible for most envenomations in Thailand.
As a pupil and a teacher I have learned that most rules have exceptions and we have a case in hand here.
It is common knowledge that snakes are shy and usually try to avoid contact with humans, often disappearing without us knowing they were there. However, the Malayan Pit Viper will make no attempt to move away when approached by humans, content to lie perfectly still.
Most bites are as a result of treading on or almost treading on these extremely venomous snakes. As you can see from the photograph they are not particularly easy to see so it is hardly surprising that so many people are bitten .
Malayan Pit Vipers rarely exceed 1 metre, females being larger than males. They lay eggs and the female will fiercely guard the nest until the young hatch then the babies are left to fend for themselves. The nest is often in rocks and incubation is 50 to 60 days.
As with all venomous snakes the young are equipped with the same venom as adults and must not be handled.
Malayan Pit Vipers are common throughout Thailand in forests, rubber plantations, bamboo patches, farmland and grassland.
They can be found in long orshort grass or under dry leaves, wood or rocks. They are active day or night , especially when it’s raining.
It has even been known to drop out of trees and bites in the shoulder or neck can be fatal as the venom can cause the blood to fill the lungs or windpipe, resulting in suffocation.
They prey on mice, frogs and lizards, though mice are the preferred diet. They do not stalk their prey, rather they lie in wait for something to come along. They are lazy snakes and even after biting a human, it is likely the snake will be in the same place several hours later.
These vipers have long fangs in the front of the mouth which inject a powerful hemotoxic venom into their victims. The venom destroys red blood cells and tissue. If you are bitten hospital treatment is needed within 30 minutes or permanent tissue damage, loss of limb or even death is likely.
When ready to strike, the snake is partially coiled with the neck in an ‘S” shape.The strikes are very fast and some may be very short. It is VERY good at striking behind its head. Some strikes involve the whole body as it “jumps” at the time it strikes.
All this makes the Malayan Pit Viper a snake to be avoided if at all possible. Take great care when entering the habitats previously mentioned.
Despite its fearsome reputation this snake is now actually helping to save lives rather than take them. It has been discovered that the venom is excellent for thinning blood and it is now used to treat stroke victims. A nice thought to end with!
Next up, we will be looking at why we should be vigilant in our gardens. Happy gardening until then ?