Shiver me Timbers

Shiver me Timbers. There wae this river in spate. Stuck on one bank was a frog and a scorpion needing to get on the other side. Scorpions are arachnids and not reptiles. They are not deft swimmers. On the other hand, the frog was in his elements and offered the scorpion a lift.

Once across, the scorpion stung the frog. The dying frog had only one question-why?

That my friend is my “nature” replied the scorpion.


Reptiles are gentle Creatures, Timid and Docile.

We lived in the country-side that abounded in snakes. My farther was a scientist in Agronomy, a field of rice culture resource. Oneof the earlist lessons he had taught us was there is no need to afraid of snakes. When it rains they come out on the road being cold-blooded. When you walk, make sure you thump your feet. That will scatter them from your path. The have no inclination to tangle with humans.

Another time my brother and got a pretty hard belting from Dad for killing a garden snake (also called garter snakes) which in spite of its length and girth is non-toxic and keeps the garden clean of pests.

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So what makes reptiles bite humans.

  • Snakes dot bite till provoked ot threatened
  • Snakes are equipped with venom meant for preying. A human limb at the wrong time and place is game too.
  • On encountering a human, a snake will attemt to flee as it percieves a threat. It will lie still, camoflauged as far as possible to avoid detection. If discovered it will hiss, flail around and if taken captive, will bite
  • Keep your distance and so will the snake. Acts of provocation will result in kind. Approaching a snake is one such act that could result in getting bitten.
  • Drunk human beings have greatly reduced powers of arriving at good decisions. Your boa pet at home is a not the same as rattlesnake.
  • Inability to spot a snake- their clouring is such though some are very colorful such as seasnakes which warn predators.
  • Snake venom is not for humans. It is for their prey. It takes time once the venom is expeded so a snakebite does not mean you are in jeopardy.
  • Summing it up- How to avoid stepping on a snake- If you are tking a walkin tall brush, keep brushnig your trail ahead with a sturdy stick- Keep your eyes peeled open- If you encouter a reptile, or a hiss, turn back.
  • Herpetologists refer ro a factor, atoxicogy test tht measures the lethality of the venom. It is callled LD50. The lower it is the more toxic is the venom.

Getting down To It

Russel’s viper is the discovery of the famed herpetologist Patrick Russel. Their habitat is India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Pakistan, and most other Asian nations.

1. Russel’s Viper

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A Russel’s Viper

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My choice of the deadliest snake is Russel’s viper-Reasons:

  • They avoid dense forestland. They prefer to live close to human settlements where rodents and other prey are found.
  • They stand their ground and are not scared by humans approaching.
  • Vipers are extremely aggressive and will not hesitate to bite.
  • Their hiss is high-dec.
  • They are solitary.
  • They have been responsible for more human deaths than all other snakes combined, even though their venom is low toxic than their cousins.
  • Russel vipers are ovoviviparous. Their hatchlings are not from eggs.

2. Mojave Rattlesnake

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The dimunitive deadly Mojave Rattlesnake

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Smaller than its cousins, the Mojave’s venom is ten times more powerful. It is bad-tempered too. They inhabit Arizona and Mexico.

Rattlesnakes hang out in the open soaking in the sun and are great at hiding from humans. If caught by surprise they let out loud hisses 26by rattling.

3. The Banded Krait.

As a child, I saw plenty of banded kraits. My Dad advice was this can be a rogue as it invades homes. They procreate rapidly and are very dangerous. Though he was passionate about not decimating living creatures, his counsel was to get rid of them.

Banded kraits are very venomous, and getting an antidote if you get bitten by one, I trust his advice.

They can be up to 1.6 to 2m and feed on lizards, frogs, and small mammals including your pup and cat.

They have a triangular body section and are easily identifiable. Their venom is a neurotoxin that paralysis follows soon.

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The Branded Krait

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4. The King Cobra

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A King Cobra

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This is the longest and most venomous os snake. They can be 18 feet long and stand up to look a full-grown man in the eye.

They are shy creatures who will fluff out their iconic hood and hiss in a growl.

One bite can deliver 6ml of neurotoxin, enough to kill 20 persons within minutes or an elephant in a few hours.

King cobras are the only snakes that build nests for their eggs.

They have incredible eyesight ang can fluff out their hood impressively- a warning sign.

They are venerated in India as Lord Shiva has one wrapped around his neck, and killing a King Cobra is believed to doom you.

Sadly the world of so-called “snake charmers.” has created a myth by defanging them and enthralling crowds by playing a flute and swaying. Snakes can’t hear-they can only sense ground vibrations  They are merely mesmerized following his swaying motions. A con.

The International Union for the conservation of nature has classified King Cobras as an extinction vulnerability. Trading in the skin, medicinal purposes, food, and as exotic pets has pushed them to the verge. They are now a protected species.

The Indian Government has recently taken an initiative to embed microchips in King Cobras to track illegal activities.

5. The Barbara Amarilla

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The Fer-de-lance

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The Barbara Amarilla or “Yellow Chin” as they are called in Latin America, is more commonly called Fer-de-lance, a diverse species of pit vipers. 

The head is a broad triangle hence the sobriquet lancehead. They carnage from 1.2 to 2 m in length. Their bite is fatal to humans.

6. Mozambique Spitting Cobra

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The Mozambique Spitting Cobra

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A spitting cobra in action is enthralling.It’s venom is highly toxic compared to the American Mojave rattlesnake considered the most venomous. They are 90 to 154 cm in length and have a lifespan of 20 years.

Spitting cobras are denizens of Africa and sub-Africa, namely Angola, Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia, Mozambique, etc.

They live close to the water that they can take to when disturbed or provoked.

One of the prey of the spitting cobra is the mamba.

7. Black Mamba

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The Black Mamba

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Amongst all the lethal snakes is the black mamba, which hosts a highly potent venom.

They are large, move with speed, and are aggressive. They, too, are native to sub-Sahara regions.

Mambas are not forest dwellers preferring rocky savannahs and lowland forests. The average black mamba measures 2-2.5 meters, the record being a staggering 4.3 meters. Only the inside of the mouth is black, and the body is usually gray or a dull brown.

They are shy and nervous and use their softness to get away. But if cornered, they bite repeatedly. 2 drops of their venom is sufficient to kill a human. Fortunately, there are no human deaths on record owing to black mambas. Their usual diet is small mammals, but a full-grown cobra was found in one.

8. Coastal Taipan

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The Coastal Taipan

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The coastal taipan can boast of killing 50-55 persons with one bite. No mean record. They inhabit moderate tropical regions and moist forests throughout Australia. The coastal taipan has exceptional speed and can lift itself off the ground to inject venom fangs first. Steer clear of the taipan.

Even after receiving aid, persons bitten by a taipan stay debilitated for the rest of their lives.

9. Boomslang,

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The Beautiful Boomslang
Close-up of a boomslang snake through glass at the snake centre near our campsite in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania

Called the South African green tree snake, is found all over Africa but predominantly in Zimbabwe, Namibia, Swaziland, and Botswana. It’s a well-patterned and the most venomous rear-fanged snake.

The boomslang venom is hemotoxic, meaning a bitten person will bleed from all orifices. It is an excruciating death.

10. The Eastern Tiger Snake

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Eastern Tiger Snake in defence pose

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The yellow and black stripes on its body give this snake it’s name. It inhabits the mountains and grasslands of southeast Australia and is highly venomous. It is terrestrial and its venom is so toxic that death follows in 10-20 minutes.The venom interferes with coagulion and the victim dies of internal bleeding and subsequenly cardiac  arrest.One death per annum is attributed to the tiger snake. Strangely it prefers to hunt in populated places.

In Conclusion

Snakes as I have reiterated earlier are shy, nervous creatures whose istinct is to flee and not confront.

That they come loadedwith venom is for self-defense and for hunting. They are wrongly vilified by human beings. In fact King Cobras are worshipped in India.

The snakes mentioned above all have a toxification factor well under LD50 making them among the deadliest in the reptile world.

A word of caution; if a snke by chance enters your home looking for prey be wise in not trying to remove it. You may get bitten. Just call the local unit of ‘Save the Animals’ or any such organization that has a presence in your area. They are expert at how to deal with the situation.


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