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snakebites
Photo by Marcelkudla

Most snakebites and fatalities by snakebites occur in Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, with India reporting the most deaths from snakebites, more than any other country in the world. Just this last few days presented us with two extremely different tales of two different Cobra snakes. The first was a three-foot-long Cobra that was rescued from the coach guard area of Biju Patnaik International Airport in the Odisha Capital in East India, while the other was a 20-foot-long Cobra that was sadly shot dead by police in the city of Karachi, India.

According to police reports, the 20-foot-long Cobra had caused terror in the area of Karachi. Residents were fearing for their lives, and were not able to sleep peacefully. During the past three months, there were more than 1,300 cases of snakebites reported in Thar’s Government hospitals. Snakebites have also caused multiple deaths in various areas across India over the years. However, most snakes and most of the bites are harmless.

The vast majority of snakebites are actually caused by non-venomous snakes. And to make things clear, out of the 3,300+ species of snakes known in the world, only 15% are regarded as dangerous and capable of inflicting deadly snakebites.

Snakebites Stats: How many get bitten each year?

Unfortunately, reporting a snakebite is not mandatory in most regions of the world, leaving us with no accurate statistics and with no substantial ability to examine the frequency of snakebites in every country. However, according to certain reports, it is estimated that there approximately 5.4 million snakebites every year. Around 46% of these (2.5 million) are venomous, resulting in approximately125,000 deaths, each year.

When do most Snakebites happen? Who is the typical Victim? And more…

Summer is the time when snakes are most active and us humans are outdoors enjoying the sun. This naturally makes it the most prone time for snakebites. Following the same pattern, tropical regions which are hot and humid all year long – mostly report more snakebites than anywhere else. The typical victims are those who tend to be more outside, playing, which are typically males between 17-27. Sadly, due to their weaker immune systems, children and old people are the most likely to die from deadly snakebites.

Back to our more optimistic story that occurred in the Biju Patnaik International Airport: It appears that some tower workers spotted the deadly Cobra roaming around in the backyards of the coach guard office, not far from where all the planes are kept. The snake could have easily entered a plane through the lower openings and led to casualties. However, instead of calling Police to shoot it down, they smartly called the Snake Helpline, which came by, rescued the snaked and released it in its natural habitat.

Watching this riveting video of a Zebra Snake attacking an innocent Chameleon, makes you want to know more about this powerful Cobra. Well yes, the Zebra Snake, known also as Naja nigricincta, is a species of the Spitting Cobra of the genus Naja that belongs to the Elapidae family.

This unique Cobra had actually long been considered to be a subspecies of the black-necked spitting cobra (Naja nigricollis), but genetic differences have led researches to recognize it as a separate species. Don’t ask me if it was a necessary move, but that’s the situation.

The Zebra Snake and its Characteristics

There are two subspecies that are formally recognized under the Naja nigricincta:

1) The Naja n. woodi, also known as the Black Spitting Cobra, who’s solid black and can only be found in the hot desert terrains of southern Africa.
2) The Zebra Spitting Cobra, also known as the Western Barred spitting cobra, or just Zebra Snake, is native to parts of southern Africa, such as South Africa, Namibia and southern Angola. This beautiful cobra was given its name mainly because of the white or yellowish evenly spaced strips along its dark-brown to black body. The color of its ventral scales vary from white to orange, while its head and hood are black or dark brown.

Both subspecies of the Naja nigricincta are fairly small (smaller than the N. nigricollis), reaching lengths of less than 4.9 ft (1.5 m). The Zebra Snake can flatten its head and neck into a hood, in the same manner that other cobra species do.

Zebra snake
By Luca Boldrini [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The unique Venom of a Zebra Snake

It’s friendly name does not resemble a Zebra’s character at all. In Namibia, the Zebra snakes are known to torment villagers across the country, with dozens of reported bites every year. It seems that when it’s very hot and humid, these stripped cobras are somehow attracted to densely populated areas, where they attack from time to time, even humans.

The Zebra Snake can easily and accurately spit it’s powerful venom, which is highly cytotoxic and might cause massive hemorrhaging, necrosis and even paralysis. Interestingly, the anti-venom that is available – is ineffective in the treatment against a Zebra snake bite. The treatment that is mostly used involves radical excision around the site of the bite, which naturally brings about an ugly outcome. In case the venom makes it through to the bloodstream, then the problems intensify and the expensive treatment can last for many months, possibly a year or more.

There is one positive element in the nature of the Zebra Snake’s venom: It acts very slow, allowing the victim enough time to search and find the right medical treatment.

Enjoyed this post? Maybe you’d enjoy our “Cobras: All You Need To Know” Page!

And for the royalty among you – check out our elaborate King Cobra page: 

cobras

venomous snake
Photo by Jens Metschurat

On April 18th, 18-year-old Austin Hatfield from Wimauma (Florida) found out the hard way that it’s important to know how and if to kiss a venomous snake.

A few nights before the deadly kiss, Hatfield captured a Water Moccasin – an extremely venomous snake, also known as a Cottonmouth. Hatfield then put the snake inside a pillowcase, and calmfully slept with it. Unfortunately, the venomous snake managed to slither out of the pillowcase, waking up his 18-year old sleep mate.

Hatfield didn’t exactly know what to do, so he just grabbed the Water Moccasin and held it close to his chest. However, the venomous snake didn’t really appreciate the hug, and went for the KISS. It jumped forward and “kissed” Hatfield on his lip. Of course the “Kiss” was more of a bite, a venomous bite, which rushed Hatfield to the hospital.

According to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Hatfield knew that the snake he caught was a Water Moccasin, and that it was a venomous snake. By that, he broke Florida laws, which require a permit for keeping venomous snakes and require facilities to be inspected. It also requires permit holders to have insurance plans to cover emergencies, like when a snake decides to “kiss” a human.

Hatfield is expected to recover completely from the snake “kiss”, but it’s still unclear if he will be charged for keeping a venomous snake without a permit.

Watch this news clip about the incident:

Just last november, a 9-year old boy from from Broward County (Florida), was playing outside with his brother and a friend, when he suddenly fell down right on top of a Water Moccasin Snake. It’s the world’s only semiaquatic viper, venomous and capable of delivering a painful and fatal bite. The Cottonmouth (or Water Moccasin) has a very heavy body. Juvenile Moccasins are dark and have reddish brown cross-bands on a brownish skin. When these snakes get old, they tend to become darker and thus blacker. An adult cottonmouth is usually two to four feet in size. I wouldn’t recommend getting close to this monster…

As with the 9-year old, the snake that managed to slither out of the pillowcase attacked due to its natural reflex, which was of course to defend itself, and so it did.

The Water Moccasin instantly bit both the 18-year old from Wimauma and the 9-year old from Broward. Luckily both kids did not get fatal bites, but I encourage parents to learn more about the snakes in your area and educate their kids about the huge dangers of playing with venomous snakes. The kids in this story survived, this time, but you better know your snakes…

Cuban Crocodile
Cuban Crocodiles. Photo by Surz

Back in the 1970’s, Cuba’s Dictator, Fidel Castro, sent a unique gift to the Russian astronaut, Vladimir Shatalov, as a token of friendship and appreciation. What was that special gift? Simply two Cuban Crocodiles named Hillary and Castro, born in 1974.

However, Shatalov’s wife didn’t really like the idea of sharing a small apartment with two frightening Cuban crocodiles, which can grow up to 11 feet (3.5 m). Shatalov logically couldn’t keep the “pets”, so he gave them to the zoo in Moscow. Surprisingly, even the Moscow zoo didn’t possess the necessary infrastructure to keep and maintain the Cuban Crocodile pair, so in 1981 Hillary and Castro were transferred to Stockholm’s Skansen zoo. They’ve been living there ever since. But who are these Cuban Crocodiles? Take a look…

Cuban Crocodile Facts

The Cuban crocodile (known as Crocodylus rhombifer) is a rather small but extremely aggressive crocodile that is found only in Cuba, and specifically – in Cuba’s Zapata Swamp and the Isle of youth. The Cuban Crocodile has some unique characteristics, like his bright colors, the rougher scales and his strong long legs. It prefers freshwater habitat like rivers, marshes and of course swamps, and will rarely be seen in saltwater. The Cuban Crocodile mates its entire life and lives deep into its 80’s.

Another unique characteristic of the Cuban Crocodile, is it’s suspected tendency for pack-hunting behavior. No other crocodilians display pack-hunting behavior, making the Cuban crocodile a very interesting species for reptile researchers from all over the world. The Cuban species is also regarded as one of the most intelligent crocodiles on the planet. Sadly, it is also a very endangered species, mainly due to loss of habitat, deterioration of its ecosystem, hunting and also due to breeding with other species. Experts believe there are only around 100 cuban crocodiles left in the world, but recently something great has happened, which might change the entire situation.

Approximately 20 months ago, Hillary and Castro, the two Cuban Crocodiles gifted by Castro to Vladimir Shatalov, have given birth to 10 healthy hatchlings, which are still too young to even determine their sexes. In sort of a homecoming, these beautiful crocodile hatchlings have been returned back to their old homeland – the marshy swamps of Castro’s communist Cuba. They will actually be kept in quarantine in Havana for several months, then transferred to a semi-captive habitat, until they are over three years old and ready to be released into the wild swamps.

Watch this News Clip about the return of the Cuban Crocodiles:

This extraordinary return back to Cuba is an extremely important step towards saving the Cuban Crocodile from extinction. Let’s hope this unique mission succeeds.

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Blue tongue lizard
Blue Tongued Lizard. Photo by Peter Waters

You may have come across some rare birds or exotic animals which blew your mind for a moment and the images have stayed with you ever since. Have you ever come across a lizard that blue your mind?

Blue lizards or a blue tongue lizard is a very common species, especially if you live in Australia. The blue tongue lizard is also very popular as a pet. A blue tongue lizard doesn’t belong to any specific species but there are many species and sub species that can be regarded as blue tongue lizards.

One of the most commonly found blue tongue lizard is the eastern blue-tongued lizard. Scientifically known as the Tiliqua scincoides scincoides, this blue tongue lizard is known so because of its blue tongue. Not all species have a blue tongue, but in that sense, this one actually a blue tongue lizard. The lizard is found in bush-lands and across many suburban areas in eastern Australia; more specifically, in the state of Queensland. The blue tongue of this lizard can be light blue, dark blue or can be extremely bright or glowing blue.

This blue tongue lizard is extremely popular as pets because it moves very slowly. The size of this lizard is usually up to 60 cm and it can be easily spotted in the gardens or in roadside landscapes. The lizard can be observed for a long time due to its slow movements and it can also be caught easily. This blue tongue lizard is also very friendly to humans and thus can be easily petted.

There are some other blue lizards as well which are similar to the eastern blue lizard. For instance, there is the common blue tongue lizard which is the eastern species, there is a northern blue tongue lizard, a western and central species as well as blotched blue tongue lizard, shingle-back and pygmy blue tongue lizard. There is even a special place for the blue tongue lizard at the Australian Museum in Sydney.

The northern blue tongue lizard is found in the tropical regions of Australia, the northernmost region of Queensland and Northern Territory. The western and the central blue tongue lizards are relatively rare and are listed as endangered or vulnerable. The blotched blue lizards are found in the south west and they prefer the highlands and not the plains or coastal regions. The shingle-back blue lizard is also known as sleepy lizard, bob tailed lizard and stumpy tailed lizard. They are mostly found in the Great Dividing Range. The pygmy blue tongue lizard is found in South Australia, more specifically in and around Burra.