Case Study: Gaboon Viper Bite

Gaboon Viper
Gaboon Viper. Photo by Ltshears
  • This post was written by Cobra Master John Klein in 1997.

Here’s a copy of an article sent to me by Steve Granard: (notes follow)

Zoo assists snake bite victim

PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 6 (UPI) A 23 year-old man bitten by a deadly venomous snake from Africa, was treated today at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania with an anti-venom provided by the chief veterinarian of the Philadelphia Zoo.

The highly toxic venom of the Gaboon viper, which can grow to a length of 5 feet, and has fangs up to 2 inches long, destroys the blood’s ability to clot, and causes severe muscle and nerve damage.

Zoo officials say Dr. Keith Hinshaw received an emergency call from the hospital at at approximately 9 a.m. EDT, requesting anti-venom to treat the bite of the deadly African snake. Hinshaw transported the German manufactured antivenom to counteract the effects of Gaboon Viper venom to the hospital.

Authorities escorted a zookeeper to the victim’s home to capture the snake. There, along with the Gaboon viper, authorities found other animals, including a Canebrake rattlesnake, and a Diamondback rattlesnake, both venomous. It is illegal to own venomous reptiles in Philadelphia County, therefore the snakes were remanded into the custody of the Philadelphia Zoo.

The authorities have not revealed the condition of the man.

  • Copyright 1997 by United Press International.
Cobra Master John Klein’s notes:

1. I have talked personally to one of the EMT-A’s that treated this person. They relayed to me that this guy had NO provisions of any kind in his home where he kept the venomous snakes to treat himself in case of bites. They also told me that he seemed to know very little regarding the venom of the animal, or it’s effects on a human.

2. This guy gets “Idiot of the Year” award in the categories of:

  • Keeping venomous snakes where it is illegal to do so,
  • Keeping venomous snakes without knowing what he was doing,
  • Keeping venomous snakes and NOT keeping proper provisions.

3. This guy payed for his foolishness threefold. The medical bills, I can only guess, were probably huge. The average cost for enveomation treatment/therapy is around $15,000. In addition, the City of Philadelphia fined him for keeping venomous reptiles in contradiction to the law. On top of that, the zoo took the snakes that he probably paid quite a bit for. He may also suffer long-term disability as a result of the bite.

4. Every one of these news stories makes it worse for responsible keepers and herpetologists. It is because of irresponsible people like this that more and more jurisdictions are enacting stricter laws with regard to the keeping of venomous reptiles. Very few have provisions for bona fide research, some even if the animals are kept within the confines of a university or research center, which makes it harder for those with legitimate research needs.

5. Bottom line – It’s not “cool” to have a venomous snake just to show off to your friends, or becuase your enjoy the danger of it. Venomous snakes kill people, and that’s not ‘cool”. Don’t do it unless you have a legitimate reason to, AND have the provisions, environment, experience and knowledge to handle them.

For more fast facts about Cobras click here.

For further discussion on snakes, scientific classifications, venom research and much more, check the resources available in “The New Encyclopedia of Snakes”, available on

Click here to take a glimpse at 
“The New Encyclopedia of Snakes” 

1. If you feel like a having a real Book on Snake Bites, then get this book:Snakes and Snakebite‘ by Visser, J. & Chapman D.S.

2. And if you love African Hot snakes, this is THE Book for you:  ‘Dangerous Snakes of Africa’ by Spawls, S. and Branch, B.

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