Snakes and a big thank you!

Dear Theresa and, of course, other readers Thank you very much for your very generous donation. It is much appreciated. You will be pleased to hear Mumsie was returned to Camp Gemini yesterday. She was ready to leave the Orangutan Care Centre & Quarantine on Monday, but because of the fuel shortage we decided not to make a special journey to take her back but rather to wait until the weekly supply run. Normally we push to get orangutans out of the OCCQ as quickly as possible so this was an exception. However I am sure, in the big scheme of things, a few extra days at the OCCQ won't have done her any harm.

Interesting question about snakes. It is something many people ask about. As would be expected there are lots here but they are very rarely seen. In the forest are reticulated pythons that can grow to enormous lengths (well I consider 5m/16' enormous!


Python with lines

Same photo of the python but the lower photo has markers to show the snake (photo by Steven Frankham).

There are poisonous snakes: cobras, kraits, vipers and keelbacks. Then there are the non-poisonous snakes ranging from the thin racers, through bronzebacks, whip snakes (all fairly common) to water snakes.

The interesting thing is I have seen more snakes in town than I have in the forest; I came home once to find a (harmless) racer on my doorstep. They are drawn to town by frogs, toads, rats and mice. Racers are one thing, cobras another - and I have only seen them in two places: palm oil plantations and in town. They like these "unnatural" places because of the unnatural abundance of prey to be found there.


Cobra (photo by Peter Ellen)

Cobras are pretty specialised nocturnal hunters and, in town, move around the storm drains. I can not pretend they are commonly seen (once or twice a year maybe?) but we have had two staff members bitten by them in the time I have been here - both when they were walking at night. One was very serious - she required eight days in hospital. The other was less serious and it is believed the snake was surprised and struck before it had filled its venom sacks. Nevertheless he felt queasy and vomited for two days. Unfortunately, we can't carry antivenin because it needs to be chilled. It is however available at the local hospital.

Again, thanks and best wishes,