India has nearly 275 species of snakes more than any other country on the planet. Travelling throughout the country one can find variety of vipers cobras and krails that inhabit every niche of the subcontinent from the seas and deserts to the rainforests and the Himalayan alpine habitats. There is primordial fear of them myths and customs which have grown up around them. Some of the common varieties found in India are:
KING COBRA Growing up to five and a half meters long and capable of delivering colossal amounts of venom in a single bite. It is the world’s largest venomous snake. It’s found in undisturbed jungle and preys upon other snakes. In Latin name Ophiophagus Hannah translates as snake eater. The hoods of king cobra are basically like fingerprints each one is different
RUSSELL’S VIPER It is number one killer and is common throughout much of India and in particular the hedge rows and field edges of Tamil Nadu. Mostly nocturnal it is an ambush predator relying on its execptional camouflage to avoid detection. It often stands its ground when approached and is frequently steppen on. The Russell’s is armed with sitelitic venom a complex toxin which can cause catastrophic cell breakdown. hemorrhaging and loss of blood’s vital clotting agents. Its bite is excruciatingly painful.
SPECTACLED COBRA South India is home to another snake the spectacted cobra the commonest of India’s four cobras. It is feared and revered even worshipped throughout the subcontinent. Its bite can deliver a powerful neurotoxic venom which brings on paralysis and if untreatd death. Although not as lethal as the Russell’s viper it accounts for up to 30% of snake bite deaths in the country.
SOFT SCALED VIPER Like many vipers it’s a well camouflaged and an ambush predator. It’s common throughout much of India. Although most active by night it basks in the early morning sun often putting it into contact with people.Its necrotic venom attacks clotting agents in the blood often causing bleeding from the teeth and gums.The deserts of Rajastan are home to some of the world’s largest soft scaled vipers. The snakes there are up to one and half times bigger than their southern relatives.
COMMON KRAIT is not aggressive but if alarmed it will bite and inject its venom which can cause sleepiness and respiratory failure killing most human bite victims who donot receive antivenin. Kraits which average around four feet long eat not only small lizards but also snakes including other kraits. It has gained a reputation for biting people in their sleep. A krait bite is painless. Its fang marks small and almost undetectable. Its fast acting powerful neut\rotoxic venom brings on paralysis and if untreated can cause death.
PIT VIPER In a poisonous snake with a deep pit on each side of the head between the eye and the nostril. The pits are sensitive to heat and help the snake find warm blooded prey such as birds and rodents. The fangs in the upper jaw are movable and swing forward before the snake bits its victim. Each fang contains venom.
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