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13 October 2006

Playing with fire!

A man in Sydney almost lost his life yesterday after picking up what he thought was a lizard, but what in fact turned out to be a death adder which went on to bite him five times. The death adder is apparently one of the top ten most venomous snakes in the world. He was rushed to hospital, and his life was saved, but it was a close call. Despite being home to some of the most venomous snakes, death from snake bite in Australia is said to be rare.

With our venturing into the country, a couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to study our host's book of Australian snakes. The local varieties include brown snakes, tiger snakes, taipans and the adder mentioned above. What I found most fascinating was the fact that some (in fact most) of the local snakes' venom is orders of magnitude more active than for instance that of the cobra - up to 50 times! Furthermore the local snakes are quite difficult to identify and distinguish, so the rarity of death by snake bite is thanks to the effective anti-venom that is specific to each state and effectively neutralises the venom of all snake species found in the specific state. So the critical factor is to get the victim to hospital as soon as possible.

During our drive to the Grampians I saw a large snake on the road, but they apparently steer clear of inhabited areas. Our guest house hosts said they had not seen more than three of four on their property in the seven years that they have lived there.

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