Slither and glide

A common cobra lunged at me and even though a sheet of glass separated us I still jumped.

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This morning we went to a snake park to see the snakes that inhabit southern India.

The park was a small wooden shed built next to a doctor’s house in Puttur. He keeps snakes as a side project. To get inside he unlocked a giant padlock and opened a heavy wooden door. Inside, dozen of different sized wooden boxes lined the wall with only a skinny walkway in between. The first snake we encountered was the cobra, who was hissing and breathing so loudly it sounded like he was at our feet.

His hood was fully extended, the flap of skin that surrounds a cobra’s neck like a collar. And his body was inflating and deflating as he breathed heavily. I crouched down to take a photo and he lunged at me on the other side of the glass. I jumped.

We learned touring a hospital the day earlier that snake bites are quite a common cause of injury in Puttur. Some are almost fatal on the spot, like a crate viper, but other poisonous snake bites and can be treated at a clinic.

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Several snakes are harmless, and we got to hold them in the snake house. I saw one of these in the wild, slithering in and out of a gutter on the side of the road.

Next we moved to the boa constrictors and pythons, one of which weight 40 kilos, more than 80 pounds. The snake master feeds them live chickens.

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Finally we saw the vipers, which are surprisingly small, making them all the more scary. A viper bite can be deadly. The snakes were hardly more than half-an-inch wide with beautiful black and white spots on their bellies and black and red designs on their backs.

It would be hard to spot one in the woods.

The cobra on the other hand was breathing and hissing so heavily throughout the whole tour we could always hear him in the background. It’s a good sound to know for walks through the jungle.

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