If you’re a snake lover, then the name “Snake Island” would sound like the promised land, if 4,000 of them, some of them with flesh-melting venom, can be considered that.
But to most people, the name itself would be enough to give the place a wide berth.
And that’s actually the case, except for a few scientists brave enough to risk having their flesh melted off.
The island is located off the southeastern coast of Brazil near Sao Paulo. With a population of roughly 4,000 snakes, that means there are anywhere between three and five snakes per square meter. That’s a lot of snakes.
As if the snake density wasn’t enough, the island is actually home to the golden lancehead. The golden lancehead is a critically endangered species that is also acknowledged as one of the most deadly in the world. Its venom, which melts flesh, could kill a person within one hour.
So it’s no surprise that people are not allowed to go to the island which is formally called Ilha da Queimada Grande. Only a handful of scientists are given permission by authorities to visit each year.
However, an exception was made for 9 News reporter Tara Brown for a 60 Minutes feature about the island. Needless to say, she was accompanied by a medical team on the island.
She told news.com.au that she was warned by local fishermen not to go.
She said: “When we’re speaking to local fisherman, they told us, ‘That’s not a good idea, you don’t want to go there.’ There are legends about a whole family being killed there, and of pirates burying treasure on the island and the snakes being put there to protect the treasure.
“The fishermen said they never went there, or they would die.”
As if going to the island wasn’t scary enough, it turns out that the venom of the golden lanceheads had evolved to the point that their venom has become even more deadly compared to the species on the mainland.
Brown explained: “They’re different to their mainland cousins in that they’re five times more venomous and they are among the top 10 most poisonous snakes in the world.
“They hunt and eat birds. Not the local birds, who have become too smart for them, but larger migratory birds, boobies, who come by on their migration. And the snakes’ venom has become more potent because their prey is bigger.
“It’s an incredibly interesting evolutionary experiment for scientists to observe. This is a laboratory in the wild if you like. You see evolution at play.”
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