Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Russell's Viper

Russell's Viper
Last Monday, I got a call from a man next door. It was to invite me to inspect a snake he had found. As a matter of fact, he is not a big fan of snakes. Often he kills them first before calling me. And it was no different this time. His finds are beaten up to a bloody pulp like in those gangster movies. However, on this instance, it wasn’t too bad and the specimen was quite intact, by and large.

It turned out to be a deadly venomous Russell’s Viper.
Which is responsible for a very high number of human fatalities in our part of the world.

Although it does not have a pit (situated between the eye and the nostril or loreal region) possessed by ‘pit vipers,’—which is an external opening to a heat detecting sensory organ capable of detecting warm-blooded prey even in complete darkness—this snake species is able to react to thermal cues.

Russell's Viper
This specimen was about 20 inches long. Getting less than a foot from it, I did some macro photography, and the one shown at the very top is one of them. Of course I confirmed for myself that that it was fully dead.

Critters like this is why I am partial to welly Boots when exploring wilderness areas by foot. And that seriously includes my home garden and the immediate vicinity.


Jochen said...

Can't really blame the neighbour for hitting first and asking then.

A question that also arose on your wellingtons post, and I am not sure it was answered:
Won't large vipers be able to bite through rubber boots?

Kirigalpoththa said...

This is Thith Polanga. Right?

Sunita said...

Aaaargh! A Russell's Viper is one creature that turns me ice-cold. I know they have their uses, I know they're part of Nature's Great Scheme. But.
I have both Russell's Vipers and Cobras in my garden . While a cobra makes me gasp in awe at its sleek beauty (deadly but still beautiful)the Russell's Viper just plain terrifies me. I think I'm scared witless of its deadliness and because its so difficult to notice when it looks exactly like a part of the sand and pebbles in the landscape.
And especially because I've seen what happens to a person who's been bitten by a RV.
I heard one hissing at some labourers once. They were breaking up an old dry wall in which it had made its home and had got too close to it. That was the most menacing sound I've ever heard!

rainfield61 said...

That is a good question by Jochen. Haha...

Though I love jungle trekking, but I do not like these reptiles.

Jordan Sitorus said...

My first encounter with a pit viper was in February this year and happen to be the Kinabalu Pit Viper.

Like you said, I'm one of the majority when it comes to snakes.

However, their beauty is such that when you're taking their photos, we might forget how dangerous they are...and just keep getting closer and closer to them!

Anyway, mine is posted at


Pat - Arkansas said...

Yee-ooow! I'm very glad we don't have RV slithering around in Arkansas! I read the Wikipedia article on Russel's Viper. Just plain scary!

Dev Wijewardane said...

I've been bitten by a baby Krait (Spelling???) and that was an awful experience. I can't imagine what getting bitten by one of these would be like!

Harumi said...

I've already come across this name while working, and yep it is one of the most venomous snakes. Though weird enough.. I'm not one of those people who dislike snakes! =D

I don't understand why humans simply need to kill them off just cuz they're identified as venomous. I mean.. there are the humans who possess the most terrifying nuclear weapons that can be gazillion times more lethal and devastating than a mere snake's potion of venom.. but.. who's ready to beat the life out of those vicious humans?! =D

Like in some countries, hopefully Lanka too would deploy a mobile squad to protect these reptiles from humans, someday. =D

Thanks a lot for sharing all those facts about them.

Tabib said...

Beautiful pic of lethal reptile.
I think the fangs of this snake are not long enough to penetrate the tough Wellington Boots. ;)

Gallicissa said...

Hi Jochen,
Yes, Russell's Viper has aquired a bad reputation.

Regarding your question, I was surprised to learn from Jay that Adders among vipers can bite through rubber boots.

I should check with our reptile experts whether large specimens of this species could also do that. I have my doubts about it though with regard to this species.

Hi K,

Hi Sunita,
Sounds like you are not a big fan of Russell's Viper! Me neither, so no worries.

I too have Cobras in my garden...I have had no trouble with any of my snakes (probably becuase of good karma as I don't kill them!).

Russell's hissing is very audible alright.

I hope you enjoyed the cricket today. Prepare to be dismayed tomorrow.

Hi rainfield,
I understand!

I am sure you may have encountered a lot of snakes on your hikes across Malaysia.

Hi Jordon,
I remember seeing that in your blog. It is absolute gem of a snake. Quite true about what you've mentioned about us always trying to get closer and closer!

I guess with Pit Vipers which are quite lazy during daytime, one can take liberties. Well, our Green Pit Viper allows decent 'macro range' shots anyway!

Hi Pat,
Yes, RV is nasty.
Wiki gives a good description about it.

Hi Dev,
Wow! Glad you survived to tell the story. Bites by RV is supposed to be very painful. The only snake that has bitten me is Ornate Flying Snake, when trying to handle it about 20 years ago. It caused a bitof bleeding, but the worse thing was my mother hit me with a big stick afterwards for bringing the snake home to take measurements.

Hi Harumi,
That kind of attitude is good news for snakes in Sri Lanka. Majority of the people in this country do not know to differentiate between poisnous snakes and harmless ones, resulting all snakes been given the same treatment.

Mobile Squad sounds a good idea. I think members of YZA could take the lead in that backed by proper funding.

Hi Tabib,
I too think that you are right. I trust your knowledge on this as you are a Doc.

Sharodindu said...

Lots of snake killing hapens in our country too....though in maximum cases they are not dangerous.
nice post with reallife experience..

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Amila: Certainly a beautiful snake to see on your site.

Sunita said...

Ha, ha, ha .... what were you saying about cricket. Oh yeah, something about feeling dismayed? Who's laughing now?

Okay, after that grand chance to snigger, let me admit that I didnt watch the match at all. Maybe in some other lifetime my cricket-obsessed husband and cricket-breathing son will find me metamorphosised into an equally cricket-mad person. Till then I'll let my glazed eyes do the talking.

Gallicissa said...

Now, do you really have to rub that in, Sunita? Didn't you see a plum LBW decision was turned down of YUVI when he was like 0 or 1? I really think we ought to have two independent on-field umpires for matches played at the sub continent.

sushant said...

i live in kanjur marge in Mumbai when i passed from station i saw a small crowd of people was shouting and running i went their i noticed their a small snake was slowly running far from the people I IDENTIFIED the snake that was a russel viper

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