Thailand, being a
tropical country, abounds with snakes of great varieties, poisonous
as well as harmless. Each year a large number of casualties are
caused by venomous snakebite. Therefore the Thai Red Cross Society
deemed it necessary to establish a snake farm to keep different
poisonous snakes for venom collection in order to produce antivenine
sera for treatment of snake poisoning. Dr. L. Robert, the first
director of the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, received
contributions from foreigners residing in this country, and with the
money collected, a snake farm was built in the premises of the
Institute. This was the second snake farm established in the world
and was officially opened on November 22, 1923. The Queen Saovabha
Memorial Institute constitutes the Science Division of the Thai Red
Cross Society which was formerly named Pasteur Institute. The main
function of the Institute is the manufacture of vaccines and
The snake farm is an
attraction in Bangkok for tourists from all parts of the world. It
is visited by scientists, educational bodies and distinguished
visitors. Different kinds of poisonous snakes found in the country
are kept for venom extraction which is demonstrated to the public at
scheduled hours. These venomous snakes are brought in alive by
snakecatchers who are farmers by profession and they are paid for at
prices according to size and species.
Poisonous snakes found
in Thailand are Cobra, King Cobra, Banded Krait, Russell's Viper, a
few species of Pit Vipers and some species of Sea Snakes.
Numerous kinds of
snakes other than mentioned above, though common in this country are
not of importance to human lives because they are slightly poisonous
or nonpoisonous. Their bites often cause alarm but generally are not
Snakes: By nature, snakes are not aggressive and will attack
human beings only under provocation. They see better at night and
therefore will not naturally be seen around in broad daylight.
Snakes have no external ears and are deaf to sounds. A snake can
quickly perceive the approach of a footstep by the vibration
conveyed through the ground with which it's body is in contact. The
tongue is an organ of smell.
Snakes feed on animals.
King Cobras live on live snakes. Water snakes live on fish. Other
species live on rats, frogs, insects etc. A snake prefers food
killed by itself. Once having fed, the snake will not require food
The majority of snakes
lay eggs and in general the vipers bear their young
Snakes cast their skin
periodically, more frequently in the younger stage. After molting
they are very active and the colors are at their
Snake Venom: A
poisonous snake has two fangs, which are grooved or hollow teeth,
situated at the front of the upper jaw. Each fang is connected by a
duct to a poison gland behind the eye on the corresponding side.
These two poison glands are modified salivary glands, the secretion
of which is called venom. When the snake bites, the venom is
excreted into the fang wounds. Venom probably helps the snake is
killing its prey and facilitates digestion.
Fresh venom is clear
viscid liquid and yellowish in color. The extracted venom, when
dried, forms yellow crystals which retain toxicity and solubility in
water for a long time, and is used for immunizing horses in the
production of antivenine sera and also for research
Q: Why are the
men who handle the snakes for venom extraction not bitten? Are they
immunized against snake poisoning?
A: Snakes are generally
not aggressive but they will bite when provoked. In the process of
venom extraction the snake is handled gently by experienced men who
are trained to do the job with care and confidence. They are not
immune by any means and have to be treated with antivenine serum if
they happen to be bitten. Such accidents rarely occur and are mostly
due to carelessness.
Q: How often can
venom be taken from each snake?
A: Venom extraction should
not be repeated until after 2 weeks or longer.
Q: How much
venom does a snake yield and how many persons can this amount of
A: The yield and potency of venom vary with
different species of snakes. By applying light pressure over the
glands the average yield of liquid venom from a Cobra at one
extraction is about two thirds of a gram in weight. It is impossible
to determine the exact fatal dose of snake venom for humans. This
average yield of venom froma Cobra is sufficient to kill
approximately 50,000 mice or 1,000 rabbits.
Q: How many eggs
does a snake lay at one time and how long does it take before the
A: Number of eggs and incubation period vary
in different species of snakes. A female Cobra may lay 20-30 eggs.
Incubation period from the time of laying to the time of hatching
varies in different species. It has been recorded that it ranges
from 40 to 136 days. In captivity the eggs do not hatch and the
young live vipers do not survive.
Q: Are Cobras
the only snakes milked for venom?
A: All poisonous snakes
brought to our snake farm are milked for venom on arrival. Since
Cobras are the most common deadly snakes in this country, specific
antivenine serum against Cobra poisoning is in great demand and this
is turn requires larger amount of Cobra venom for teh production of
Cobra antivenine serum.
Q: How can one
distinguish a snake that is not yet milked from one that has already
A: A snake that is not yet milked for venom
will show bulging of poison glands which are aituated just behind
Q: Is King Cobra
not more dangerous than Cobra?
A: King Cobra is the
largest poisonous snake. A full grown specimen is over four metres
in length. The amount of venom excreted on biting would be very
large and surely fatal but on dry weight basis Cobra venom is about
10 times as toxic as King Cobra venom. However there has been no
authentic case of natural King Cobra bite on record in
Q: What is the
most deadly snake?
A: By considering the lethal dose of
venom in experimantal animals and severity of poisoning in humans,
Cobra is the most deadly. In a fatal case of Cobra bite the victim
dies in a short time, about one to six
|Cha-on Pungnam, 54, one of the
officers and presenters at the snake farm told Student Weekly about
his job of milking venom from snakes, “My job is to present the
snake show. Once a king cobra bit me in the finger. I was rushed to
the hospital and the doctor injected me with a serum. Unfortunately,
two weeks later, my finger turned black because of necrosis and had
to be amputated. Cha-on who has been at the Snake
Farm for 14 years said, “to catch snakes you should learn their
habit, must be sure in your movements and you must be
Farm is located on Rama IV Road in Bangkok. It opens on weekdays
from 8.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. and on weekends and holiday from 8.30
a.m. to 12.00 noon. It costs 70 baht. For more information call
252-0161-4. There is a show at 11 a.m. and 2.30 p.m. on weekedays
and 11 a.m. at the weekend and on holidays. Come half an hour
earlier as there is a slide show first explaing about the snake
farm, and then during the show afterwards, you can see them take the
venom from the snakes. It is not worth going to the snake farm at