Courting with Disaster: Close Encounters of The Venomous Kind (Whoa, What the hell was I thinking?)

Naja_samarensis retrieved from commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Naja_samarensis
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Samar cobra

The Samar cobra (Naja samarensis) is a highly venomous species of spitting cobra that is found in the southern islands of the Philippines.

Although it is a spitting cobra, this species only rarely spits its venom. It is considered to be an extremely aggressive snake that strikes with little provocation.

The venom of this species is not well studied, but is known to be an extremely potent postsynaptic neurotoxin that also contains cytotoxic agents.

According to Ernst & Zug et al the murine SC LD50 value is 0.21 mg/kg, making it one of the most venomous true cobra species (genus Naja) in the world.[1]

Venom

The Samar cobra’s venom is potentially deadly.

Envenomations can result in respiratory distress and paralysis, as well as considerable tissue necrosis around the bite site.

They are noted for their nervous behavior, and are quick to strike as well as to spray venom, which they generally aim towards the face and eyes.

If venom gets in the eyes, it causes extreme pain and mechanical damage to the eyeball.

If not properly flushed out, it can result in permanent blindness due to its tissue destroying properties.

Antivenin for the Samar cobra is produced in the Philippines, but is not widely available due to this species’ restricted distribution and thus, relatively low numbers of individuals.[2]

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Phew, Good thing I got my helm on, this Kobra Mam-buga is a real Spitter.

Well, if that doesn’t sound scary or petrifying enough to frighten the life out of you and keep your distance.

Then it would be unwise to turn such a situation into one hostile confrontation if you run into one.

Getting bitten by a highly venomous snake such as the Samar cobra can be deadly.

Although it rarely spits its venom, if you get sprayed in the eyes, it can be just as deathly.

There are many videos in Youtube like the GMA News and Public Affairs Video “Born to be Wild: Ang Cobra Hunter” and GMA News TV’s Video “I Witness 2012 Kamandag ng Palayan” uploaded by maria Salabat that featured the Samar cobra.

But one thing about the Video Clip below entitled “Samar Cobra in a HissSlithering Suspense ‘The Spitting Cobra’” is that it was able to capture that rare instant where this snake spit out its venom.

Even though the video clip was a bit blurry and shaky at 6:31 into the video as the camera moved in for a close-up, if you listen to the audio, you can hear the squirting sound as the snake spits out its venom.

Being the one who moved the camera closer to get an up-close look at the Samar cobra, in that instant, as I was holding it at very close range I saw the cobra lunged forward from behind the old sewing machines metal leg and spat out its venom that almost reached the ceiling about eight feet and seven inches high.

Holding the camera at arm’s length with the cobra just a mere foot away from it as it spits out its venom, I was clearly within its range.

One thing you’ll also notice in the video is that after the Samar cobra spat and retreated, it quickly emerged from behind the sewing machines leg again to take a peek, probably to see if its spray was effective….

Cobras are known to launch their venom a distance of 6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.4 meters) and according to Livescience.com they are incredibly accurate shooters and can hit a victim’s eyes from 2 feet (60cm) away with impressive accuracy.[3]

The venom does not hit the victim in just one spot but it lands in complex geometric patterns as the snakes rotate their heads and jerk them side to side as they spray.

Before spitting the snake engages their head and neck muscles. And as the venom is propelled forward, the muscles produce rapid oscillations of the head that disperse the venom, presumably maximizing the chance that a portion of the spat venom will contact the eye, Livescience.com said.

Mozambique spitting cobra spitting venom at a scientist (retrieved from Arkive.org)

Mozambique spitting cobra spitting venom at a scientist (retrieved from Arkive.org)

Come to think about my encounter, of what I saw, for some reason; was it because of bad aim that I didn’t get sprayed in the eyes?

I don’t think so.

I believe it was because of these three reasons that I consider myself fortunate.

First, the cobra was pinned down to the wall and behind the sewing machines metal legs and had to lean far forward to clear its obstruction.

Second, its body was slightly slanted, already stretched far enough and it wasn’t able to rotate or jerk its head side to side as it retreated back quickly.

And third, it was aiming for the “eye” of the camera.

And even if one may have reflexes like that of Anderson “The Spider” Silva, such spit, at lightning speed… would have been disastrous had it come in contact with my eyes.

As I am no snake hunter, wrangler or handler and literally was within spitting distance, I consider myself extremely lucky no venom got into my eyes.

What I did was foolish; it could have ended up bad.

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Speaking of one being “foolish,” like Anderson Silva who may have very quick-reflexes, was way within striking distance, but just opted to lean back after toying around with an advancing Chris “The All-American” Weidman – lights out, TKO.

What makes the Samar cobra and other spitting cobras among other snakes very dangerous is that they need not even bite you to cause damage.

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A Samar cobra that has just eaten. Caught at Newtech Pulp, Inc. (Photo courtesy of Ckinzki)

However, most snakes are shy, reclusive and avoid human confrontation. They usually avoid human contact most of the time.

The Samar cobra usually comes in conflict with people as their main food sources are frogs and rodents that live close by human settlements.[4]

Cutting open a Samar cobra’s stomach (Video taken by Ckinzki)

Going back to our little incident, it all started when I got back home ten in the morning, rushed to the garage table, sat on the bench and worked on a blog.

Our garage long table had a table cloth on with ends hanging very close to the floor which hindered me from seeing what’s directly underneath it.

As I continued writing something caught my eye from the outskirts of my periphery that passed close to my foot and when I turned to see… it was a big “snakey.”

Kids in the house, plenty of nooks and crannies, and surrounding concrete walls so tall I knew I had to make a tough call.

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Long ago I was able to capture, kill a number of snakes including one that was bigger on the road late one evening, and also one slightly smaller Samar cobra in the house before that didn’t spit its venom.

I once captured a small snake about 8 inches long in one rice paddy that gave me a tiny bite on the finger because as I was pushing it into an empty soft drink bottle, while the head and half of its body was already in, it coiled back and struck a finger.

When I checked the finger, there was a small nick, but it was a good thing the bite didn’t penetrate my skin, I guess, I was lucky back then I had callused fingers from years of bass playing.

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But sometimes when overconfidence turns foolhardy it may become a different story.

Paying no heed to this snake’s potential deadliness being one of the most venomous cobra species in the world is like courting with disaster.

And even if you listen to what Brom of Eragon said: “That’s the spirit – one part brave, three parts fool.”

Nonetheless, a bite could prove fatal since Antivenin for this snake is not widely available here.

Although Samar cobras rarely spit, that spitting experience was really unexpected.

It’s quite clear now that the snake meant business and for me it could’ve meant permanent blindness.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/25/Naja_philippinensis.png

Philippine cobra (Naja philippinensis) in a defensive posture. Also called northern Philippine cobra, is a stocky, highly venomous species of spitting cobra native to the northern regions of the Philippines. The Philippine cobra is called ulupong in Tagalog carasaen in Ilocano and agawason in Cebuano-Bisaya. (Mario Lutz via https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/25/Naja_philippinensis.png)

One should always exercise extreme caution, never let their guard down and think they’re always in control of the situation.

Because even snake experts (Joseph B. Slowinski, 38; Snake Expert Is Bitten, Dies-articles.latimes.com) get bitten sometimes and some are lucky they got stocks of antivenin and get it in time.

Don’t make a mistake even if it is just a baby… like a baby Krait that bit Slowinski are just as lethal and deadly.

Common Krait (Bungarus caerulus) not a baby and not found in the Philippines. But never underestimate a baby for a baby snake's venom are just as potent as adult snakes venom. (Jayendra Chiplunkar via https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0d/Bungarus_caerulus.jpg)

Common Krait (Bungarus caerulus) not a baby and not found in the Philippines. But never underestimate babies for a baby snake’s venom are just as potent as adult snakes venom. (Jayendra Chiplunkar via https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0d/Bungarus_caerulus.jpg)

In this kind of situation, if you’re not conscious about it, when all you can think of is seek and destroy a perceived threat, you may become careless.

So if I’ll find myself in the same situation again, I wouldn’t hesitate to call for professional help and not be reckless.

Kung Fu Hustle (retrieved from californiaherps.com)

Kung Fu Hustle (retrieved from californiaherps.com)

References:

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dangerous_snakes#Samar_cobra

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samar_cobra

[3] http://www.livescience.com/7646-cobras-spit-perfect-accuracy.html

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samar_cobra

 

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