Snake Island has been called one of the world’s deadliest islands because it has the highest concentration of venomous snakes anywhere in the world. It has a temperate climate with bare rocks, rainforests, and grassy areas that have been deforested. Brazil is made up of beautiful islands, but each one has its own set of dangers. We are all aware that snake venom is extremely lethal. Snake venom can cause human flesh to melt in some species. To avoid melting human flesh, it is critical to understand venomous snakes, snake bites, snake venom, and other species, even if they are endangered. Follow PowerPAC plus to learn more!
Location & Character
From Iguazu Falls to Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, there are some breathtakingly beautiful places in Brazil. Snake island, located about 90 miles off the São Paulo coast, seems like another one of those beautiful places—at first glance. Almost every Brazilian knows about the island, but most would never dream of going there—it’s infested with between 2,000 and 4,000 golden lancehead vipers, one of the deadliest snakes in the entire world.
The venom of these vipers can kill a person in less than an hour, and numerous local legends tell of the terrible fates that awaited those who wandered onto the shores of “Snake Island.” According to legend, a careless fisherman landed on the island in search of bananas, only to be discovered days later in his boat, dead in a pool of blood, with snake bites all over his body. From 1909 to the 1920s, a few people lived on the island to operate the lighthouse. According to another local legend, the last lighthouse keeper and his entire family were killed when a swarm of snakes slithered into his home through the windows
This island is 206 meters high, 43 square kilometers in size, and has no residents. A few people lived on the island from 1900 to 1920, then left. Anyone who came here even a little carelessly died, so the island’s lighthouse had to be automated. According to local legend, the last man to keep the lighthouse died when a snake entered the house through the window and bit everyone to death. On Snake island, venomous snakes can kill a person in less than an hour. Many local legends tell of terrible fates befalling those who roam the island.
- Salient feature:
The venom of this snake viper can kill a human in about an hour.So, how did this Brazilian island become one of the scariest places on the planet?
According to Smithsonian magazine, the snakes became trapped on the island about 11,000 years ago as sea levels rose following the last Ice Age. The snakes multiplied quickly because there were no natural predators on the island. Because the snakes had no ground-level prey, they had to mark and hunt down birds, causing their venom to evolve into an incredibly potent version that is three to five times deadlier than the average snake’s venom. This place is home to 2,000 golden lancehead vipers.
- Terrifying story:
A few Brazilians lived on the island in the early 1900s. According to local legend, a family in charge of caring for the lighthouse was all killed when snakes entered their home through the windows. According to legend, an unfortunate fisherman arrived on the island in search of bananas. The next day, his body was discovered in a pool of blood in his boat, with snake bites all over him. Although some people believe that pirates brought snakes to the island to protect their gold, the island’s snake population has grown over thousands of years without human intervention.
- Deadliest island
Because there are so many snakes on one island — one snake for every square meter (10.8 square feet), according to some estimates — there is competition for resources. Despite having 41 recorded bird species on Queimada Grande, the golden lancehead (Bothrops insularis) relies on only two: the Troglodytes musculus (southern house wren), which can usually avoid them as a predator, and the Chilean elaenia (a species of flycatcher), which feeds on vegetation in the same area as the snake.
Previously, the island was thought to have a population of around 430,000 snakes, but recent estimates are much lower. The first systematic study of the snake population discovered a population of 2,000 to 4,000 individuals, almost entirely concentrated in the island’s rainforest area. This could have happened because there were fewer resources available and the population leveled off, but in 2015, a herpetologist on a Discovery Channel documentary estimated that the population remained between 2,000 and 4,000 golden lanceheads. They may also be threatened by inbreeding, the effects of which are visible in the population.
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species classifies the golden lancehead snake as critically endangered due to its overall low population. It was also added to the list of endangered animals in Brazil. Dipsas albifrons, a non-venomous snake species, also has a small population on the island.
- Experimental island
In the event of an unfortunate encounter with the island’s native population, the Brazilian government requires that a doctor accompany any legally sanctioned visits. The Brazilian navy does make an annual visit to the island to maintain the lighthouse, which has been automated since the 1920s. The island also serves as an important laboratory for biologists and researchers who have been granted special permission to visit the island in order to study the golden lanceheads.
In Brazil, lancehead snakes, a close relative of the golden lancehead, account for 90% of snake bites. Biologists hope that by better understanding this snake and its evolution, they will be able to better understand the Bothrop genus as a whole—and thus treat the numerous snake-related accidents that occur throughout Brazil more effectively. Some scientists believe that snake venom could be useful in the pharmaceutical industry. Marcelo Duarte, a scientist with the Brazilian Butantan Institute who studies venomous reptiles for pharmaceutical purposes, described the medical potential of them in an interview with Vice. “We are just scratching the surface of this universe of venom possibilities,” he said, adding that the venom of the golden lancehead has already shown promise in treating heart disease, circulation, and blood clots. Snake venom from other species has also shown potential as an anti-cancer drug.
Wildlife smugglers, known as bio pirates, have been known to visit this place due to black market demand from scientists and animal collectors. They capture the snakes and sell them through illegal channels; a single golden lancehead can fetch between $10,000 and $30,000. Degradation of habitat (due to vegetation removal by the Brazilian navy) and disease have also harmed the island’s population, which has shrunk by nearly half in the last 15 years, according to some estimates. The snake is currently classified as critically endangered on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. While this may make Snake Island less terrifying for humans, it isn’t a good deal for the snakes.
Type of the most dangerous snake
These are highly venomous snakes, but because the golden lancehead only lives in areas where humans are not present, there has never been a recorded bite by one. Other lancehead snakes, on the other hand, are responsible for more human deaths than any other snake in both North and South America.
The chemical analysis of their venom indicates that it is 5 times more potent than that of their cousin, the jararaca (Bothrops jararaca), and that it is also the fastest-acting venom in their genus. Other lancehead species have a mortality rate of around 7% if the victim does not receive medical treatment, but even if the patient receives treatment, the bite is fatal in 3% of cases.
Local pain and swelling, nausea and vomiting, blood blisters, bruising, blood in the vomit and urine, intestinal bleeding, kidney failure, brain hemorrhage, and severe necrosis of muscular tissue are all side effects of lancehead venom. Lancehead snakes have hemotoxic venom that eats away at flesh and tissue to help them digest their prey before swallowing it, but the they also has neurotoxic components in their venom to help them kill their prey.
- Where did snake come from?
The island’s land mass was once connected to the mainland. However, rising sea levels cut the island off from the coast around 11,000 years ago. Because there were no ground-level predators on the island, snakes that became stranded multiplied rapidly. There were also few prey animals. The snakes with more toxic, fast-acting venom, on the other hand, were able to capture migratory birds, and as the golden lancehead evolved on the island, their venom became more potent.
The Brazilian government has strictly regulated visitor traffic to the island. However, in the case of legally sanctioned visits, the government recommends that visitors include a doctor in their team to respond quickly in dangerous situations. However, it appears that most people will be unable to visit the island. Only researchers and biologists are granted a special permit to visit the snake island and study the golden lanceheads in greater depth.