Ninety-three miles (150 km) off the coast of Sao Paulo in Brazil lies Ilha da Queimada Grande. The island has a fearsome reputation and is more popularly known as “Snake Island.” It is home to some of the most endangered and deadliest snakes in the world.
According to the estimation of the researchers, about one to five snakes can be found per square meter (9 sq ft) on the island.
Ilha da Queimada Grande is full of golden lanceheads, which possess such powerful venom that they can melt the human flesh. There are more than 4,000 lancehead vipers on the snake island.
When you are on a trip to Brazil, it is always recommended not to stop near the island. It is quite difficult to access and remains uninhabited. It is also often referred to as the “Island of Death” owing to the presence of countless dangerous snakes on the island.
Ilha da Queimada Grande
Ilha da Queimada Grande is a region known to be full of different kinds of vegetation. While a portion of the island is covered with rainforest, other parts consist of bare rocks due to deforestation. The island gets its very name owing to deforestation, as in Portuguese, the term “Queimada” refers to “burnt.” The locals of the region had tried to clear the land by burning it, and hence it got its name Ilha da Queimada Grande.
There are a number of tales that state pirates brought the venomous snakes to the island in order to protect their precious gold from robbers. However, the reality is something different. Nearly 11,000 years ago, it was believed that there was a sharp rise in the sea level.
This led to the isolation of the island. No humans are known to occupy the island after that. As a result of no human intervention, the population of the snakes started to increase naturally. However, the island has not always been uninhabited. There is a lighthouse, and in times past it needed to be manned.
A Glance at the Lighthouse
The lighthouse present on snake island has now operates automatically, managed by the Brazilian navy. However, during the 1920s, the lighthouse was believed to be operated by a man and his whole family.
They stayed on the island in order to deter people and prevent them from coming ashore. However, one night, some snakes entered through a window and attacked the man along with his three children and his wife. They were all bitten by the snakes and died.
What Do They Eat?
One of the major challenges for the snakes in Ilha da Queimada Grande is that they don’t have any ground-level prey. In order to find their food, the snakes used to slither upward into trees and high outcrops and attack the migratory birds.
Apart from snakes, there are other endangered species present on Snake Island. According to records, about 41 bird species are to be found on Ilha da Queimada Grande. The golden lancehead mainly feeds on the Chilean Elaenia and Southern house wren.
The island was previously known to be occupied by nearly 430,000 snakes. However, the numbers have decreased a lot over the years. In the rainforest areas, about 2,000 to 4,000 snakes are found.
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The limited availability of resources is one of the main reasons for the reduction in the population of golden lanceheads. The snake has been placed in the endangered animal list of Brazil. Snake Island is also home to Dipsas albifrons, a non-venomous species of snail-eating snake.
A Powerful Venom
You might be wondering how venomous the snakes in Ilha da Queimada Grande would be. Well, over the years, the golden lancehead vipers on the island have grown to be more powerful and venomous. Their venom is known to be about 3 to 5 times stronger in comparison to the venom of the snakes present in the mainland.
According to studies, the venom of such snakes has the power to kill human beings and even melt their flesh almost instantly. Now, you can just imagine the effects of the venom of the snakes on Snake Island. The venom of the snake can even cause brain hemorrhage, internal bleeding, and kidney failure.
In Brazil, about 90 percent of snake bites come from the golden lancehead snakes. When any humans are bitten by a single snake with such a poisonous snake, they can die just within an hour of being bitten. In fact, the lighthouse still remains off-limits, for reasons that are quite obvious.
According to one of the tales relating to the snake island, a fisherman had unknowingly entered the island in order to pick bananas. As expected, he was bitten by a venomous snake. He somehow managed to return to the boat. However, he quickly succumbed to the venom of the snake. Later, he was found dead on the boat deck, surrounded by a pool of blood.
Still Want To Visit?
The Brazilian government has strictly controlled the visits to the island. However, in case of legally sanctioned visits, the government recommends that the visitors must have a doctor in their team to act promptly in dangerous situations.
But the island looks like it will remain off limits to most people. Only researchers and biologists are given special permission to visit the snake island and study more details about the golden lanceheads.
Top Image: Golden Lancehead Vipers. Source: Ko biet / CC BY-SA 4.0.
By Bipin Dimri