Brazil has some of the world’s most spectacular sights, from the Iguazu Falls to the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park.
One of the most beautiful sites in Brazil appears to be Ilha da Queimada Grande, located about 90 miles off the coast of So Paulo.
The island is well-known to most Brazilians, but few would consider visiting because it is home to up to 4,000 golden lancehead vipers, one of the world’s deadliest snakes.
(Photo : Erik Karits)
Mystery Behind the Snake Island
These venomous snakes can kill a human in less than an hour, and there are countless local legends who tell of what happened to people who ventured into Snake Island, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
A fisherman is said to have made the mistake of landing on the island in quest of bananas, only to be found dead in his boat, drenched in blood and bitten by snakes days later.
There are those who think pirates hide their wealth in snakes, although the island’s snake population has grown steadily for thousands of years without human interference.
Sea levels rose enough to cut off Ilha da Queimada Grande from the rest of Brazil about 11,000 years ago, forcing the snake species that inhabited on the island-most likely jararaca snakes-to diverge from their mainland counterparts.
On Ilha da Queimada Grande there were no ground level predators for the snakes, allowing them to reproduce at a high rate.
Slithering upward in search of prey, the snakes pounced on the island’s seasonal influx of migrant birds. Once their prey has been bitten, snakes wait for the poison to take effect before hunting again.
Due to the fact that golden lancehead vipers are unable to locate the birds they bite, they have evolved venom that is three to five times stronger than the poison found in mainland snakes and is capable of rapidly killing most prey (and melting human flesh).
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Is the Snake Island Worth Visiting?
Visitors to Ilha do Queimada Grande are rigorously monitored by the Brazilian authorities. The island of Ilha da Queimada Grande is unlikely to be a popular tourist destination even if it weren’t for the government prohibition, since each square meter on the island has one snake in it.
Even with treatment, victims still have a 3% risk of dying from a bite from a golden lancehead, which carries a 7 percent death rate. In addition to renal failure and necrosis, the venom of the cobra can also cause brain hemorrhaging and intestinal bleeding.
Visiting the island without a doctor is prohibited by Brazilian law, in case of an unfortunate encounter with the native population.
(Photo : Deedee)
Threats Facing the Snakes
To study the golden lanceheads, biologists and researchers have been given permission to visit the island on a particular basis.
Wildlife smugglers, also known as biopirates, have been known to frequent Ilha da Queimada Grande because of high black market demand from scientists and animal collectors. The snakes are caught and sold illegally; a single golden lancehead can fetch between $10,000 and $30,000.
The snake is presently designated as critically endangered on the Red List of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as a result of high demand.
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