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Deadly'Snake on View in Renmavk

By John OrreU, F.R.G.S. (IiOnd)T.B.Q.8.A. ... j

Following the announce ment - a recent issue, that the head! of « deadly teuton is on view in the window of Haffley - Chemist Ren mark, Mr. John QrrelL of C&-T&8. who is viSitinff Ben mark, has Contributed the following interesting article on thlg species -of rejptlle.

Headline news has been made) ' throughout Australia during the past few months by the sudden prevalence of a "new" snake' in North Queensland. The re-valua tion of the pound sterling; ,th0 Korean war, even the. racing news has been nudged oR the front page by some new report^ of a further "taipan incident." Many stories mostly exaggerated-have circu lated regarding this deadly reptile, but it was not until Kevin Budden, a Sydney het-patologist, actually caught a specimen alive in the suburbs of Cairns, and iost his Jifc in an attempt to bag the specimen that serious considera tion was given to the potency of the pest, end to account for the* sudden plethora of its kind in

(the district

Actually the... taipan has been known for years in the North on. the Cape York Peninsula as the King Brown Snake. Notably fer ocious, it was always given a wide berth, and no doubt flourished in splendid isolation in its native hab itat. In 1939 Dr. Donald Thompson identified the snaka as a separate and distinct species from the common brown, and recorded his find ings. The comparative rarity of the reptile's occurrence precluded any widespread interest in the learned doctor's findings, and his records, save for the interest to herpatolbgists, passed almost un noticed.

Sudden Appearance

In 1949 and 1950, however, the taipan took the field as first-class news. Not isolated specimens, bub daily killings were recorded, and local naturalists were at a loss to account for the sudden appearance of this comparatively rare snake in Jarge numbers. The theory ad vanced by Dr. Hugo Flecker, FRCS {Edin), FRGSA, the abnormally wet seasons have .driven the snakes to the areas which have facilities for a good run-off for flood wat ers, and the availability of food iq the thousands of giant toads which infest the canefleidB and surround ing arms, appears to be the most likely explanation of their prev aleucy. Whatever the reason, the fact remains that the taipan, can now be regarded as a definite per manent resident of the North, not only in the Gulf country, but in the city and suburbs.

Although justly described as the most deadly of Australian reptiles, the taipan's lethal propensities tie not in its potency of venom-both the tiger snake and the death adder have more deadly venom but in the length of its fang. the. determination with which it strikes and its tendency to hang on after

striking until the full content of

the p0ls0h-8$ds has'been exhausted;

Possessed of--ft dual poison, the taipan .has two attain to Hs-bow in: every elrlke. ' An anti-venlne. has been'developed .for the one, poison; but rio known antidote has been found for the second, which paralyses the inspiratory organs. Although many cases are on record of persons having been bitten by the talpaji, only two definite re coveries have been noted. ; One of these was an Aboriginal who was bitten through his trousers and boot, and the other a white man, also bitted through the boot. %?

Kevin Budden, Who lost his -fife collecting the one specimen to be caught alive was with ap expert herpatologist when the snake bit :him, he was in hospital under ex pert medical attention within 20 minutes of the strike,, and had all .the facilities of & hospital equip ped for such cases at his disposal. He died within 48 hours of admis Even the iron lung could not off sion. Even the Iron lung could not offset the effects of the venom which paralysed his respiratory system.

Specimen at Rcntnark

The snake at present on exhib ition in Renmark was- killed lit the heart of Cairns, within, aj storfe's throw of the railway stat ion. A workman on his way to his place of employment' heard, a lady call "Snake," arid hopped off his bike to assist. Having kijled the reptile he continued on his

way" The ' snake - was sent to a,

member of the local Naturalists' Club, and Jater identified by Dr. Flecker as a genuine taipan.

'It was known in Cairns -that Adelaide Museum had no.specimen and through the courtesy of Mr. Alfred Read (president of the North Queensland Naturalists' Club) this head-which is perhaps the best specimen yet obtained has been sent doftn for presenta tion. *' ^

Characteristics of ttie taipan as distinct from the common brown, are: (a) the orange-red "white" of its eye (most snakes exhibit only a basilisk black optic, but this particular species havd- a dis tinct ring around the piipll, the colour disappears In death, but can be identified in the specimen available); (b) The length of fang, and . the accompanying gum over the fang (it is claimed by some experts that this gum turns the ordinary channel tooth of the snake into a veritable hypodermic, re ceding as the snake strikes); (c) The dished forehead with the- dis tinct centre shield (this is partic

ularly noticeable on the specimen, on view).

It - is the writer's opinion that when the next taipan is caught, ative the experiments concerned with the research for an anti vernine should be carried out In the North. Climatic and temper ature 'changes are evidently ag ainst the reptile's survival in the South, and', specimens -would have a greater 'chahce of survival on1 their native heath than If trans ported South. And with their sud den prevalence, an anti-vernlne must he found.