INTRODUCTION: The Kingdom of Thailand, being a tropical country, has one of the largest snake populations in the world.
INTRODUCTION: The Kingdom of Thailand, being a tropical country, has one of the largest snake populations in the world. Though there are 179 species, only 32 are poisonous and of these 10 breed on land and 22 in the sea. With the advance of civilisation the human populations is intruding further and further into jungle lands. and as their natural habitat is destroyed snakes are moving into inhabited areas and as a result more and more people are being bitten.
SYNOPSIS: This situation is creating an ever-increasing demand for anti-snake, bite serum. In order to manufacture it, snake venom has to be collected from the poisonous varieties and for this purpose a large number of deadly snakes are kept at a farm in Bangkok.
Poisonous snakes found in Thailand are Cobras, King Cobras, Branded Kraits, the Russell's Viper, a few species of pit Viper and some sea snakes. The Bangkok snake farm is an attraction to tourists and scientists from all over the world -- here a group is watching the curator giving milk to a Cobra after extracting venom from its glands. To the uninitiated the process appears dangerous -- but the experts have had plenty of practice.
This King Cobra is the largest poisonous snake in Thailand, but it is not aggressive and will attack only under extreme provocation. In fact, there has been no authentic case of a natural King Cobra bite on record, but supplies of serum are nevertheless kept at the ready.
In the wild the King Cobra feeds on smaller live members of the snake family and in common with other varieties prefers food that it has killed itself. In captivity king Cobras will not feed voluntarily, so they have to he forcibly nourished by the farm staff, who stuff lumps of meat down their throats with forceps and give them milk to drink.
Fresh snake venom is a transparent, yellowish liquid. After extraction it is dried and taken to a laboratory where it is dissolved in water prior to preparation for injection into horses -- the next stage in the production of anti-vennine serum.
This takes place at the Thai Red Cross Science Division at Bangphra. The establishment keeps two hundred horses for serum production. After weighing the dried venom is dissolved and injected into horses. This immunises them against the venom and 13 days after the injection the animals are tested to see whether they are neutralised or not. About 70 per cent of the serum production is consumed in Thailand and the rest is exported. A separate serum has to be produced for each type of snake bite -- for example Viper serum is useless against Cobra bites and vice versa.
If the operation has been successful the horse is bled. About 2,000 cc's of blood are taken -- depending on the size of the animal, up to about a quarter of its total blood supply.
The serum is then extracted from the blood and sent to another laboratory for processing into crystals. After packaging it is then ready for distribution throughout the country.