40 km (25 mi) off the coast of Brazil lies an island so dangerous it’s illegal to visit. But rules don’t apply to you. You’re a thrill-seeking adrenaline junkie ready to camp out for 30 days in the untamed wilderness of Snake Island. Where would you find shelter? How long would you live if you got bit? Or what would happen if you bit the snake?
Without resources or help, the average person wouldn’t last long on this tropical death trap. Back in 2019, when a fishing boat sank near the island, two people remained on the ship.
That’s right. They decided to take their chances in a sinking boat rather than spend one second on this serpent-infested island. And the few that risk their lives going into the rainforest may have questionable motives. But why would anyone risk their lives to visit this island?
Most people who come to Ilha da Queimada Grande, or Snake Island, don’t want to stay for more than a few hours. If you’re here for a month, stay near the shoreline. Going past the treeline, deep into the rainforest, could be fatal. Experts estimate there’s at least one snake per square meter (11 sq ft) across the 430,000 sq m (106 ac) island.
So what kind of reptilian killers would you be on the lookout for? How about as many as 4,000 golden lancehead vipers? And they’re all waiting on slow-moving targets like you to give them a chance to sink their fangs into. Separated from the mainland 11,000 years ago, the snakes here evolved venom powerful enough to kill their prey quickly to catch the migratory birds passing through.
This venom, five times more potent than that of the closest mainland snakes, would kill you within an hour if left untreated. It’s even strong enough to melt your skin. While these island dwellers prefer an avian diet, catching you would provide a lovely feast.
The venom in your system could damage your kidneys, destroy your muscle tissue or cause internal bleeding. All of which could kill you. But these dangerous vipers stand between you and freshwater sources further inland. Instead of risking your life for a drink, you could use leaves to collect rainwater.
As hunger sets in, you could eat bananas found at the edge of the forest near the coastline. If desperation sets in, you could try eating one of these snakes before they eat you. Let’s clear something up. Poisonous is not the same as venomous. Poisons cause harm when swallowed or inhaled. The toxins in snake venom aren’t harmful as long as they’re not in your bloodstream.
So If you caught a viper and, uh, removed its head, where the poison glands sit, you could snack on it. That does taste like chicken. Unfortunately, you wouldn’t be the only one looking to catch this viper. Biopirates and poachers often come to Snake Island, and not for the beaches. Just one golden lancehead viper could bring in $30,000 on the black market.
That might be the most expensive meal you’ve ever eaten. Since 1981, even drug companies have been using their venom in medications to treat high blood pressure. It’s believed that due to this high demand, the viper population here has decreased by a staggering 50% in just 15 years, placing it on the endangered species list.
But get in the way of these profiteers or venomous snakes and you would be the real endangered species on this island. If you kept those poison glands around, maybe you could have a refreshing drink for later. Come to think of it, what would happen if you swallowed snake venom?
- “Venomous Golden Lancehead Of Brazil’s Snake Island: Why It Must Be Left Alone?”. Benjamin Elisha Sawe. 2019. worldatlas.com.
- “How To Survive Unsurvivable? 4 Fishermen Stranded On Deadly Snake Island. “. Mikhail Voytenko 2019. fleetmon.com.
- “This Terrifying Brazilian Island Has The Highest Concentration Of Venomous Snakes Anywhere In The World”. Natasha Geiling. 2014. smithsonianmag.com.
- “How To Survive A Snakebite In The Wilderness — The Asclepius Snakebite Foundation”. Benjamin Jordan. 2018. snakebitefoundation.org.