(4 April 1983, Washington, DC) Gaboon vipers are large, aggressive, ill
tempered, and among the most venomous snakes in the world. Despite these
characteristics, they are normally sedentary. So it was not difficult for
Louis, who had a penchant for snakes, to purloin two from the National Zoo.
He shoved them into a plastic garbage bag, where they remained, quite
docile, until Louis boarded a warm city bus. When the snakes warmed up,
they roused from lethargy and realized how undesirable their new
accommodations were. Naturally they decided to move. Our 16-year-old
herpetologist was bitten when one of the vipers ripped its fangs through
the plastic bag.
He landed in the hospital, where antivenin serum was administered until he
regained his senses. The purloined vipers were taken to the basement of
the zoo's reptile house, where they were treated to a week of stress-free
Viper venoms are hemotoxic (act on
the blood) as compared to the neurotoxic venoms of elapids (cobras and
adders). The Viper family has three subfamilies: the mountain viper
Azemiopinae, true viper Viperinae, and pit viper
Crotalinae. They are found worldwide. -Introduction to
Herpetology, 3rd ed., Goin, Goin, and Zug, pp333-36.
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Reference: Washington Post