By Kimberly McWhorter, MPH, CPH; Roy Malleappah; and Dr. Anura Samaraweera, MD, Ph.D.
It was pitch black except for the occasional beam of one of our flashlights searching over the water. As we walked along a dirt embankment, to one side of us sprawled Lake Arawana Wewa, where we searched for the reflective eyes of mugger crocodiles (Crocodylus palustris), and on the other side, the rain forest presented the real danger of encountering and being trampled by an elephant. No luck, the muggers never materialized, but thankfully neither did the elephants.
On the way back to camp, while watching the road for snakes, we spotted a couple of locals holding a long branch with a serpentine shape draped over the end. Our vehicle stopped and rolled back, and we jumped out to take a closer look.
What we found saddened us. The limp form on the stick was indeed a snake, a beautiful adult Russell’s viper (Daboia russelii). The two men explained that they had killed the viper inside their house. They were now taking it far away from their home to dispose of its body. Even though the snake was clearly dead, these men still feared it. They stood well away and looked at us with a mixture of revulsion and curiosity as we carefully examined the body. Venomous snakes, after all, were the reason we had come to Sri Lanka.
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