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HANDBOOK FOR SURVIVAL IN THE RAIN FOREST

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Handbook for Survival in the Rain Forest

Snake bites & Prevention


The greatest danger of dying in the Rain Forest is to be bitten by a venomous snake and not have available the appropriate anti venom for each kind of serpent.

Today you can find Anti Venoms with Polyvalence properties, lifiolised (not needing refrigeration) and, if applied in the appropriate manner will save your life if bitten by a venomous snake, no matter if you were unable to identify it.

The species of venomous snakes that can be found in the Peruvian Rain Forest are the following:
  1. Genus: Bothrops: Fer de Lance and Green Tree Viper. Their bites may cause two effects: A local or benign necrosis or a grave or systemic one.

    The benign one will start with a moderate feeling of pain, and then there will appear a big oedema at the place you were bitten, which will turn darker until turning into a wound with a scab and then turn into a scar. This is a process that may take up to several months but it is very seldom that this is what will actually take place.

    Much more common is the grave or systemic one, which is characterised by a strong sensation of pain, loss of consciousness, and the followed by blocking of the kidney tubes with consequent retention of urine, very high fever and eventually death after a period of three or four days, unless treated. (See Drawings 13 a, b and c).

    Bothrops Bilineatus
    Bothrops Bilineatus.
    Loro machaco or Green Tree Viper.

    Drawing 13a


    Bothrops Andianus
    Bothrops Andianus.
    Fer de Lance or Jergón de Terciopelo.

    Drawing 13b


    Bothrops Atrox
    Bothrops Atrox.
    Fer de Lance or Jergón de Selva.

    Drawing 13c


  2. Genus Lachesis: The only representative of this genus is the so called shushupe or Bushmaster, which has a venom that acts in a mixed manner, being both neurotoxical, proteoloic and haemolytic. That means that it will eventually produce a respiratory paralysis accompanied by massive internal bleeding or haemorrhage. (See Drawings 13 d and e).

    Lachesis muta
    Lachesis muta. Shushupe

    Drawing 13d


    Lachesis muta. Shushupe de colmillos  largos
    Lachesis muta.
    Shushupe de colmillos largos.

    Drawing 13e


  3. Genus Elapis: Corresponding to the species of local coral snakes, locally known as coral, coralillos, naca-naca and chaquira. Their venom is of a neurotoxic action. (See Drawing 13f).

    Micrurus Coralillo o Naca-Naca
    Micrurus Coralillo o Naca-Naca

    Drawing 13f


  4. Genus Crotalus: The most common representative of this genus is the famous Rattle Snake. However, there are no Rattlesnakes in the low Rain Forest areas of Peru, but there exists a non venomous snake that locally goes under the name of Cascabel Falso or False Rattle snake, which looks very much like the real thing but is not venomous.

Before making recommendations regarding how to avoid snake bites, one must take into consideration that more than 70 % of all snake bites are produced in the area of the ankle and lower leg, and this is due to the fact that the majority of venomous snakes in the area (with the exception of the Bushmaster) tend to be fairly small and when attacking, only project the front third of their body length, using the rest of their body as a support on the ground. Thus, if we protect the above mentioned areas we will have come a long way towards evading being bitten by a venomous snake.
  1. Always use rubber boots or thick walking shoes with ankle protection when you enter the Rain Forest. Do not use tennis shoes or similar. Should you not have rubber or leather boots, protect yourself with pieces of tree bark tied to your ankles and up the whole length of your legs bound with pieces of cloth or elastic bandages.

  2. Snakes will be generally found inside holes in the ground, among leaf litter and inside rotten tree trunks. Remember to use your flexible rod or bamboo staff, of which we spoke earlier, to whip lash the leaf litter and do not try to turn over the fallen or rotten tree logs, and never put your hands underneath such, always use a rigid long pole or thick gloves. Also, do not separate tree branches using bare hands, always use your flexible wooden rod or bamboo stick for this.

  3. If you should happen to find yourself in front of a venomous snake in an attack position ready to bite you, the first thing to do is to observe the distance between yourself and the snake and try to measure whether the striking distance equals the third part of its body and if it would be able to strike from the distance it finds itself. If you should be outside its range, distance yourself from it and change your direction, but always keeping an eye contact with the snake. If it has suddenly appeared and is in an attack position, immediately jump away from it and if you happen to be carrying something in your hands, such as a piece of clothing or other, immediately throw it in its direction in order to distract it from yourself and thus letting it concentrate on striking the object instead of your body. Generally speaking, you can consider that venomous local snakes seldom are more than 50 centimetres long.

  4. Another thing that you can do if you are attacked by a snake and you are wearing rubber or leather boots, is to quickly raise your foot, at the same time pulling your leg backwards, in order to offer the sole of your boot to the striking snake, thus protecting your ankles and lower leg.
For the treatment of snake bites please check our First Aid Hand Book in the corresponding chapter.




Introduction
General Information
How to determine
your position
Auxiliary signals
for air rescue
How to prepare to
enter the Rain Forest
How to get around
in the Rain Forest
How to build a shelter in the Rain Forest
Search for water
and food
Dangers within the
Rain Forest
How to ford a water course
How to act during
a thunderstorm
How to act when encountering natives
Snake bites & Prevention
Insect bites
 
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