A Deadly Case of Snake-Chew in Fifties Hong Kong

My eye was taken when trying by JOHN DUDLEY ROMER’s (1920-1982) pocket book* on snake specimens he had collected or been given in Hong Kong. Below notes on the King Cobra or Hamadryad (Ophiophagus hannah) he wrote:

Specimen from Lan Tao Island (Deadly Snake-bite Case)

A specimen (nonetheless alive) which had killed a person on Lan Tao Island [now Lantau or Lantao] was obtained from Marine Police on eighth August 1957. It was retained alive till tenth August 1957, then killed and returned to Marine Police.

After noting information from its scales (necessary options for taxonomy and identification) and intercourse (feminine), Romer founds its size was 2,135 mm instantly after demise, 2½ cm shorter than when alive. In brief this King Cobra was 7 ft 1 inch.

The China Mail of Friday 9 August 1957 reported the case however have been ready affirmation that the person had died. Romer instructed the newspaper that the snake may be very uncommon in Hong Kong.

Whereas snake-bite fatalities have been uncommon in Hong Kong, these working within the countryside have been on the biggest danger from this and different venomous snakes. With the digital finish of agriculture in Hong Kong that danger has most likely shifted largely to these clearing vegetation or jogging/strolling for pleasure.

The King Cobra remains to be unusual in Hong Kong however, as proven within the YouTube video under, some herpetologists have been fortunate sufficient to see one. Newspaper studies, such because the one proven from 2018, present that King Cobras flip up the place they aren’t made welcome.

The King Cobra, which isn’t a cobra in any respect, is the longest venomous snake, generally in extra of 5 metres, in elements of its vary, and thus capable of strike from a substantial better distance than the way more frequent Chinese language Cobra (Naja atra) for instance. The venom is principally neotoxic; human deaths can happen in half-hour. As its generic identify suggests, it is a crucial predator of snakes however not averse, apparently, to creating a meal of different vertebrates, generally I learn constricting its prey. 

In 1957 there was no publication in Hong Kong which enabled the popularity and identification of the venomous snakes that happen there or of what to do if bitten. Romer ready such a information for the Hong Kong Authorities in 1959. That was up to date a a fully-illustrated booklet in 1965. Romer’s interest and job, as the top of pest management, got here, for as soon as, into symbiosis.

*After Romer’s demise his papers have been deposited within the library of the Zoological Society of London. The final time I used to be there I didn’t have time to see what that Romer archive held. Then Jack Greatrex of the Division of Historical past within the College of Hong Kong contacted me. As a part of his analysis on the historical past of pest management he was going to be in London and supplied to ship me his gleanings from the ZSL library. I in fact accepted gratefully and Jack, now at Nanyang Technical College in Singapore, despatched me pictures of the assorted pages.

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