Russell’s Viper

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Our last night in the Lesser Sundas we encountered the famous Russell’s viper (Daboia siamensis), now considered a distinct species from D. russelli under the common name eastern Russell’s viper. I had been scanning the ground for hours every night, but since it had been extremely dry my hopes of seeing one diminished as the night came to an end. Thanks to our guide Ajis, who located one near a concrete water storage tank, we had the opportunity to see this wonderful cryptic creature. I had been itching to see a Russell’s viper since I associate them with the fer-de-lance (Bothrops asperB. atrox) I had so frequently seen in the New World tropics. There is something about cryptic ground-dwelling vipers that allures me, probably because of memorable encounters with large Bothrops vipers. The D. siamensis was clearly upset that it had been disturbed from its hiding spot, hissing loudly, inflating the body, and striking. Interestingly, there are about 50 reported cases of envenomation from Russell’s vipers resulting in hemorrhaging in the pituitary gland and hypopituitarism. Acute treatment with corticosteroids for hormone replacement is possible, though chronic hypopituitarism leads to life-long complications. As is common with introduction of venom to the body, kidney injury also frequently occurs.

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