The Most Venomous of Snakes.
[Daily Telegraph .] A. recent arrival at the Zoological Society’s Gardens in Regent’s Park deserves special notice, apart from the fact that it is the first of its species known to have been brought to England. It is a snake, called the eehis carinata, about a foot and a half long, and of a dingy grey. Yet, although in appearance neither interesting nor formidable, it is the deadliest of created things. This detestable little worm, which, looking at it, the spectator might make bold to say he could imitate very passably in cork and putty, is, nevertheless, one of the miracles and masterpieces of nature, for it is death itself, and carries in its tiny head the secret of destroying lite with the sudden rapidity of lightning and the concentrated agony of all poisons. The echis comes to us from India, where it is tolerably common, being found in
nearly every part of the peninsula, and feared wherever found as the incarnation of instant and terrible destruction. Fortunately, however, for man, it is not, like the cobra and the korait, a house-frequenting snake; for its tiny size would give it a terrible advantage over human beings who live crowded together, as the natives of India do, in small darkened rooms, while its aggressive habits would make it infinitely more fatal to life than its dreaded relatives. For this king of the asps, this modern basilisk, is not only venomous beyond conception, but it is actively offensive. It does not turn to escape from man, as the cobra will, or flash into concealment like the korait,
but, conscious perhaps of its deadliness, deliberately keeps the path against its human assailant, and, putting its own eighteen inches of length against his bulk, challenges and provokes the conflict. A stroke with a whip will cut it in two, or a clod of earth disable it; but such is its malignity that it will invite attack by every device at its command, staking its own life on the mere chance of its adversary coming within the little circle of its power. At most, the radius of this circle is 12 inches, but within it, at any point, lies certain death, and, on the bare hope of hand or foot trespassing within its reach, the echls throws its body into a figure-of-eight coil, and, attracting attention by rubbing its loops together, from which the roughness of the scales —hence the epithet carinata —makes a rustling, hissing sound, erects its head in the centre, and awaits attack. No one having once encountered this terrible worm can ever forget its truculent aspect when thus aroused, its eagerly aggressive air, its restless coils, which in constant motion one over the other, and rustling ominously all the while, stealthily but surely bring it nearer and hearer to the object of its fury ; the eye, malignant even beyond those of other vipers, and then the inconceivable rapidity of its stroke. For the echis does not wait to strike until it is within striking distance, but vents its malice in repeatedly darting at nothing, hoping, perhaps, to aggravate its antagonist into closer quarters, or, more probably, as a mere expression of its own uncontrollable viciousness.
Permanent link to this item
The Most Venomous of Snakes., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 271, 17 February 1881
The Most Venomous of Snakes. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 271, 17 February 1881
Using This Item
See our copyright guide for information on how you may use this title.