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Thai Red Cross Snake Farm

One of the highlights of my time in Bangkok was visiting the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institue & Red Cross  anti-venom and snake breeding facility. It is more affectionately known as the Bangkok Snake Farm.

The King Cobra’s venom is a neuro-toxin that can quickly cause paralysis and interrupt your ability to breath.

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Founded in 1913, this facility was expanded from its original role as a rabies vaccine clinic to focus specifically on animal toxins in 1929, making it one of the oldest anti-venom research centers in the world. In addition to it’s role in venomous snake research, the facility is open to the public as an education center, where you can learn about the wide variety of native Thai snakes, including the  worlds largest reticulated python) and statistically most deadly (Russel’s Viper).

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The Copperheaded Rat Snake above looks mean but is non-venomous, and in fact can aid in keeping small rodents away from agriculture (when they are not nabbed for lunch themselves by the highly venomous Banded Krait, or even the choosy rice farmer).

Watching the Red Cross staff handling some of these incredible creatures was mesmerizing and startling, and I was reminded of the strange relationship with the ‘serpent’ that can be found in most, if not all, human civilizations. A research laboratory celebrating the very animals which are the cause of the ailments they seek to cure seems a perfect depiction of this strange relationship.

The snake and the serpent, flesh and blood reptile and demonic dream-image, reveal the complexity of our relationship to nature and the fascination and beauty inherent in all organisms

– E.O. Wilson