Move over Australia’s old and most well-known snakes! There’s a new guy in town.
The bandy-bandy, down-under’s latest ‘extremely venomous’ breed, is not here for fun and games.
Discovered at Weipa on the west coast of the Cape York Peninsula by a team of biologists led by the University of Queensland’s Associate Professor Bryan Fry, the bandy-bandy snake may already be in danger of extinction however, thanks to nearby mining.
Bandy-bandies are burrowing snakes, so Freek Vonk from the Naturalis Museum and I were surprised when we found it on a concrete block by the sea, after coming in from a night of sea snake spotting.
We later discovered that the snake had slithered over from a pile of bauxite rubble waiting to be loaded onto a ship.
Following an examination by student Chantelle Derez, the bandy-bandy turned out to be a new species, visually and genetically different from those found on the Australian East coast.
The plucky biologists found another specimen in its natural habitat near Weipa and another killed by a car nearby the mine.
Two more specimens were found in museum collections and a photo was found of another, accumulating a tally of six observations in the same small area.
But researchers fear the species could already be in danger of extinction, just before you go and get yourself worked up by the idea of coming across one of these bad boys.
Bauxite mining is a major economic activity in the region, and it may be reshaping the environment to the detriment of native plants and animals. The importance of such discoveries goes beyond simply documenting what is out there, as venoms are rich sources of compounds that can be used to develop new medications.
Every species is precious and we need to protect them all, since we can’t predict where the next wonder-drug will come from.
The discovery of this enigmatic little snake is symptomatic of the much more fundamental problem of how little we know about our biodiversity and how much may be lost before we even discover it.
Ever wondered what to do if you or someone around you gets bitten by a snake? Here’s a handy step-by-step breakdown as per Rita’s Outback Guide:
Try to reassure the victim.
Don’t cut the wound, do not even touch it. The remaining venom helps to identify the snake.
Don’t put ice or any lotion on the wound.
Don’t be a fool and try to catch and kill the snake. You might suffer from a bite next.
Apply a pressure immobilisation bandage immediately. It helps to slow down the movement of the venom in the body. Don’t make it too firm, it shouldn’t stop the blood flow. The bandage should be firm enough to compress the lymph vessels. It should stay in place until a doctor takes care of the victim.
Remember kids, venomous snakes are NOT your friend. If you come across one trying to give you some sweets, politely decline and walk in the opposite direction.
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]