A stonemason in Essex discovered more than just rocks in a recent shipment when he was faced with one of the world’s deadliest snakes.
The container of rocks, that had been sent from India, was also home to a saw-scaled viper that had managed to hole up inside for the journey.
The stowaway serpent is usually found in the Middle East and central and southern Asia, and is responsible for a high proportion of snakebite deaths due to it living close to areas inhabited by humans.
South Essex Wildlife Hospital (SEWH) were called to the scene and the viper – that is extremely venomous – was locked in a box in a sealed room while the team waited for an expert to collect it.
The charity said the snake was “very agitated and aggressive” and could have killed someone had it not been locked away.
Warning signs were placed on the door to ensure the safety of anyone inside the building.
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Sue Schwar, SEWH’s co-founder, told the BBC that the people who opened the crate where the snake was found were “very lucky to be alive”.
She added: ”Having dealt with [a saw-scaled viper] before, we understood fully the gravity of just how dangerous these reptiles are – they are way up there in the top few most-deadly snakes.”
It is thought the snake was less active as it had been travelling in cold temperatures.
After collection the snake was “hissing and spitting” on its way to a hospital in Grays.
Schwar said that arrangements were being made for the snake to be looked after by a “responsible owner” who understood the dangers of the species.
Saw-scaled vipers can reach lengths of up to 80cm and are quick to bite if they feel threatened.
Due to the availability of anti-venom, bites from this particular species do not always causes deaths but victims can suffer from haemorrhaging, resulting in them bleeding to death.
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