Saturday, May 10, 2008

Snake Farm

As part of our "Thai Culture Immersion Program" c/o my husband, we visited the Snake Farm today. Now don't let the name fool you for this is not your typical farm because it's located in the city. It's just five minutes away from Paragon Mall and it's probably the only farm that you can go to wearing high heels (I saw one girl wearing heels)!

Here's a short background on the Snake Farm aka Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute (QSMI): QSMI is the second biggest snake farm in the world; the first being Butantan in Brazil. It was built primarily to manufacture anti-venoms that are effective in treating snake bite victims in the region. There are 180 known varieties of snakes in Thailand and 56 of them are venomous. While imported anti-venoms are widely available, some of them are not very effective in treating Thai snake bites. Thus, this facility was created. QSMI also breeds different species of snakes, both venomous and non-venomous, since catching them has become difficult. In short, the Snake Farm creates the anti-venoms and breeds the snakes that produce the venom that will be used in the anti-venom.

Aside from snake anti-venom, the facility also produces anti-rabies and tuberculosis vaccine, and operates an immunization clinic for locals and travelers.

Entrance fee is Thb200 for adults and Thb50 for children. You can explore the snakequarium on the ground floor and the museum on the second floor. They also have a snake handling and venom milking demonstration at 11:00am + 2:30pm on weekdays and 11:00am on weekends and holidays. I suggest that you schedule your visit in time to catch the demo since there really isn't much to see in the Snake Farm. Sure it is very interesting to see real live snakes, but most of them are either hiding, sleeping or just plain coiled up and doing nothing! The demo would allow you to catch them in action.

The Snake Farm entrance.

This is the entrance to the snakequarium. Galing mag-pose ni Yan, no?

Here are some of the snakes that we saw. Sorry, I wasn't able to write down their names so I will just improvise.

The coiled variety...

The albino variety (pero coiled pa rin!)...

...the moving variety...

...and the hiding variety. Can you see the snake in this picture? Great camouflage! Notice the temperature controls? Sosi naka-aircon!

Then on the second floor, you will see snake bones...

...more snake bones...

...snake skin...

...more snake skin...

...and bigger snake skin! You can just imagine how long this snake is.

They also have small media rooms where you can play a VDO (video). This particular room is about the role of snakes in mythology. Obviously we weren't listening much because we were taking pictures. Hehe! The last picture shows the Greek god Hermes and the origins of his staff, the Caduceus, which is more commonly used nowadays as the symbol for medicine.

They also had nicely preserved snakes on display, which kinda makes you feel as if you're inside a weird science lab/space ship/house of horrors.

The museum provides a lot of info about snakes such as anatomy, reproductive system, and more importantly, its digestive system. That means, you have to learn how they eat so that you won't end up as their next meal!

Then, we went to the auditorium outside to catch the demo.

Look at the size of that King Cobra! Did you know that this is the 18th most venomous snake in the world?

Looks like the cobra is going for the host! Buti na lang we're at the last row.

Sige manong, itago mo na yan.

Then they brought out another cobra. This one moves faster, is more aggresive and it makes a hissing sound when it lunges towards the handler.

Show off! What will he do kaya if the cobra bites his balls? Haha!

More snakes. The last one is non-venomous. It would be interesting to know that this kind played an important role in Thai agriculture because these snakes helped them get rid of the rodents that infested the rice fields.

At the end of the show, they brought out a python for picture taking. This boy is not only cute, but he is very brave too!

I'm not really a big fan of snakes -- except if they come in the form of red peeptoe and high heels! -- haha! snakeskin shoes pala! So the Snake Farm wasn't really that great, pero pwede na rin because you will learn a lot. The most important of which is what you should do if you see a snake in the woods; either you stand still (some snakes do not have any sense of smell and are virtually blind so they rely mainly on vibration to sense their prey) or you run as fast as your feet can take you (for snakes who can sense your body heat, it's not advisable to stand still). I guess you have to be a snake expert or a science geek for you to know if the snake in front of you is the vibration kind or the heat-sensing variety. That means, for ordinary people like us, the best that you can do is dial your cellphone, and call the person who you think can come to your rescue fastest (venom can do serious damage in 30 minutes so every minute counts!). This will work if you remembered to bring your mobile on your camping trip or, if you did bring one, you can get a clear signal in the forest or wherever you are. Lucky for me, I don't have to worry about these things because the forest is probably the last place I will end up in and the souvenir shop at the foot of the mountain is bound to be snake free for sure!

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