New snake type found in Dubai

Dubai Municipality warns public that the puff adder, a species of poisonous snake new to the country, has been found in cargo at Dubai Ports.

Dubai: Dubai Municipality has warned that a type of snake not found in Dubai has entered the emirate in shipments that came through Dubai Ports.

Hesham Abdul Rahman Al Yahya, Head of Pest Control Section, said that Dubai Municipality has identified the snake — it's known as bitis arietans or the puff adder and it belongs to the viperidae snake family. The municipality's laboratory announced that this particular type of snake is poisonous.

Dubai Municipality described the snake as having a wide, yellow-coloured head while its colour is a mixture of silver, golden and grey. The snake, of African origin, can grow to be 40 to 80 centimetres long, with its tail being up to nine centimetres in length, and can weigh up to six kilograms.

Dr Reza Khan, specialist, wildlife and zoo management, Public Parks and Horticulture Department of Dubai Municipality, told Gulf News that there is a small population of this particular type of snake found in the Arabian Peninsula.

"If bitten, the inevitable result is death as we do not have antivenom for this viper snake in this part of the world," explained Dr Khan. "However, it can be treated elsewhere with the proper antivenom since they are species specific."

He clarified that the cause of death is not the poison, but rather envenomation, the substance produced, stored and delivered through a special mechanism by an animal, such as snakes in this situation.
"I understand it was found in a cargo in Jebal Ali Port as a dead specimen preserved in liquid in a glass bottle," said Dr Khan. "Where it came from; however, remains unknown."

Dr Khan also said that this particular type of snake lives in rain-hit areas such as the Dhofar Mountains in Oman, Yemen and South-Western Saudi Arabia. He stressed that the species of snake does not thrive in the UAE, and the public should not panic.

He added that one must be careful around poisonous snakes as they pose high health risks. The wildlife specialist emphasised that only experts should handle such poisonous snakes as they have the proper experience and attire needed to deal with them.

"Dead or alive, do not touch the snakes. People should not be afraid of snakes since there are only a few around us in the country and the proper treatment for them is available," said Dr Khan.

He explained that in the UAE, there are only three land vipers, which have large, oval-shaped heads, a very narrow neck and a bulky rough scaled body. Dr Khan added that some hospitals in the UAE can be contacted in the case of a snake bite.

"As far as I know Dubai's Rashid Hospital and Sharjah's Qassimi Hospital keep antivenin for the UAE vipers," he said. "But there is no first aid kit for snake bites so keeping the patient cool, immobile and immediately take them to one of the government hospital mentioned."

Dubai Municipality has asked the public to report any occurrences of this type of viper by contacting them on their hotline 800900.

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