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4 years ago

Marathon rescue of pregnant viper tangled in tar ends in heartbreak

A five-hour-long effort to save a pregnant viper that had become tangled in coal tar dumped by the side of a road has ended in heartbreak.

India's Snake Helpline received a distress call that a Russell's viper -
one of the world’s deadliest snakes - had been found tangled in coal tar.

The tar had melted in the blistering summer heat and trapped the snake, which had tried to slither through it.

By the time the volunteers arrived, someone in the crowd had already freed the snake by pouring diesel on it.

Subhendu Mallik of Snake Helpline said: “Diesel fumes damage lungs and dehydrates snakes. The botched rescue aggravated the condition of the badly injured snake.”

The snake, whose face completely smeared with tar, was shifted to a veterinary hospital run by the Orissa University of Agriculture & Technology (OUAT).

Two veterinary surgeons and their staff battled to save the weakened but agitated snake.

Dr Biswadeep Jena of OUAT said: “The handler was holding the snake with his bare hands. Its two big fangs were visible to us as we removed tar from its face.”

Despite their effort, the snake grew weak and then something started stirring inside its stomach.

After an X-ray revealed that the snake was heavily pregnant, the vets carried out a caesarean procedure to save the babies.

They pulled out 19 baby vipers but none of them survived. They all succumbed to the trauma and the lack of oxygen. The mother also died.

“The thick layer of coal tar made it difficult for us to spot the pregnancy earlier,” said Dr Jena.
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