I like animals. I’m one of those people who likes animals more than people.
I’m a reptile person. I’m one of those people with a room in their house filled with tanks of snakes and lizards.
Reptiles are great. They don’t make noise, they don’t shit all over your house…they don’t call you up one day to confess that they smoke crack, they don’t leave you for someone else while you’re vacationing with your mother in Alaska, they don’t use their looks to plot to ruin your life and your job to take you up North to be their bitch boy…if anyone’s gonna ruin my life it’s me. Anyway (adjusts tie), reptiles have more class than that.
Sooo, I was of the mind just a few months ago, before the pandemic hit…that I would eventually “GRADUATE” to being a venomous keeper. I kept Monitors and dart frogs, various snakes, axolotls, etc. Mostly safe stuff…yes dart frogs are safe, they get their poison in the wild from the bugs they eat. Plus you shouldn’t handle them much anyway, they stress out.
So I bought a few snake hooks and got some books. The books about venomous keeping want to make it very clear: KEEPING VENOMOUS SPECIES IS A PAIN IN THE ASS AND UNLESS YOU WORK FOR A ZOO OR A VENOMOLOGIST WHO MILKS SNAKES TO MAKE NEW MEDICINES, YOU SHOULDN’T DO IT!! EVER!!!
First is the question of legality. You gotta be in a place where it's legal to keep them…look up your local laws. And state laws.
Second part, in order to do it right, you have to build a room separate from your house to keep the venomous critters and make sure it is 100% ESCAPE PROOF. Build or buy some high-end escape proof enclosures.
Third part, you must purchase 20 to 30 vials of anti-venin and keep it in a fridge near the snakes with syringes nearby as well. Why so many? That’s often how many vials it takes to keep you alive from a snake bite at the hospital. Crofab is common enough in the US and its best for rattler bites. However, if you have anything OTHER than a rattler…you may be fucked. I wanted a West African Bush Viper. Those things are beautiful…and they're small and lethargic. So I thought…why not? But then I looked up the anti-venin…there is none. The closest thing available is Saw-Scale Viper anti-venin, but it’s not exactly the same thing…so there’s no telling if it would work. And I had to order it from a company in the Middle East. Also, Saw Scales are one of the big 4 snakes that kill the most people on the planet. India has the most snake bite deaths. The other three are the Spectacled Cobra, Russel’s Viper, and the Common Krait. Krait’s are sea snakes. Beautiful snakes. But I digress.
Also anti-venin ain’t cheap…each vial will cost you between $200 to $500 dollars depending on the species. With 20 to 30 vials, a snake bite can cost you $20,000 to $30,000 or more just in anti-venin. That doesn’t include hospital stay and everything else.
And why do you have to get your own vials? BECAUSE HOSPITALS DON’T USUALLY HAVE THEM! Not only that, if you do decide to invest in all this, you have to call your local hospital and tell them that you own venomous snakes and to please use the anti-venin in your fridge to save your life in case they have to come over. Especially if it’s a foreign species.
Now, that’s if you do it the right way. If you do it the wrong way and get bit…people may move heaven and earth to keep you alive, but you will be shunned and mocked by the reptile community and possibly make enemies…if the hospital doesn’t have any polyvalent whatever, then they might try the zoo. If the zoo has enough they might charge you for it later, and being awakened at 3 am to save some dipshit who got bit and needs to borrow your Black Mamba juice…well…it’s embarrassing. No one wants to be the reptile keeper on the news who makes the rest look bad.
Reptile people are a tight knit community in some places. They’re like gun people. They have expos and conventions and God help you if you try to make any laws on what animals they can keep. The Lacey Act a few years ago wanted to ban large constrictors and Anacondas…and the Reptile Forums went apeshit. Cuz if they banned certain snakes in some states it would mean you would have to drive out of state to a vet if your snake had kidney stones or whatever. And that could risk your pet’s life.
I will close with some words about Animal Rights people. I sympathize. To a point. There’s a book called The Invisible Ark. It’s an analysis of the pet trade and current environmental issues. It takes the rather cynical stance that many of the world’s natural places may be lost in the next few decades and that responsible pet ownership may be the last line of defense against extinction. This is already true about many species or reptiles. It’s a good book.
Last January I was on lake Xochimilco in Mexico City. I asked the boatman if they actually had Axolotls there anymore. “Tienen Axolotes?”…”Son muy raros.” They are very rare now. Even though they have pictures and souvenirs of them everywhere. Lake Xochimilco was the only place these iconic neotenous salamanders existed in the wild. Tourism and pollution kind of drove their numbers down. Now they only exist in labs and the pet trade. Forty bucks for an Axie. Cute little things. Hopefully the same won’t happen to the rest of them.
I thought this to myself as I took a shot of Pulque and stared contemplatively into the murky waters.
"Forty bucks for an Axie. "