Poison

Indian Krait

Indian Krait

The Indian Krait is third in our list of World’s most Venomous snakes.It has enlarged hexagonal vertebral scales and there are narrow white crossbars on the back more or less distinct in pairs. Its scales are shiny. Its neck is not evident and its iris is black. Its body is long and cylindrical and its tail is one-sixth to one-eleventh of its total length. It is lustrous black or bluish black above with paired narrow white crossbars indistinct or absent anteriorly. In the young ones the cross bars are conspicuous.

Their venom is 16 times more effective than cobra venom. Krait venom is extremely powerful and quickly induces muscle paralysis. Clinically, their venom contains mostly pre-synaptic neurotoxins. These affect the ability of neuron endings to properly release the chemical that sends the message to the next neuron. Following envenomation with bungarotoxins, transmitter release is initially blocked (leading to a brief paralysis), followed by a period of massive overexcitation (cramps, tremors, spasms), which finally tails off to paralysis. Not all these phases may be seen in all parts of the body at the same time.

They are mostly found in India, Srilanka and Pakistan.

I had my own experience with snakes when I was teaching a grade four class.

There was a very troubled boy in the class, academically and socially far behind, with attention deficit and hyper activity, medicated with Ritalin.  Coke bottle glasses, easy tears, frequent nosebleeds and even more frequent tantrums, he was “hard to serve” and it was a challenge to protect him from himself and from the school yard bullies.

One day he arrived with a bucket filled with tiny snakes he had found in a field. This immediately made him a classroom celebrity because everyone wanted to see them.  Seizing the “teachable moment” and eager to enhance his status with his peers, I got an aquarium from the science room and we built a small reptarium, complete with water and grass, etcetera.  Then we took this to the library, so that children could come in small groups to see them, and my student stayed there, proudly displaying and explaining his find.  At the end of the day they were returned to the bucket and sent back, I hope, to where they had been found.

Only then did the librarian explain to me that this had been the most terrible day in many years of teaching.  He had been raised in India, and those harmless Ontario garter snakes so closely resembled kraits that he had been in a state of suppressed panic all day.  He knew they were not, could not possibly be, kraits. But he had been fighting terror all day. Remarkable professionalism, as he smilingly supervised the library visits and showed the children the books he had collected about snakes! I had no idea…

I know this is a long blog, but stay with me for the best.

Roald Dahl,  wrote an amazing story called Poison. Dahl, a decorated war hero and intelligence officer as well as a prolific author, is now best known for writing James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, His adult writings are very different… macabre psychological and erotic thrillers.  Poison is a great example of the former.  You can read it here:  whs.wsd.wednet.edu/Faculty/Zobel/documents/Poison.pdf   (To open it copy the URL to Google, it cannot be linked)

When Alfred Hitchcock adapted Poison for his weekly television program, he removed the racism and substituted his own ironic surprise ending.

This is what television drama used to be. I miss it… what happened?  If you want more, it’s there on You Tube!

 
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3 Responses to Poison

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  3. Sufiya says:

    I don’t know how anyone could mistake baby garter snakes for kraits; garter snakes do not have any ‘crossbar’ markings; rather, they have two longitudinal yellow stripes on a fairly plain body.. It is possible that what you had there was milk snake babies, who DO have large circular markings all down their length, which could rather resemble the ‘crossbar’ markings of kraits. . Poor librarian!

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