A visit to the Red Cross Snake Farm at the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute in Bangkok is fun, it’s a tourist spot that’s both educational and entertaining. It is also a World Health Organization (WHO) research center.
My first visit to the Bangkok snake farm was on Thursday, December 03, 2015. I arrived about ten minutes late for the 2.30pm snake handling and information session, the handler gave us a basic understanding of the types of snakes in Thailand. He demonstrated us several types of snakes, among the snakes which resided at the snake farm were cobras, king cobras, copperheads, banded kraits, russell’s vipers, pit vipers, and sea snakes.
The snake handler in the gumboots had a velvet touch with the king cobra, the longest venomous snake in the world. It would lunge and he would draw back in one fluid motion, back and forth, over and over again, and knew how to grip the snake to keep himself safe from striking range and position, as the audience echoed with camera shutter-clicks.
I didn’t know snakes could move so fast, but one of them made my day. A Copperhead snake showed off its ability to strike when touched and suddenly remained quiet and tried to crawl away. One “Woah!” was all I needed to back off as far as possible. I made a cowardly skulk towards the end of the stand.
The handler was fairly close to the snakes and demonstrated the snake’s range of vision. He included enough facts, figures, background and anecdotal stories to hold the attention of the adults and children alike, his English was clear and fluent and his joking around provided the levity to lighten his more serious warnings. Throughout the talk, safe specimens were brought out to show the audience and the folks in the front rows were given the opportunity to get a closer look and sometimes touch the snakes themselves. Each time the handler smiled in their direction and extended his hand with the snake in it, there was a minor rush to the front.
Then the handlers pick the snakes up and swing them around by the tail. Presumably it’s about momentum – if the snake is swinging fast enough, it can’t co-ordinate well enough to get into a truly dangerous position. Even so, the fury is there. They make lunges, thwarted by gravity and speed of travel.
Here’s What I Learned – If you are bit by a venomous snake, the most important thing to do is to stay calm, try to identify the snake (take a picture if possible), and get someone to take you to the hospital immediately. The anti-venom produced by the Red Cross Snake Farm is very effective, but the sooner you get it the better.
It was one of the most competent display of animals I had seen in Asia. I would certainly recommend the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute to anyone who wants to learn more about snake species in Thailand and the work being done to save lives.
Highlights: Snake Handling Demonstration starts at 14:30 on weekdays and 11:00 on weekends and holidays
Opening Hours: 08:30 to 16:30 pm on weekdays – 08:30 to noon on weekends and holidays
Location: Thai Red Cross Institute, at the intersection of Rama IV and Henry Dunant roads
Admission fee :
Adult : 200 baht/person
Children : 50 baht/person