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Taiwan hiker bitten by Thai spitting cobra

Experts fear Thai spitting cobra could be new invasive species in Taiwan

Thai spitting cobra (left), victim of snake bite. (Wikimedia Commons, Taichung City Fire Bureau photos)

Thai spitting cobra (left), victim of snake bite. (Wikimedia Commons, Taichung City Fire Bureau photos)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — A man has undergone two surgeries after being bitten by a Thai spitting cobra in a mountainous area of Taichung, prompting fears among experts that the highly venomous snake could have become an invasive species in Taiwan.

According to the Taichung City Fire Bureau, on Nov. 2 it received a report that a 64-year-old man surnamed Chou (周) had been bitten by a venomous snake while hiking on the Dakeng No. 9 trail before dawn. Chou said he had been bitten on the left ankle by an unidentified snake and tried to turn back down the mountain for help, but the toxicity of the venom caused him to collapse after a few steps.

Other hikers happened upon the man and called for help. Local residents then transported him down the mountain in a small pickup truck.

Paramedics who arrived at the scene rushed Chou to a nearby hospital. However, the powerful venom had already wreaked extensive damage on Chou's leg, requiring two surgeries and five debridement procedures.

Taiwan hiker bitten by Thai spitting cobra
Chou lying in pickup truck. (Taichung Fire Bureau photo)

Learning of the seriousness of Chou's injury, officials from the Taichung City Government Tourism and Travel Bureau visited the hospital to investigate. They were told by hospital staff that an analysis of blood tests found the bite had been delivered by a Thai spitting cobra (Naja siamensis), also known as the Indochinese spitting cobra, which has a toxicity six times that of indigenous cobras, reported the Liberty Times.

The powerful venom spread rapidly from Chou's ankle to his calf and thigh. Doctors said that in 10 years of treating snake bites, they had never seen such a serious injury.

Chou is slated to undergo a third operation in the next two days. The financial burden of all the procedures is putting a strain on the family, which is of modest means.

As he was attacked by a wild animal while hiking on a trail that is managed by the Taichung City Government, public liability insurance reportedly will be applied, possibly alleviating some of the financial weight on Chou's family.

Taiwan hiker bitten by Thai spitting cobra
First responder tending to Chou. (Taichung Fire Bureau photo)

According to local farmers, a group of Buddhists seeking good Karma has been seen releasing cobras, believing that reciting Buddhist scriptures upon their release would prevent the snakes from biting people, reported SET News.

The Dakeng No. 9 trail has been shut down for the rest of the month, and the city has hired a snake removal and control service to deploy traps and snake repellent among other countermeasures. When hiking mountain trails, members of the public are advised to wear heavy boots and long pants and carry a trekking pole or walking stick to detect and deter snakes lying in the grass.

Taiwan hiker bitten by Thai spitting cobra
Thai spitting cobra in southwest Thailand. (Wikimedia Commons photo)