The island of Queimada Grande, located about 144 kilometres off the coast of São Paulo, seems to be one of those beautiful places of the costa verde (green coast) of Brazil. But after learning the terrifying truth about the place, you will probably never want to visit it again – the island is infested with more than 2,000 species of the snakes Bothrops Insularis, one of the most deadly snakes in the world.
Up in the trees, behind rocks, hidden, they are dangerous, poisonous and are everywhere. The jararacas-ilhoas are critically endangered. But fortunately this is their shrine.
The venom of these snakes can kill a person in less than 1 hour, and local legends tell the horrible fates awaiting those who roamed on the shores of the island. It is rumored that a fisherman landed on the island in search of bananas, and was only discovered days later dead in his boat with a pool of blood and puncture wounds all over his body. From 1909 to 1920, some people lived on the island. But according to a local tale, the last lighthouse keeper, along with his entire family, died when a group of snakes came into their house through the Windows.
This island is unique in the world. Isolated, there are no mammals, no fresh water and is also visited by migratory bird species, that are the snakes favorite and only meal.
So that the island is not the only refuge of the jararacas-ilhoas, 20 snakes were replaced at their new house in Butantã Institute, in São Paulo.
The island is protected by environmental laws and may only be reached by researchers
The next challenge for the researchers is to reproduce, in Butantã, the same conditions of temperature and stress of the island. And speaking of the snake island, getting there is an adventure for a few. The highest part of it has 200 meters of altitude.
The researchers believe that about 20000 years ago, the planet cooled and sea water has accumulated in the Poles, in the form of ice. The level of the oceans went down about 100 meters. So many Islands became hills. And animals freely circulated in the new territory. But about 11000 years ago, the planet started to warm again and the ice melted causing the ocean level to rise again. The hills became Islands. And the animals there became isolated. The ilhoas are cousins of the continent jararacas – which are known to cause 80% of accidents with snakes in Brazil.
The Bothrops insularis prefer daylight because they seek birds
The agility of jararacas-ilhoas on the trees is what differentiates them from their cousins on the mainland. While the Mainland is more active at night, because they eat rodents, the Bothrops insularis prefer the day because they hunt birds.
The preservation of the serpents assisted the development of medicine
It was discovered using experimental poisoning, that there existed a class of molecules in the poison that worked helping to lower blood pressure, that culminatedin the development of a drug known as the captopril, which is an appropriate remedy to decrease angina in the chest. The But information about these snakes still are few and precious. The researchers do not know, for example, how long a Bothrops insularis lives.
The documentaries below are from brazilian tv stations on trips to the island.