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Deadly snake found in Essex in shipping container

Written by on 20 October 2021

A deadly stowaway snake found its way to British shores after being found in a shipping container from India.

The saw-scaled viper – a species of snake believed to have killed more people than all other species combined – was collected by South Essex Wildlife Hospital before it caused any harm.

“The authorities that had already been contacted were not responding to the situation so our reptile expert Steve and Tom the vet collected the very agitated and aggressive animal before someone was likely killed,” the hospital said.

They added: “It is now in a locked box in a sealed room (Tom taped up the door) with warning signs, awaiting collection from an appropriate facility that Sue our manager has contacted.

Tom the vet placed the snake in a locked box before sealing the room. Pic: South Essex Wildlife Hospital Image: Tom the vet placed the snake in a locked box before taping up the room. Pic: South Essex Wildlife Hospital

“We are glad not to have to deal with venomous creatures too often but feel sad for the snake that we can’t give it freedom and get it back home.”

Sue Schwar, the charity’s founder and manager, said the people who opened the crate and found the viper were “very lucky to be alive”, BBC News reported.

“The snake was probably cold from travelling, so was not too active.”

Having dealt with a saw-scaled viper before, the hospital said it “understood fully the gravity of how dangerous these reptiles are”, adding they are “way up there in the top few most deadly snakes”.

Officially known as Echis vipers, they are typically found in the dry regions of Africa, the Middle East, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Twelve species of saw-scaled vipers are currently recognised – including some responsible for causing the most snakebite cases and deaths in the world. They also have a distinctive threat display by creating a sizzling sound.

However, saw-scaled vipers are usually relatively small snakes, with the largest of the species usually below 90cm (34in) long, and the smallest being around 30cm (12in) long.