We visited the Reptile's collection on 2017, 30th of October. Raoul Gonzalez, director of the vivarium, presented the activities and realized a demonstration of venomous snakes handling.
260 individuals are housed in the vivarium (crocodiles, snakes (venomous or not), chelonians and lizards); Among them, the vivarium owned Gila monster, venomous snakes like Naja, Gaboon viper, mamba, rattlesnake... and nonvenomous species like boas, pythons, colubrids...
One important information to remember is the bite of viper snakes (possible in France and Switzerland) is dangerous and painful, especially for babies and children, but death rarely occurs after the bite. Antivenom is available and following the bite, local reaction with important edema are present but systemic reactions develop later. It is contraindicated to use garrotte to stop venous circulation. On the contrary, it is better to let the venom diffuse because the local reaction will be smaller and the risk of amputation is less important.
A snake has around 70 teeth directed backward. When you are bitten on your hand, it is better to push your hand inside the mouth, so the snake will have the reflex to open the jaw and it will be easier (because of the orientation of the teeth) to withdraw your hand. Viper, Rattlesnake, Pitviper, mambas and Cobras... have venomous fangs.
NB: Some colubrids that are not dangerous for human are venomous for rodents or little preys. They possess a venomous fang that is very deep in the mouth and can only bite a prey that the snake is swallowing.
The bacterial flora of the mouth is well developed and dangerous for human people. It is mandatory to disinfect immediately with a broad-spectrum antiseptic (prefer povidone or chlorhexidine).
When handling a venomous snake, Raoul advises acting very quietly and sanguinely. Chose a snake hook with a length adapted to the danger of the species. The more venomous and quick the snake is, the longer the hook is. Chose a hook with flat metal (to trap the snake's neck on the floor) and a rounded and deep part to handle the snake. A V-shape hook is less effective and reliable.
Open the box securing your hand (don't put your hand near the opening). Let a safe distance between you and the box. Stay behind the snake, never in front of him. Open it slowly with two hooks. Then, catch the first part of the body of the snake with the first hook. Immediately, raise the head of the snake and hold the body with the second hook. Do not cross the hooks. Put the snake in his terrarium or box, starting by the tail (otherwise, the tail can catch some material and stop your handling). Close the new box or terrarium with the hooks, never with your hands.
If you feel hard to hold the hook or the head (muscular contracture for example), it is better to restart. Let the snake escape in a safe way, and catch him a second time, safely. It is safer than trying to move our hand and, if the snake feels that we're not holding him firmly, he will move suddenly and bite or escape.
If you need to move the snake, handle the head with the hook (present the hook in front of the nose of the snake, it will automatically raise its head, and you will put the hook under the neck easily) and touch the tail.
Cobra (or Naja) is usually shy. They will open their collar but won't bite if they can escape. If nobody moves, they will explore their environment.