I am in special kind of love with South America and I cant wait to visit each single part of it. There is  the sky with authentic blue colour and the ocean is almost turquoise green. The mystical, ancient ruins that have been lost in dangerous rain forests….so much to be seen, heard, remembered, told and retold. One of its pearl is, with no doubt, wonderful Brazil. The land of thousand contrasts and one,  big heart. You can meet luxury and poverty, gold and mold at the same time but you can see life that is screaming at you and Brazilians can teach you about practicing the gratitude and happiness. Those people have been somehow born happy and beautiful and that is why I feel Brazil and Brazilians like my soul  home.

Among all miracles in Brazil, I am fascinated by Snake Island. I must admit that I have heard recently for this paradise for snakes and I heard that from my mom,  who followed the documentary from National Geographic. Then, I decided to dig a bit and to knit a story that will drag you into the complete thrilling.

What is so unique about this island? Almost everything because this island is free from humans and it is only 93 miles away from downtown Sao Paulo. According to the explorers and their studies, on this island live between one and five snakes per square meter. Isn’t that amazing? The snakes enjoy their habitat because they live on feeding themselves on migratory birds,  that use this place as a station for rest:“Between one and five snakes per square meter might not be so terrible if the snakes were, say, two inches long and nonvenomous. The snakes on Queimada Grande, however, are a unique species of pit viper, the golden lancehead. The lancehead genus of snakes is responsible for 90 percent of Brazilian snakebite-related fatalities. The golden lanceheads that occupy Snake Island grow to well over half a meter long, and they possess a powerful fast-acting venom that melts the flesh around their bites.The potent venom of this species evolved due to the need for the snake to quickly incapacitate and kill seabirds that land on the island’s trees before they are able to fly away. On an island ecosystem occupied by hundreds of competitors, the deadly venom of the golden lancehead maximizes its potential to feed and survive. Golden lanceheads are so dangerous that, with the exception of some scientific outfits, the Brazilian Navy has expressly forbidden anyone from landing on the island.”

Now, when we know a bit more about this snake heaven, we naturally ask ourselves how it has been created and why ? The humans fled this island only because of growing population of the most dangerous snakes ever and they had a plan to make deforestation and to start with banana plants. Nevertheless, the snakes changed the course of destiny and forced people to move far away from this Slash and Burn Fire corner, as it said the origin of the island name, in Portuguese.  The one urban legend writes that wild pirates have imported snakes to protect their stolen treasure while other myth is narrating that  lighthouse keeper and his family have been killed by snakes and they were the last human inhabitants in the late 1920s. Just to mention, nowadays, Brazilian governments prohibited anyone to come close to this Snake land and periodically only  Navy and accompanied researchers visit it, for leading the studies and control if everything is as it should be, free from humans and ideal for dangerous snakes. The scientific conduct is given to the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation that is screening the snake population and brings us the news and advanced information.  For onlookers, this may be a horror place to be visited and experienced but for the global wildlife, this is a sanctuary for really endangered dangerous species like golden lance head is. Those guys live mostly here and at least on this Island,  they should have their peace. Their mainland relatives are also very dangerous but those goodies developed very potent venom so they can survive isolated life and kill their prey enough soon to eat and survive.

The problem is that some asians wildlife criminals are spreading news that those magical snakes have a perfect venom to be used against heart diseases. This means illegal action and even crossing on this forbidden island for getting a snake venom, risking life, of course, for getting potential money from the black wildlife market consumers. The one snake would bring about 30.000$ on the illegal wildlife market. The human greed is simply unstoppable like it is not enough for those creatures to fight every day to survive and to find enough food for them. Maybe the nature is helping them since the migratory birds are always settling up here because the island is silent, beautiful and breathtaking but the predators are lurking everywhere.  It is the most dangerous tourist destination, if we ever can call it tourist. Without snakes crawling around, this would be a secret paradise for rich and celebrities. Instead of it, this island has a dangerous reputation and I believe it should be so continued, in order to protect the golden kings of the snake species. Do not try to negotiate with the locals to drive you with the boat to the island since it is illegal, it is against rules of wildlife protection and there are animals that should be respected and left in their own harmony, if possible.  When there is a large amount of curiosity accumulated in your mind, you can always visit Butanta Institute in Sao Paulo and their golden lance heads or the Zoologico Municipal Quinzinho de Barros in Sorocaba city, state of Sao Paulo, also known to have those alluring snakes.

I find it very important to keep such places untouchable and inaccessible for homo sapiens. As long as this is realistic, we can assure to the natural habitat to recover itself or protect its borders from human ignorance and exploitation. As long as we make that, the golden snakes will survive the venom of human greed, the deadliest venom of all times.







  1. Sarah’s intriguing and informative article reminded me of the history of deforestation in Brazil, as the appellation of ‘Ilha da Queimada Grande’ refers to this: the Portuguese adjective ‘queimada’ means ‘burnt’; a reference to when the island was populated by humans who used the technique of slash and burn for land clearing and farming bananas. This resulted in the barren topography of the island with only pockets of vegetation remaining…

    Humans have been present in the region since c. 8000 BCE, and practiced land clearing of rainforests for various reasons.

    The Brazilian rainforests are one of the most biologically-diverse regions of the planet: over 1 million species of plants and animals are known to exist in The Amazon Basin and many millions of species are unclassified or unknown. With rapid deforestation, the habitats of many animals and plants are under threat and some species may face extinction. Deforestation reduces the gene pool: there is less of the genetic variation needed to adapt to climate change, in the future…

    Rainforests are the oldest ecosystems on Earth. Rainforest plants and animals continue to evolve; developing into the most diverse and complex ecosystems on the planet. In tropical rainforests, an estimated 90% of the species of the ecosystem live in the canopy. Since tropical rainforests are estimated to hold 50% of the planet’s species, the canopy of rainforests may hold 45% of life on Earth.

    Species interdependence takes many forms in the rainforests (i.e. including snakes), from species relying on other species for pollination and seed dispersal to predator-prey relationships and symbiotic relationships. Each species that disappears from the ecosystem may weaken the survival chances of another, while the loss of a central species (i.e. an organism that links many other species together) could cause a significant disruption in the functioning of the entire ecosystem: snakes are an intrinsic species to ecosystem equilibrium.


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About Sarahowlgirl1982

I am a master of Political Sciences, with special focus on Security Studies, Islamic Counter Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction. I enjoy discovering and commenting things which are " in the air" but still not spoken.I also do like science writing and planing to move myself into the pure science journalism !