Snake Island is home to the Golden Lancehead, a very deadly snake. The island is also known as Ilha da Queimada Grande and sits about 21 miles off the coast of Brazil. It is the island with the most venomous snakes in the world, making it the world’s most dangerous island!
History of the Island
Ilha da Queimada Grande means “the island of the big land-clearing fire” in Portuguese since locals in the 19th century used this technique to clear the land. The plan was to build a banana plantation on the island, but as soon as the explorers saw the snakes, plans were quickly abandoned.
The island is just 110 acres or 430,000 square meters it is pretty small for an island. It has many various types of terrain, beaches, grassy areas, rainforest, and bare rocks.
While we all may like to get off the beaten path when we travel, may I suggest you NOT visited this place? It is actually illegal to do so, but if that is not enough to deter you, then an island with thousands of snakes with venom that melts flesh ought to do it!
If you somehow managed to be in a boat around Snake Island, it would appear that an ideal place to head to the shoreline or into the rainforest. It has a calm atmosphere with temperatures running from 19 degrees Celsius in August to 28 degrees Celsius in March. It is easy to see it as just some other beautiful tropical island.
How many snakes are on snake island Brazil?
The island was once thought to have a population of about 430,000 snakes, but some estimates are now lower, but still in the hundreds of thousands.
The island was once part of the mainland, but the snakes became trapped when about 11,000 years ago rising sea levels covered up the land that connected it to the mainland, making it an island. This left the snakes to adapt to their environment, increase rapidly in population.
Are there people on Snake Island?
Not anymore, though at one time whole families lived there to maintain the lighthouse which is still standing. You can find it on Google Earth.
Snake Island Lighthouse
A lighthouse was constructed in 1909 to steer ships away from the island, operated by a single family. During one supply trip, in the 1920s, the crew of the supply boat found the lighthouse abandoned and the door left open. The family was found, dead, having died from attacks by golden lanceheads that had entered the residence. The lighthouse is now automated.
The Golden Lancehead snake
The golden lancehead snake (Latin name: Bothrops insularis) is one of the most dangerous snakes in the world. It gets its common name from the golden color of the underbelly grows to about a length of 28 inches but some snakes have been found that have grown to 46 inches.
It is thought that there are between 2,000 to 4,000 golden lancehead vipers on snake island. No one has been brave enough to go count them 1 by 1!
The venom of this most dangerous animal is said to melt human flesh and one bite can cause kidney failure, intestinal bleeding, brain hemorrhaging, and can be fatal within one hour of being bitten.
What do the Golden Lancehead snakes eat?
The only things the snakes have to eat is birds that land on the island. The golden lancehead snake has evolved to climb and wait in trees, to drop on birds that land nearby.
The snakes have no predators so they rapidly reproduce. Because there are so many snakes on one island there is fierce competition for resources. Some estimates have one snake to every square meter of the island,
Other Snakes of Snake Island
While the Golden Lancehead is the riskiest inhabitant on the island and has the best numbers, they aren’t the only snakes that call it home.
The Sauvage’s Snail-eater is a non-venomous snake and lives on the rainforest part of the island and eats, as their name implies, snails and other little bugs.
I wouldn’t want to run into any snakes, but by comparison, this one doesn’t sound so bad!
Poachers try to steal Golden Lancehead snakes!
Believe it or not, there are poachers who come to the island at night to steal away some of the snakes. On the black market, the snakes can be worth anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 US Dollars.
The only people who are legally permitted on the island are research teams to collect data and samples.
A very unlucky fisherman
According to the travel guidebook Atlas Obscura local people in the waterfront towns close to the island love to relate this terrible story:
A fisherman unwittingly wanders onto the island to pick bananas. Naturally, he is bitten. He manages to return to his boat, where he promptly succumbs to the snake’s venom. He is found sometime later on the boat deck in a great pool of blood. The other story is of the final lighthouse operator and his family. One night, a handful of snakes enter through a window and attack the man, his wife, and their three children. In a desperate gambit to escape, they flee towards their boat, but they are bitten by snakes on branches overhead.
The Brazilian Navy
By law, the island is closed to the public. Like they needed a law!
The Brazillian navy comes by every now and then to make sure the lighthouse is still working. They change the bulb and batteries on a yearly basis. They also patrol to make sure no thrill seekers are wandering the island.
There are no docks on the island, so the navy patrols must land on a small rocky coastline and carry the gear up very harsh terrain, all the while looking out for the snakes!
The ship waiting offshore is well staffed with dedicated medical personnel and to date, there have been no deaths due to snakebite so far.
Why don’t they just kill all the snakes?
Some readers on Facebook have asked why doesn’t the government just kill all the snakes? Apparently, the venom of the Golden Lancehead can provide useful medicine. Some Scientists think that there may be a possible anti-cancer drug or medicine to treat heart disease or blood clots contained in the golden lancehead’s venom.