Planet China

Cobra alert

Cooking snakes is not without occupational hazards. A chef in Guangdong’s Dongguan city suffered a fatal bite from the severed head of a king cobra while preparing a snake delicacy last month. Last year a woman was also bitten by a snake. The plucky viper had survived three months of pickling in a wine bottle before plunging its fangs into her. But the confrontation between man and reptile escalated to a new level in Guangdong last week as more than 100 deadly cobras invaded Xihai village.

They first emerged a fortnight ago, with dozens of snakes slithering through cracks in the village’s walls and pavements, writes the Yangcheng Evening News. It turned out that a local farmer surnamed Zhong had purchased about 150 cobras to prepare snake wine. He kept the reptiles in a bucket in his backyard. But he seems to have been careless, as they all escaped. Although most were young cobras, measuring just 20 to 30 centimetres, they’re still deadly. Local police and snake experts were sent in to hunt for them but only two thirds were recaptured.

Worse still, only one Chinese firm is qualified to produce a serum and Shanghai Sailun hasn’t made one for cobra bites for three years (presumably having concluded there wasn’t much demand). Fortunately no one has been hurt in Xihai so far. But Zhong’s horrified neighbours are having to sprinkle sulphur under their walls to fend off the runaway cobras. Zhong faces a fine and will have to pick up the bill for the rescue costs. “I am very sorry and will take better care in the future,” he said.

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