Working with Deadly Cobras for a Living

All 3 cobras are in motion - their heads are a little blurred.
All 3 cobras are in motion - their heads are a little blurred.

I just returned from a trip to see my friend that works the cobra show at the beach. He’s been doing it over 5 years and he shared with me many stories about how he catches the different types of cobras, pit vipers, pythons, and other snakes. Usually residents nearby call him and he goes out and catches whatever they have.

As he filled my head with great snake catching information that will help me for years to come, I noticed he was missing a good amount of tissue in his arm where there should have been muscle under the skin. I asked if he was bitten by a snake there. He said he was, a King Cobra, during a show about 5 years back.

He went on to tell me that the crowd was screaming, but he didn’t panic – just put the snake back in the box, locked it, and told the crowd, “Sorry, the show is over today!”

He then drove with a friend as fast as they could the 20 minutes to the town hospital where the anti-venin was kept. He said he was numb gradually over his entire body. He was hooked up to a heart monitor and he remembers the doctor asking his friend over and over which snake he was bitten by! These are SNAKE GUYS for god’s sakes, they know which snake – and here the doctor is questioning whether it was really a cobra. My friend could hear the conversation, but do nothing as he was effectively paralyzed.

His friend told him what happened next was that his heart rate fell off the monitor and flatlined. The doc and nurses rushed him in to give him the chest zaps and he came out of it, they injected the antidote and he was in the hospital for 18 days. I asked if he thought he would die – he said, yes, but only when he heard the doctor delaying the treatment…

He shared another story with me…

Apparently the other guy that works the show had a little brother that was keen on becoming a snake guy too. His older brother sent him to work with my friend here. The snake guys don’t like to work with new snakes as they’re unpredictable, but the young brother was good already and said he wanted to take the fast, new snake of only 3 days for the show. Reluctantly the other staff agreed and let him do it.

He was bitten on the chest just about 10 inches from the heart. On the way to the hospital driving as fast as he could, my friend was asking him how he felt to keep him awake. The kid said he couldn’t move much – was becoming paralyzed… suddenly he unleashed a flood of sweat and said, “Everything is white in front of me… I can’t see anything, it’s all white…” He died in the passenger seat still 10-15 minutes from the hospital and only 5-10 minutes from being bitten.

At the hospital he called the older brother that was still in Phuket and told him his brother was bitten. The brother asked, “by a cobra I guess, yes?”

Yes, a King.

“Where are you now?” His brother said.

“At the hospital…”

“Ok, well they’ll give him the anti-venin and I’ll come up tomorrow.”

“Uhm, no – come now.” My friend said.

He didnt’ tell his friend that his brother had already died, and only told him when he picked him up at the bus station. He had chills on his arm when he told me, and I did too – it was a really sad story and, though my friend said he drove as fast as he could to the hospital there was no way he could have done any better. He was still over 10 minutes away from the hospital…

I wondered whether they kept the fangs and poison glands in the King Cobras they work with. They do. They sell the poison after milking them as it’s valuable, and they also give some to the hospitals.

So, I heard some amazing snake stories today. Stories that will make me respect the snakes more – and take even more precautions with the cobras and Malaysian pit vipers especially.

We’re set to go kayaking and look for mangrove snakes soon – hopefully will add some video of that at YouTube (thaipulsedotcom is my user account there).

Cobra Encounter…


Flying fast down twisty roads, slammed on the brakes to avoid a cement truck fully parked in my lane – on a blind curve…

Speed back up and flying toward the hiking spot just as a light rain began to fall.

“What was tha…?”

SCREECH the brakes and skid to a stop, completely forgetting my friend was following me on his motorbike. I look back just in time to see his front tire miss the head of the snake I saw crossing the road a half-second before.

He still doesn’t know why I stopped and I’m running back toward him- he must have thought I was momentarily insane…

I was. I had snake fever. In a very bad way.

When I saw the hood come up – I almost screamed out – “Cobra! Can you get your video camera?”

I found a stick and started slowing him down from getting into the grass. Film was rolling… I played with him for 20 minutes or so. The hisses of air that accompany each serious strike were awesome to experience about 15 inches from his mouth.

I’ve yet to get a copy of my friend’s video footage – but will stick that and mine on my YouTube Thailand Travel Channel in a few days.

There’s just something about cobras… wicked cool snakes.

Here’s a short video of a guy bitten by a monocled cobra – a much larger one than I have here, but apparently the little ones are quite able to kill you too.

I think they have a number of ‘facts’ wrong in their reporting of this… like they say one bite from this type of snake can kill an elephant. I haven’t heard that one. I’ve seen that a King Cobra can bring down an elephant. I saw one die from a bite (online). However, the venom from the monocled cobras is supposedly more potent than King Cobra venom – it’s just that king cobras have a whole lot more of it they can inject with a bite.

They also say monocled cobras are the deadliest snakes in the world… I think that title belongs to the Inland Taipan snake – for deadliest venom. And the most deadly snake in terms of number of deaths, is the Russell’s Viper (Chain viper) – also found here in Thailand, though I’ve not seen one yet.

If you want to learn more information about Cobras and other poisonous (venomous) and nonpoisonous snakes in Thailand I put this together:

Thailand Snakes FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions and Answers regarding Thailand’s poisonous and nonpoisonous snakes.