In 2013 we’ll all be living in the Year of the Snake according to Chinese astrology. If that makes some folks nervous, imagine living full-time on an island of snakes! These 7 amazing snake islands aren’t all crawling with legless, fork-tongued, venomous reptiles but each one has earned its serpentine sobriquet.
Ilha de Queimada Grande, Brazil
Ilha de Queimada Grande is a rugged island located in the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of the Brazilian state of São Paulo. The 430,000 square meter (110-acre) “Snake Island” is currently uninhabited though the remains of a lighthouse attest to a human presence in the past. Manning the lighthouse must have been a mighty stressful job as the island is literally covered with snakes – around one for every square yard of the island.
The snakes aren’t just any garden-variety serpents, either: three of the four documented snake species on Ilha de Queimada Grande are venomous pit vipers. King of the hill is (Bothrops insularis), the Golden Lancehead, one of the deadliest snakes on Earth. Because these snakes prey on birds instead of mammals, their venom has evolved to become up to five times more poisonous than that of its mainland relatives. We’re guessing the island’s lighthouse keepers didn’t go out much.
St. Thomas Island, Bulgaria
(images via: a href=”http://vodno-spasiavane.com/2010/09/13/змиите-в-черно-море/”>Vodno Spasiavane and Bulti Forumn)
St. Thomas (St. Toma, or Zmiyski ostrov) isn’t a very big island – just 0.012 square kilometers or 2.97 acres – but it stands out for a number of reasons. One is the abundance of fish-eating Grey Water Snakes in the waters surrounding the island, which over time has resulted in the island being referred to as Snake Island.
(image via: Evgeni Dinev)
Another distinguishing feature of St. Thomas is the vegetation: the ground is covered in wild cacti. Yes indeed, cacti, on a Bulgarian island in the Black Sea. In 1933 and for reasons he didn’t care to disclose, Bulgaria’s former Tsar Boris III ordered that wild cacti be imported from from Bratislava, Slovakia, and planted on the island. Since then the cacti have thrived and today it’s the only place in Bulgaria where wild cacti can be found.
Pulau Kalampunian Damit, Malaysia
Pulau Tiga Park off the coast of Sabah in Malaysia is made up of three islands. The largest, Pulau Tiga, is the original “Survivor Island” from the popular reality TV show’s premier season. The smallest of the three, Pulau Kalampunian Damit or Snake Island, is where the local venomous Sea Snakes go to mate. We think Survivor’s producers made the right choice though perhaps a little too close for comfort. The Banded Sea Kraits (Laticauda colubrina) that frequent Pulau Kalampunian Damit are relatively timid as poisonous snakes go, rarely biting people unless they’re provoked or accidentally stepped on. One should take care to do neither as their venom is estimated to be 3 to 4 times more potent than that of cobras.
Serpent Island, Ukraine
Serpent Island (also known as Snake Island or Ostriv Zmiinyi) is a small island made of volcanic rock situated in the Black Sea off the coasts of Romania and the Ukraine. The 0.17 square kilometer (0.066 square mile) island boasts a population of roughly one hundred concentrated in the village of Bile, though there is no natural source of fresh water on the island.
(image via: East View)
Serpent Island was known to the ancient Greeks and it’s been claimed by Russia, the Ottoman Empire, Romania and the Ukraine over the past 200 years. A 2009 ruling by the ICJ (International Court of Justice) confirmed the island belonged to Ukraine but is to be considered to be a “rock”, not an “island” and therefore not a basis for extending Ukraine’s exclusive undersea economic zone. As for snakes themselves, there’s no mention of them being prominent on the island.