Early in my time in Bangkok I had a friend tell me that there was a great snake farm in Bangkok that I should check out. Apparently there’s a “bad” one that is just a tourist trap where snakes are basically abused, then a good one run by the Red Cross where snakes are cared for well and used for venom research. The good one is the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute – I got to visit it and it was fantastic.
As you can see, there were many different species of snakes represented. Though there are a few exotics mixed in, the focus is on the species native to Bangkok, and nearly all of the common non-venomous species local to Bangkok are displayed. In addition, the snake farm had many of the vipers, cobras, and kraits native to the rest of Thailand.
Feeding time was neat – here frogs and frog legs are the default snake food.
In the morning they had a milking demonstration. Venomous snakes are milked to extract venom, which is then used in the production of antivenom which is given to snakebite victims in order to counteract the snake bite’s effect. After a short video on the history of the snake farm, a speaker talked about the venom program and what the antivenom is used for, then three employees pinned and milked one monacled cobra each.
There was a small, decent museum on snakes. Again, all the information was accurate and appreciated. I took a photo of their display of the results of snakebite. This is why you should not pick up venomous species – notice how many of the bites are on the hand, especially the right hand? It is very likely that the people who got bit on the hand were trying to pick up or kill a venomous snake. And the bites that are not on the right hand are on the foot – watch where you step when you’re in snake country!
Remember – if you are bit by a venomous snake, the most important thing to do is to stay calm, try to identify the snake (take a picture if possible), and have someone take you to the hospital immediately. The antivenom produced by the Red Cross Snake Farm is very effective, but the sooner you get it the better.
In the afternoon there was a snake-handling show but I wasn’t able to attend. Overall I was very happy with the quality of exhibit space and information at the snake farm – it was the most competent display of animals I had seen in Asia. I would recommend the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute to anyone who wants to learn more about our local snake species and the work being done to save lives.