Lausanne has a vivarium dedicated to reptiles, mostly snakes and crocodiles, and a few scorpions and tarantulas. Usually, I’m not easily fascinated by animals behind glass windows. Or rather after going through the repetitive set of tasks of (i) finding the animal and (ii) scanning the text in the infobox for something noteworthy 20 times, I simply tend to get bored a bit, even if the skin has an amazing texture. But on this visit there were at least two things to keep me from getting bored.

First, every Thursday you can witness the feeding of the crocodiles.Crocodiles largely feed on carrion, so dead rats and dead fish was good enough for them. Snakes on the other hand are more picky and for them the dead animals first have to be heated up to body temperature and possibly even be moved around a bit. This, unfortunately, we couldn’t see. But seeing the crocos chew on the rats and also bite each other a bit is in  certain sense “fun”.

The second thing, which really made the visit worthwhile, were the stories by the keeper in charge of the animals. He was in his mid-twenties, with an “alternative” look and very long, partly dread-locked hair. He was simply “cool” referring to the sense of
“relaxed” of the word. He didn’t bother to put on any gloves to throw the dead rats to the crocos and he was also completely relaxed while telling us the story behind the big bandages on two of his fingers. He had recently been bitten by a highly venomous snake. For a second I thought that this was a joke, but it sure enough wasn’t. This had happened while he was removing an old skin, recently shed by one of the snakes. Personally, I have now idea why I would want to reach into a cage of a venomous snake for any reason, but then who am I to tell other people how to do their job. Anyways, he was bitten in the finger but, fortunately, the snaked did not inject a lot of venom. So he “only” lost one phalanx on one of his fingers due to local poisoning. Some skin had to be removed from another finger to aid with the healing process. He also showed us a book with lots of pictures of extremities of snake bite victims. I never knew how many shades of black the human skin can turn into. For a fairly mild teaser, have a look at the pictures towards the bottom on this page or this one.

Another interesting trivia, which he told us is that sometimes people even die of bites of non-venomous snakes as they simply think the snake was venomous and then die of a heart-attack due to excitement. Also, I learned that the coral snake is one of the most dangerous ones as its poison does not immediately lead to any swelling or irritation, but the effect only settles in after a few hours, when you’ll die in a short amount of time.

Anyways, through all the stories and the dry excitement they were told with the snakes suddenly seemed a lot more “alive” to me and seemed to leave their cage just ever so slightly, hence the title.

Oh, apart from the croco feeding and the near-death experience story it was interesting to see some strange looking tortoises such as this one or this one.

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