A man has been killed by his friend’s deadly puff adder while he was helping look after it.
The snake is now reportedly on the loose after escaping from the owner’s home in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – although some experts suspect that the animal may have been deliberately hidden by its owner.
The victim, a local man in his thirties, had been bitten twice by the African reptile, leading to a massive dose of venom. Doctors had been unable to locate a source of the anti-venom in time and he died a day later.
Dr Ahmad Khaldun Ismail, from the Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Department of Emergency Medicine, was one of the team trying to save the man.
He told the New Straits Times that no-one in the country had ever been bitten by a puff adder before: “The victim died 23 hours post-incident while the anti-venom was being procured from the Singapore Zoo”.
Referring to reports that the snake had escaped, Dr Ismail said: “It is possible the snake is still in the owner’s possession and hidden somewhere”.
He added that the incident highlighted “the danger of keeping exotic venomous animals without proper documentation and registration with the authorities.”
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Dr Ismail said that anyone keeping a venomous animal as a pet should also be obliged to keep a store of anti-venom.
He said it was unreasonable to expect hospitals to store anti-venoms to a wide range of exotic animals, and it wasn’t always practical to obtain them from zoos in time.
“It is the responsibility of the one bringing in the exotic venomous species, to also bring in the appropriate and adequate anti-venom for the exotic species,” he said, adding that people keeping dangerous animals should be required by law to maintain a supply of anti-venom.
Snake expert Dr Teo Eng Wah said that the snake could be “anywhere” by now, but echoed Dr ’s suggestion that it may be closer to come: “I am not even sure if the snake had escaped,” he said.