Snakes escape into Thai floodwaters

 Thai veterinarians were hunting on Thursday for 15 venomous African mamba snakes that had reportedly escaped from a flooded building in Nonthaburi province, neighbouring Bangkok.

Government officials were tipped off on Wednesday about the snake escape by messages posted on Twitter, that could not be confirmed. “It might be true, because we know that there are a lot of illegal animal smuggling operations in Thailand and they would not dare to alert officials themselves if the snakes had escaped,” said Nantharika Chansue, president of the Zoo and Wildlife Veterinarian Society of Thailand.

The society, in collaboration with the National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, dispatched teams to Pak Kret district, Nonthaburi, 16 kilometres north-west of central Bangkok, to hunt for the green mambas in the flooded neighbourhood on Wednesday and Thursday.

“We have issued warnings to the public that these snakes are green, similar to the green snakes indigenous to Thailand, but the mambas are a lot bigger and very dangerous,” Nantharika said. “If you see one, stay far away.” A victim of a mamba bite usually dies within 20 minutes. Thailand has no mamba antivenin stocks, she said.

“We still can’t confirm whether the mamba report is true or not, but for the sake of the public the Health Ministry has ordered an emergency shipment of antivenin that should arrive tomorrow,” Thai Health Minister Wittiya Buranasiri said on Thursday.

Thailand has suffered its worst floods in decades this wet season, with waters inundating 26 provinces, including parts of Bangkok.

Besides killing 437 people, the floodwaters have also endangered the lives of domesticated and wild animals.

The Zoo and Veterinarian Society has in recent weeks rescued 100 deer, 30 wild boar, 15 tigers and scores of pet monkeys that have been stranded by the floods and abandoned by their owners, Nanthika said.