Located 33 kilometers (21 mi) off the coast of the state of São Paulo, Brazil, the island is approximately 430,000 square meters in area. Ilha da Queimada Grande, also known as Snake Island, is an island off the coast of Brazil in the Atlantic Ocean.
The island is the only home to the golden lanceheads, species of pit viper and one of the deadliest serpents in the world. The island, therefore, is one of the deadliest islands in the world and has the highest concentration of venomous snakes.
According to the locals, the island was inhabited till the 1920s when the lighthouse keepers were all bitten by the snakes leading to their death.
A legend also claims that the snakes were put on the island by the pirates to protect their treasure. However, even if there is, there’s no way to check since the Brazil government has outlawed any entry to the island. The navy regularly keeps a check to make sure the island does not have any tourists and only sanctioned visits are allowed for research purposes. Even for the sanctioned visits, there has to be a doctor on call and an anti-venom gear ready.
Due to the isolation of the island, the snakes could only prey birds that travel long distances for migration. In the absence of any other food source, the creatures developed evolutionary features that make their venom 5 times more dangerous than their mainland cousins, Lancehead snakes. The lance head snakes are responsible for 90% of all snake bites in Brazil.
As ironical as it sounds, according to research, the deadly snakes can also be used to save lives. The venom from the snakes has been used to derive certain medicines for heart diseases, circulation and blood clotting. While this is helping the healthcare industry, the curiosity of the layman's mind has also led to a black market for the trade of these snakes.
The island may be relatively untouched by humans physically but still suffers from the consequences of our actions. Due to the land clearing activities, fewer birds stop here on their migration path which means lesser food for the snakes.
While the Golden Lancehead snake is the most striking resident of the island, it isn’t the only one. The island is home to other snake species such as the Dipsas albifrons also known as the Sauvage's Snail-eater, who are non-venomous and live in the rainforest.
The island’s great location and the rare snake population, make it a curious place for the tourists who unfortunately cannot visit the island because of safety reasons. As they say, forbidden fruit is the sweetest. However, your desire to see the deadly snakes can be fulfilled keeping the safety measures in mind.
Golden lanceheads can legally be seen at the Butantã Institute in São Paulo in the Serpentarium on request or the São Paulo zoo which houses five adult lanceheads. Till then, marvel over nature’s Pandora box constituting creatures like the golden launched snakes and places like the snake island.