Man bitten by Thai cobra in central Taiwan: several times more venomous than native species

Doctors who have been treating a man bitten by a snake in a mountain district of Taichung City earlier this month have concluded that the man was bitten by a Thai cobra, raising concerns of a dangerous invasive species gaining a foothold in the country.

The 64-year-old man, named Zhou was hiking on the Dakeng No.9 trail shortly before dawn on November 2 when he was bitten on the ankle by a cobra. Zhou turned back to seek medical attention, but fell to the ground after taking just a few steps.

Fortunately, Zhou was found by other hikers a short time later. The hikers assisted Zhou to the trailhead where a local resident then transported him downhill in the back of a small truck and rendezvoused with an ambulance.

Zhou’s life was saved, but toxin from the bite on Zhou’s ankle had spread to his calf and thigh, and he has since undergone a series of surgeries, including debridement surgery to remove necrotic tissue. A doctor told the TTB that it was most serious snake bite injury he had seen in more than 10 years of medical practice.

Doctors told the Taichung Tourism Bureau that after conducting blood tests they concluded that Zhou had been bitten by a Thai cobra (Indochinese spitting cobra: Naja siamensis). The species is several times more venomous than cobras native to Taiwan (Naja atra).

Zhou is yet to undergo another surgery sometime in the next few days. The medical treatment has put a strain on the Zhou family’s finances, and the TTB will assist with public liability insurance claims to assist Mr Zhou, the bureau said.

The tourism bureau has put warnings up at the trailhead and is consulting with snake experts and relevant agencies to plan a strategy to deal with the situation.

It is not the first time cobras have been reported in the Dakeng area. In 2019, the bureau issued warnings to hikers after a very large cobra was spotted on a popular hiking trail. As early as 2015 there were reports that Buddhist religious groups were suspected to have released snakes in the area.

The TTB urged people using the trails to take precautions.

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