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Monday, October 29, 2012

Experts question snake bite theory

Vivek Deshpande : Nagpur, Mon Oct 29 2012, 01:39 hrs Though investigators have declared that the death of pregnant tigress in the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) was possibly due to snake bite, facts don’t appear to support the theory, say experts. Experts say an animal as strong as a tiger won’t die so soon even when bitten by a snake like cobra. Incidentally, cobra poison is neurotoxic and not haemotoxic. Vipers are known to have a haemotoxic effect, but even humans can survive without treatment for days after bite. “Even a cobra bite will take about 8-10 hours for the tiger to die. But in that case, the body will be fully swollen. In this case, if there was no swelling, it is unlikely that it was a case of snake bite,” said Vivek Sharma, a snake expert from Jabalpur. “The effects of a saw-scaled viper bite may be more disastrous, but the snake goes into hibernation during this time of the year.” TATR field director Virendra Tiwari said, “Snake bite is the doctor’s opinion.” P D Kadukar, the veterinary doctor who performed the post-mortem, said, “The body was fresh, there was no swelling and it wasn’t even smelling foul. The tigress had died around 2 am. We haven’t said it was a viper that bit it. But it definitely seems like a snake bite going by the haemotoxic effect and internal bleeding.” As far as blood clotting is concerned, pesticides like warfarin and even rat poison are known to stop it. Says Sharma: “Presuming that a viper had bitten it many days ago, the animal’s health should have weakened over time. It wouldn’t have been in a position to kill an animal as strong and big as a sambhar, which the tigress — apparently strong till her death — is said to have freshly consumed.” Snake expert Rom Whitaker said, “If the tigress was bitten, she would be in no condition to hunt. She would probably not move for at least two or three days. Russell’s viper venom can cause clotting as well as non-coaguability of blood but other pathological conditions could result in the same symptoms. It is hard to determine whether an animal died of snake bite without carrying out complex lab tests.” Tiwari and Kadukar say, “We have sent the viscera for forensic tests.”

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