Dubai: Snakes known for their deadly venom that can kill within hours have been found lurking in homes located in the New Dubai area.
Several sightings of vipers have been reported in certain residential communities here — including Jumeirah Park. Previously sightings of these poisonous snakes have been at homes in Jumeirah Islands and Emirates Living.
On September 30, a resident of Jumeirah Park spotted a venemous snake. Residents raised concerns about these venemous snakes lurking around the community as sand vipers and saw-scaled vipers were also previously spotted in New Dubai's residential communities.
Residents also reported sighting in park areas and were found slithering along on main driveways.
In the case of one resident in Jumeirah Park (who wished to remain anonymous), she found a viper coiled up in her car garage close to the parked cars.
“My son spotted it first. He came running inside the house to tell me about it. I could not believe my ears at first. When I stepped outside, he was right. To my horror, the snake was there. I called my gardener and he helped us out.”
Another resident from the community said she spotted a viper in the park area.
Jumeirah Park developer Nakheel, in an email statement to Gulf News said: "We received no direct reports about the Jumeirah Park incident. Though rare, this is a seasonal occurrence that can happen anywhere in Dubai. In the event of a sighting, residents are advised to contact the Dubai Municipality, the appointed authority to handle such incidents, and not to take the matter into their own hands."
Wildlife expert Dr Reza Khan explained there are four commonly seen vipers in the UAE – the carpet vipers, false horned vipers, sand viper and saw scaled vipers.
"The carpet vipers and the false horned vipers are seen in the mountain areas and you will rarely see them in crowded residential areas. It is the saw scaled vipers and sand vipers that can live close to human habitat,” he said.
Snake bites are very rare in the UAE, he said. But in the unlikely situation where someone has been bitten by a snake – they must reach a hospital within an hour.
“Antivenin or anti-venom for venemous UAE snakes are usually kept at Rashid Hospital in Dubai, Al Qasimi Hospital in Sharjah and some other hospitals. Call for an ambulance immediately. That would be the best thing to do.”
He added: “Anyone bitten by these deadly vipers can die in four to eight hours if anti-venom is not given,” Dr. Khan said.
Deadly vipers: Living close to human habitations
Dr Khan said the carpet vipers appear “colourful, heavy-bodied and short-ish”.
It gives live birth instead of laying eggs. The snake feeds on rodents, lizards, other small snakes and bird chicks.
“Additionally, they eat house mice as they generally live close to human habitations,” he added.
An adult viper can be 40 to 75cm long with a pair of upper front fangs. The upper body is usually greyish or yellowish brown, while the belly is white, speckled with brown or black.
Saw-scaled vipers are relatively small snakes, the largest species usually below 90 cm (35 in) long, and the smallest being around 30 cm (12 in).
The head is relatively small and is short, wide, pear-shaped and distinct from the neck. The snout is short and rounded, while the eyes are relatively large and the body is moderately slender and cylindrical.
The dorsal scales are mostly keeled. However, the scales on the lower flanks stick out at a distinct 45° angle and have a central ridge, or keel, that is serrated (hence the common name). The tail is short and the subcaudals are single.
An adult size of a sand viper averages 20–35 cm (8-14 inches) in total length (body + tail), with a maximum total length of 50 cm (1.6 ft). Females are larger than males. Small and stout, it has a broad, triangular head with small eyes set well forward and situated on the junction of the side and the top of the head.
Their hunting strategy is unique when compared to that of other viperids because they use a combination of both sit-and-wait ambushing and active hunting.
Active hunting is predominantly used in the months right before hibernation to increase energy intake before the long dormant period.
Persian horned viper
The Persian horned viper is a species of venomous vipers endemic to the Middle East and Asia.
The adults averages between 40 to 70 cm (16 to 28 in) in total length (body + tail), with a maximum total length of 108 cm (43 in) being reported. Females are usually larger than males. These snakes can attain a considerable weight relative to their size, with specimens sometimes exceeding 500 g (1.1 lb).
The head is broad, flat, distinct from the neck and covered with small, imbricate scales. The snout is short and rounded.
Meanwhile, residents who spotted deadly vipers lurking around their homes and back-yard said it is not a new occurence in the New Dubai area. For years, residents of Emirates Living have seen venemous snakes close to their homes and community areas.
Sometime ago, a British resident living in Hattan, Emirates Living said he who took one of the pictures told Gulf News he saw two dead snakes on his street while returning from work. “I’m assuming they had been run over during the day. I parked my car and went up to it to take a picture of the dead viper.”
A Kazakh resident, also in the same community said she had found a snake in her five-bedroom villa last year. “This area is really infamous for snakes as our backyards look towards the golf-course side [of Emirates Golf Club]. We’re getting used to having them around now.”
Snakes have also been seen in villa gardens and patios by residents of the other communities.
Anti-venom free of cost: Treating snake bites
Dr. Khan said snake bites in urban areas are very, very rare.
“What we hear are one or two cases of snake bites from the sea or desert areas and they are non-poisonous because they involve sea snakes and desert pseudo-vipers.”
He said a person bitten by a snake should be immediately taken to a government hospital, preferably within an hour.
“Do not move the limb or try and treat. Call an ambulance and reach a hospital within an hour. No first aid should be given other than at the hospital. The anti-venom is free of cost.”