Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute and Snake Farm

Before setting out on our treks thorugh the jungles of South East Asia, we thought it wise to familiarize ourselves with the various dangers that we may encounter.  Therfore, upon arrival in Bangkok, we visited the World Health Organization and Thai Red Cross sponsored Snake Farm of Bangkok.  Founded in 1923 by Queen Saovabha, the Snake Farm (at the time, the second of its kind in the world), was established to provide antivenoms for South East Asia's various venomous snakes.  The Snake Farm has on display several of the world's deadliest snakes, including the Malayan Pit Viper, the Banded Krait, the Green Pit Viper, the Russell's Viper, the King Cobra, etc.  These snakes are milked of their vemon on a regular basis to provide hospitals throughout South East Asia with the much needed antivenoms.
The manufacturing of antivenoms requires the maintenance of a horse farm located at the beach resort of Hua Hin.  The horses are injected with specific snake venom until their blood plasma can be used as antivenom for humans.  The blood plasma is then transported to Bangkok where it is highly purified, tested for safety and efficacy under World Health Oroganization protocols and ready to be shipped to Thai hospitals, poison centers and institutes worldwide.
On the day that we visited the Snake Farm, we were fortunate enough to witness the milking of one of these venomous snakes by the expert Thai snake handlers.  Needless to say, this is a very dangerous undertaking and, in fact, one of the snake handlers was bitten later on during the demonstration.  Not only is this facility used to produce antivenoms, but it is also a research and educational facility.  Many of Thailand's endangered snakes are also bred here to ensure the continuation of the species.  This organization educates the Thai public to help identify which snakes are deadly so as to prevent the unnecessary killing of the harmless, yet endangered snakes.
Snake handlers milking a venomous snake.
It is estimated that approximately 6,000 Thais die from snake bites every year.  Due to the fact that these snakes find plenty of food in the flooded rice paddies of rural Thailand, the majority of the victims are rural rice farmers with little access to proper snake education and medical care.  With the help of the World Health Orgnaization and the Thai Red Cross (sponsors of the Snake Farm), these numbers are rapidly declining.   Armed with this knowledge, we feel confident that our treks through South East Asia will be snake bite free.
Angry snake leaping at the brave snake handler.
Karen holding a Reticulated Python, as we were informed Reticulated Pythons, "Bite no die, squeeze die".