A man from Pelt in Limburg province is recovering after spending ten days in a coma following a bite from a cobra he kept in his cellar.
The man, who has not been named, apparently kept a number of exotic snakes in his home, but considered the cobra dangerous enough to isolate in the cellar.
This week the nature centre in Opglabbeek visited the house to pick up the snakes. The bite took place months ago, but it has only now become clear that the snake in question was his own. It was previously believed the snake-bite was caused by an escaped animal, and the man was in no position to clarify.
The collection discovered by nature centre workers included the cobra and two Texas rattlesnakes, themselves both venomous, kept in simple plexiglass containers with sliding doors which the snakes could apparently open. One of them, the man admitted, had also bitten him.
“The man was in a coma for days and then had to recover for months in various hospitals,” said Sil Janssen, president of the nature centre. “He has already lost his finger, but his whole arm is still not in order. As exciting and wonderful as it may seem, these snakes are really not pets.”
And he advised a zero-tolerance policy for all members of the public when it comes to venomous snakes.
“If you know that these kinds of animals are found somewhere in Limburg, be sure to let us know. They definitely don’t belong here. If they escape, they can attack people. For us, these interventions are not easy either, it is a very dangerous job. There is not even an antivenom available, so that you immediately have very serious problems with a bite.”
It is assumed the man bought the snakes at a market in another country, and somehow managed to smuggle them into Belgium. That could lead to prosecution.
In the meantime the nature centre is left holding the snakes.
“We have them here for now, maybe they will go to a more specialised shelter later,” said another centre worker. “We have had to catch poisonous snakes before, but it is still very exceptional. We hope that no one else comes up with the idea of keeping these animals in the house.”