Sunday, November 18, 2007

Captive breeding of cobras at Pilikula Nisargadhma-Jaideep Shenoy

MANGALORE: In a bid to increase the tribe of endangered king cobras, the Central Zoo Authority, New Delhi, has asked the city-based biological park to breed the venomous reptile in captivity.

Dr. Shivaram Karanth of Pilikula Nisargadhama (Biological Park) at Moodushedde near here has already started the preliminary work to take up captive breeding of Ophiophagus Hannah.

Importantly, this would be a totally in-house effort. H. Jayaprakash Bhandary, Director of the Park told The Hindu here that the Park here has five king cobras, including two females, at present. It had released two of them into the wild recently.

“We need to create a special environment for the king cobras to breed including keeping the pair selected in isolation. king cobras normally breed during December and we will set up necessary conditions with the help and expertise of our Park staff in this regard.”

The then Deputy Commissioner, Arvind Shrivastava, had exchanged documents on the memorandum of understanding with herpetologist Romolus Whittaker on February 15, 2004 to start India’s first scientific captive breeding centre for king cobras at the Park. However, it was never implemented for various reasons. “It is only of late that the Authority on its own accorded permission to start the activity,” Mr. Bhandary says.

On reasons for the Authority to select the Park, Mr. Bhandary says king cobras are commonly found in the Western Ghat region and efforts to breed them here at the Park, which falls in the foot of the Ghats, was expected to yield positive results.

The purpose is to conserve the species and to aid their lateral spread, he adds. This would also help the zoological parks in the country to procure them without disturbing their habitat, he notes.

The Central Zoo Authority has selected a few leading zoos across India to take up captive breeding of endangered species.

“A zoo in north India has been permitted to breed Snow Bear just as they have allowed us to breed king cobras,” said Mr. Bhandary.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Bushmaster (Lachesis muta muta) - The Largest Pit Viper

The Bushmaster, lachesis muta muta is the largest Pit Viper in the world with a nasty reputation as a "cruel dude". The Bushmaster is a huge, thick-bodied and highly venomous snake with a triangularly shaped head, one of nature's warning signs that a snake is poisonous and potentially deadly. Bushmasters live in remote, heavily forested tropical jungle terrain. Isolated in their jungle environment, envenomation by a Bushmaster is very serious, sometimes fatal and particularly dangerous to humans. It is important to familiarize yourself with wilderness survival before entering Bushmaster territory because often snake bite victims are miles and miles away from any traditional medical help. The Bushmaster is the largest venomous snake in the New World, often reaching lengths in excess of 6 feet with a maximum recorded length reaching an amazing 14 feet! The Bushmaster has a prominent dorsal ridge and an upturned snout with well defined body scales, keeled and extremely rough. Identifying Bushmaster body color hues range from light brown to shades of pale pink with a series of dark brown or black blotches markings running the entire length of the body including the tail.

In homeopathic terms, fresh L. mutus venom was "proved" as a remedy by Constantine Hering around 1830. Although born in what is now Germany, Hering is considered to be the founder of American homeopathy. In 1827 he went to Surinam, South America, to conduct biological research for his government. In experimenting with lachesis venom in an attempt to find a homeopathic inoculation for smallpox, he accidentally poisoned himself with a small amount of venom. This led him to his "proof" that lachesis was a homeopathic remedy. Ever the curious scientist, Hering later accidentally paralyzed his right side by continuing to test higher and higher doses of lachesis on himself.

Lachesis is used in homeopathy to treat a wide range of symptoms. These fall into the following general categories of:

* menstrual and menopausal complaints
* throat and mouth complaints
* fear, paranoia, and associated mental complaints
* nervous system complaints
* circulatory complaints

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Medicine from TAIPAN's Venom

A venom compound from one of the world’s deadliest snakes, the Taipan, is being developed by Brisbane biotechnology company ElaCor, as a new drug to treat heart failure.
Congestive heart failure (CHF) claims the lives of over 3,000 Australians each year with a further 300,000 people affected by the disease. The project’s principal researcher, University of Queensland’s (UQ) Institute for Molecular Bioscience’s (IMB) Professor Paul Alewood, said current treatments for CHF had serious side effects and rarely combated the progression of the disease. “The team has isolated a unique set of active molecules from Taipan venom and research shows they are extremely effective at easing the heart’s workload,” he said. “Not only are these molecules very effective, tests have shown that they are also extremely stable, which is an attractive feature for new drugs. “The human body naturally produces similar types of molecules in response to heart failure but these break down too quickly to have a lasting effect, making them inappropriate as a long term treatment,” he said.

CHF is an often-fatal disease in which the heart is weakened and lacks the strength to adequately pump blood around the body. ElaCor was recently awarded a $250,000 AusIndustry Biotechnology Innovation Fund Grant enabling optimisation of the molecules to develop a superior drug candidate to treat the multiple symptoms of CHF.

Established by IMBcom, the commercialisation company for UQ’s IMB, in collaboration with the Baker Heart Research Institute (BHRI) in Melbourne, ElaCor is the result of an extensive research collaboration between Professor Alewood and Associate Professor Geoff Head from the BHRI. The BHRI’s Head of Commercialisation Ms Tina Rankovic said ElaCor provided a unique opportunity to leverage the skills and synergies of two prestigious Australian research organisations. “By combining the research expertise from these groups we hope to advance discovery in one of medicine’s greatest remaining challenges - preventing heart failure.”

IMBcom CEO Dr Peter Isdale said he was extremely pleased with the development of ElaCor and was gratified the Australian Government remained committed to the development and excellence of Australian science and innovation, by supporting the science of today for the business of tomorrow.

TAIPAN, the most deadliest of the snakes:
Australia has 30 different kinds of venomous (poisonous) snakes. The largest and most poisonous of them is the taipan (say tie-pan). It is in fact considered to be possibly the most venomous snake in the world.

The taipan grows to over 2.5 metres in length. There are two species, or kinds, of taipan. The more common one found in the far north of Australia, in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia where winter temperatures are above 18ÂșC.

The inland taipan (left) lives in a very remote part of Australia, in the centre, and is rarely seen, so little is known about it.

The taipan is a pale creamy colour on the head. The body is light brown, dark brown, copper or olive in colour.

The taipan has excellent senses of smell and eyesight. It quickly moves in on its prey, strikes fast, draws back and waits for the poison to work. As soon as the poison has worked, the snake eats the prey. Their preferred food is rats, and so taipans are often found in the Queensland cane fields where rats are plentiful. Taipans also eat birds, mice, lizards and small marsupials.

The female taipan lays 10-20 eggs after mating.

Taipans are the most intelligent, nervous and alert of the Australian venomous snakes. They generally stay away from humans, escaping before they are noticed. However, the taipan will defend itself fiercely if it is cornered or threatened, often delivering several bites.

Taipans are 'milked' of their venom by getting them to inject venom into a jar through a rubber cover. The venom is used to make medicine to help save people who are bitten by a taipan.

Like all snakes, the taipan has its place in the environment.
Snakes generally avoid people, rarely strike unless threatened, and should not be hunted out and killed.