Sunday, March 19, 2017

Come for the Snakes, Stay for the Antivenom

There is a village by the sea.  Nestled between the Eastern Tiers Forest Reserve and Moulting Lagoon Game Reserve (no I didn't make that up) the small village of Swansea looks out onto Great Oyster Bay just south of Dolphin Sands.  An idyllic little spot where the locals spend their time watching the lagoon moult and dolphins run themselves aground on the pristine beaches.  If this palls they can wander along to Kate's Berry Farm for a cup of coffee and (presumably) berries.

Old people retire here and children play here while those between the two these two ages quietly fume at the misbehaviour of their children and parents and count the hours until they can decently return to civilisation.  Before they do they turn out their pockets and shake their bags just to be certain that a tiger snake hasn't slithered in there while no one was looking.

Every Eden has its serpent and if it doesn't its because that serpent has slithered off to Swansea to be among friends.  I called this blogs Poisonous Reptile correspondent and told her to stop covering parliament and get herself down to Swansea.  She responded that she was already there.  Apparently a traditional part of Tasmania's "toughen up the children" programme is to expose them to venomous snakes at an early age.  For this and other reasons Swansea gets a lot of tourists.

My correspondent had brought her children to Swansea on a reptile irritating excursion; just another one of Tasmania's hidden gems that we on the mainland with our "civilisation" and our "life expectancy" cannot hope to appreciate.  To be fair it has to be admitted than in addition to the possibility of poisoning her children my correspondent banished her parents to Swansea some years ago and now feels obliged to make the occasional visit.

Swansea apparently has a plague of tiger snakes.  They slither down the main streets, drop on you out of trees and take the best spots on the beach.  Last year one of them was elected mayor.  My correspondent will admit that visiting her parents has become a slightly higher risk activity than she is comfortable with.  It's not that she doesn't like tiger snakes "lovely people, some of my best friends are tiger snakes" she just doubts our ability to successfully integrate so many of them into the society at Swansea.  It won't be long before disaffected gangs of tiger snakes are roaming the streets making trouble.  Actually according to my correspondent they already are.  Since she came across two of them on a weekend visit I'm inclined to take her word for it.  I'm certainly not going to fact check it myself.

You may wonder, with the streets of Swansea knee deep in tiger snakes, why nobody is doing anything about it.  I indeed put that same question to my correspondent.  Actually what I said was, "What the hell is wrong with your state?" but the tiger snake issue was implied.  But I had underestimated Tasmania in general and Swansea residents in particular.  Something is indeed being done.  Swansea has its very own tiger snake catcher.  If you encounter a tiger snake you simply call this guy and he turns up and takes the snake away, but not very far.  Apparently he tosses all the tiger snakes he catches into an above ground swimming pool on his property in Swansea.  There is at least a suspicion that many of the tiger snakes currently menacing the town are escapees from this pool prison.

This certainly ensures repeat business for the snake catcher and instills a small frisson of excitement into what would otherwise be a tedious trip to the seaside to visit the near dead.  Also, with a pool full of tiger snakes the local stocks of tiger snake antivenom are at an all time high.  Which is convenient because the snake catcher uses most of it himself.  Some people have suggested he might like to wear gloves, or shoes when wrestling with tiger snakes but apparently it's simpler to simply stick antivenom into himself afterwards.  I wonder if its addictive?

Despite her best efforts all of my correspondent's children and dogs survived the trip to Swansea and are currently chasing each other around the (relative) civilisation of Hobart.  I understand she plans to take them all swimming with sharks over the next school holidays.

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