Monday, March 3, 2008

Costa Rica 35

So down the steep hill we trudged. At the bottom we had to take a sharp left and traverse one of the side streets that led to the Serpentarium. It was up on top of another hill, of course. I conjectured that it was located here in case any of the inhabitants got loose. That would give the staff a bird’s eye view to locate them slithering their way down the hill.

We arrived and bought our tickets. We were told that the English language tour had just started. We hurried our butts through the little lobby and joined the tour in progress. They were really still at the beginning. The Costa Rican guide was still at the pretty chart on the wall with pictures of every known SNAKE in CR on it. The only other people on the tour were a very tall gentleman from somewhere in England with his two young boys. The guide was busy explaining how to tell the difference between poisonous and non-poisonous SNAKES at a glance. I suppose “at a glance” because he knows that most of the world’s population doesn’t stick around long enough to take a good look when encountering a SNAKE in the wild. Most people just shriek SNAKE and turn and run. Knocking over anybody in their flight path. Or is that just me?

For the curious among you, poisonous snakes have cat eyes, where the pupil is thin and vertical. Non-poisonous have round pupils, much like ours. As if anybody is going to get down on the ground and look! Also, deadly ones usually have triangular heads. The friendly to mankind ones have more rounded heads. I’ll be sure to bear that in mind next time something slithers across my path.

Ironically, just as he was telling us the oh-so-important way to tell the difference between the deadly as hell Coral snake and the not even deadly other one (notice the stripes: red next to yellow - hurt a fellow; red next to black - friend of Jack. And just who the heck is this Jack guy and why does he want to be a friend of a SNAKE?), somebody shouted to him and he went running into the actual exhibit area. Leaving us to wonder what the heck was going on. Stupidly, we followed him. We never even stopped to consider that one of the deadly monsters may have been loose or something. But it wasn’t that at all.

We found our very upset guide at the first glass enclosed display case as you enter. The one with the Coral in it. We could tell because it had red next to yellow stripes! Except this puppy was huge. But as we looked closer, we saw something strange about it. It had two tails and its’ head was located in the middle of its’ body. No, wait a second. It wasn’t one SNAKE at all. It was the king of the enclosure eating his bunk mate! Evidently there were three of them originally in the enclosure. Coral #1 overpowered and ate #3 last week. This week he had overpowered #2 and was in the process of eating him. Some kind of territorial war I presume.
The guide was very, very upset since Coral SNAKES are hard to come by. I say, Duh! Learn your lesson guys. As soon as the first one had been eaten, I would have separated them. It was at this point that the English gentleman decided that this was too much for his delicate little boys and they gracefully lied about another commitment and left. So it was just the three of us on another private tour.

So, SNAKE snack time over, we moved along to the other exhibits. I was really happy to discover that they actually had several specimens of the one SNAKE I feared most in CR. The fer-de-lance. It was hardly distinguishable from our North American Rattlesnake. The biggest difference in appearance is that it has no rattles. Thus no warning before it reaches out from its’ hiding spot in the jungle and delivers a potent dose of venom to your unsuspecting appendage. Turning your flesh to a black rot before finally reaching your heart and killing you. Plus he is notoriously evil tempered and will lash out at anything that gets too close. Just like me when I don’t get my own way.

We also saw the Green Tree Snake, several Boas, Anaconda and lots more that I can’t even remember. Having successfully erased their visage from my brain. We also saw a bunch of frogs and turtles. At the end of the tour, we were allowed free access to the exhibit and were allowed to take as many photos as we wanted. Except no flash allowed. The glass enclosures were not very well lit and were made to resemble real habitat with logs and stuff. So it was hard to even see the critters in most of the exhibits unless the guide shown his flashlight on them. Not many pictures were taken. Not many pictures would have been taken anyway I am guessing.

At the very end, we found ourselves in this little room with square glass aquariums sitting around the room on tables. They all had screens on the top with rocks on them. For some reason, one of them had a big tree branch coming out the top. B spotted it and said “Look! They have even put some stuffed Boas on that branch to make it look real!” L scurried on over for a closer look, I sort of kept my distance. Even a stuffed SNAKE is a SNAKE. But then one of them moved! Turns out that they had gotten loose from their cage. We called the curator, or maybe he came running in response to my shrieks of horror, I don’t remember which. I decided that this was not a safe place to be at all if they allowed SNAKES to just crawl around unattended. We beat a hasty retreat with me darting glances at every corner, nook and cranny!

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