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Gardener saves schoolchildren from viper.

Dubai: After killing almost 40 snakes at a private school in Dubai Academic City in Al Ruwayyah area, a gardener's luck finally ran out.

"I noticed it slither out of the playground foliage. It was quickly making its way to a group of schoolchildren on the playground," Ali Murad Broohi, a 60-year-old Pakistani, said.

He was speaking from a bed at Rashid Hospital, his right hand swollen and raised.

"I was holding a bag, with which I collect dead leaves," he said, "I tried using it as a bulwark to hold the snake and kill it before it reaches the children. It bit my hand through the bag. I only then managed to kill it. I wrapped it around my left arm and rushed to the school's medical centre, where an ambulance was called for. I held the snake all the way to the hospital."

Broohi described the snake as "brown, thin-necked with a triangular head".

He said the doctors told him if the snake had managed to bite him directly, the results could have been fatal.

"I was lucky that it bit me through the garbage bag," he said. "I must've killed about 40 snakes in that area; this is the first time I was bitten though."

"There was one time where I killed a snake in the playground and the children rushed around me asking me why I killed it," he chuckled. "They told me the snake was their friend and that I shouldn't harm it. I told them if I didn't then it would bite one of them. They didn't believe me."

Reza Khan, wildlife expert at Dubai Municipality, speculated that the snake may have been a saw-scaled viper.

"From the description of the snake and the fact that it was venomous, it is likely that it was a saw-scaled viper," he said. "The snake is common in the Al Ruwayyah area. The vegetation and the rodents attract the venomous species."

Khan said that the snake's average length was between 30cm-40cm. However, there have been reports of saw-scaled vipers in the UAE reaching lengths of 70cm.

Khan called Broohi a "hero".

"Snakes only attack when they feel threatened. Their venom is very precious to them as they need it to kill prey. The saw-scaled viper rubs its scales together and makes a hissing sound when it feels endangered. The gardener is a hero, throwing himself in front of such a venomous snake to secure the safety of the children."

Khan said that in the case of a snake bite, victims should stay immobile and wait for the ambulance.

"A snake bite victim should remain as motionless as possible. Tourniquets are not recommended as it may only irritate the wound further. Any glucose intake may help. But the best advice is to remain immobile and wait for an ambulance."

Khan advised snake bite victims to take a picture of the snake.

"Doctors need to determine which antidote to use, as different snake venoms have different antidotes. It is also important for hospitals to retain a picture of the snake in their records."

Khan said mindful landscaping is the best way to handle snake hazards.

"Al Ruwayyah area and Academic City are especially infested with snakes. The area is close to the desert and the landscaping offers pests shade and shelter. Low vegetation should be kept at a minimum."

David Binan, deputy principal at the private school, said that the school has taken action to ward off snakes.

"I was at the medical centre when Broohi was brought in," he said. "We called for an ambulance and they advised us to keep him stationary until they arrived. There have a few snake sightings on the school premises before. We called the Dubai Municipality, asking them for the most effective ways to deal with the infestation. We have used repellants and have eradicated most of the low foliage, ensuring the schoolchildren's safety."

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Nov 17, 2014
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