I got a Cobra in my living room!

It was that afternoon when I heard my husband’s loudest scream: “Astaghfirullah!!” (Lord..please give me mercy!!). I was in my room doing my Ashar (afternoon) prayer and, while still doing my prayer, wondered what my husband had just seen in our living room. My kid was playing outside with her friends and I heard my husband called her “Pelangi..where is Mum?”..

Because he was asking where I was at that time, I thought what he saw was just a cat stealing our dinner. Therefore he yelled and tried to look for me just for saying “Why didn’t you close the door?”

I finished my prayer and I took off my mukena (Muslim’s praying outfit). I walked into the living room and I found my husband accross the door. He looked so terrified.

“Why didn’t you close the door?”

Just like what I guessed. But this time, he continued:

“There is a snake in our living room!”

I was shocked but not terrified. I already have two encounters with snakes.

One is when I walked to my college dormitory in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia. A green snake slithered on my way. But I jumped over it. I didn’t know that it was such a risky option. Because that very green snake is venomous. I could have been biten and dead. But I survived.

The other one is when I and my best friend went to the zoo. My friend was so obsessed with reptiles and she went to the phyton cage. One of the zoo attraction was to have a “pet” phyton to be touched by visitors and yes, my friend went there. She played with the phyton and she asked me to join. I didn’t want to disappoint her excitement and eventually I had that large and heavy phyton on my shoulder. We took some pictures and we were proud of that.

Because of those “okay” encounters, I underestimated my husband’s fearful expression.

“Okay, so where is it now?”

“Behind the trash can,” he said

I walked into the trash can and I could see it there. In its “coiled” position. It seemed the snake was too afraid of moving.

“Okay, I’m gonna deal with this,” I said

“Are sure hunny? It’s a cobra,” he said

I stepped back. Cobra is known for its deadly venom. My husband soon called for help. Not long after that, our neighbours, all men, came with a bamboo stick. In our place, bamboo is believed to be the most “powerful weapon” against snake. I went outside the house and let them deal with the snake.

Then the snake was brutally killed by a bamboo stick. I told my husband they should not have killed it. Maybe the snake was disoriented and wrongly entered the house.But my husband told me the snake was too dangerous if we kept them alive. When it was attacked by our neighbours, it raised its spoon-like head and it spitted its venome. “Killing them is the best option,” my husband said

Naja sumatrana

Having a cobra snake cruising in your back yard or even in your living room is a common thing here. The villagers know this snake is dangerous so once they spot one they will immediately kill it.

At that time, I felt terrible with the snake. Maybe it was lost in my house and could not get back to its home. “Why do people need to kill them anyway?”

This question did not really bothered me until the second cobra found in my backyard. This time, the cobra slithered “bravely” among children who played freely in my backyard. It was my husband again who spotted the snake and yes, he screamed again. He asked the children to stay where they were and do not make any move. But my daughter, Pelangi, she was running toward the snake! My husband yelled “No, Pelangi!!! Don’t run!!”

She passed the snake which was already in its “ready-to-attack” position (just like snake in Inidian snake charmer scene). She could have been biten. I was terrified at that time. Then neighbours came with a bamboo stick and killed the snake. This time the snake had a brown skin with some pattern in its hood.

I wondered why there were many snakes in my house. We live in a house which is located inside rubber and oil palm plantation. Few years ago, my husband decided to take the job of researching estate crops and brought us to the villages inside large plantation. I had heard something about Cobra but I thought it was just farmers who needed to be alert of snakebite threats. But apparently, I was wrong.

Then my obssessive research in the internet started. I found the kind of Cobra that visited my living room was from the species Naja sumatrana, or the Equatorial Spitting Cobra. As scary as it may sound, it is one of the deadliest Cobra in the world. Its venom is classified as neurotoxin as well as cardiotoxins which means it strikes your brain and heart organs then damage it within hours from the bites. The scariest thing is, you don’t need to be biten to get infected because it spits out its venom which is directed to the eyes of its enemy, causing permanent blindness. My jaw dropped. I was shaken. I believed, the brown cobra snake that was passed by my running child could have the same poison. My daughter could have been biten and I could not imagine the worst scenario.

I tried other keywords in Google. “Naja sumatrana in rubber plantation”. And then I found the IUCN Red Lists. According to this reliable “lists”, cobras in Southeast Asian plantation are considered “Least Concern” because they are thriving in oil palm or rubber plantation ecosystem.This data means there are actually more cobras around me. I need to be ready if there is anything bad (God, please No) happen to me or my loved ones.

Then I searched “cobra antivenom”. And what I got is so disappointing. A recent article from Nature, the most reputable science journal, said there is a shortage of snake antivenoms around the world. This condition is caused by the difficulties of producing snake antivenoms and its high price. Even a big company like Sanofi Pasteur, just stopped its production of snake antivenoms.

In the meantime, snakebite is a growing public-health crisis. According to World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 5 million people got biten by snakes each year and more than 100,000 of them died and as many as 400,000 of them got their body parts amputated. This is a serious problem, I wondered. I, just like the other billion people who live in tropical and poor regions of the world, live in a place where deadly snakes can come anytime and anywhere. And no one guarantee the antivenoms are available in our nearest health clinic to save our lives. This so pathetic and scary at the same time.

And just yesterday before I write this essay, a neighbour screamed. He found a black cobra in his garden at night. He asked for people’s help because the cobra escaped when he was beating him with his broom. My husband joined the search and said “We need a bamboo stick,”