An unwitting Ras Al Khaimah resident had a close encounter with one of the world's deadliest snakes — after spotting a cat playing with it outside his home.
Stephen Waldron had some friends over at his house in the Mina Al Arab area of the emirate on Sunday evening when they noticed the small but deadly saw-scaled viper on the road.
The British resident said he did not know how dangerous the snake was, but a friend sprang into action to clear it away from his home and the unsuspecting cat.
The venomous viper, which is found in Africa, parts of Asia and the Middle East, is responsible for thousands of deaths every year.
“It’s the first time I have seen a snake after three and a half years in the UAE,” said Mr Waldron, who took a photo of the snake which was in front of his house.
“Some friends were visiting us and they spotted the snake as they were leaving, so they called my wife and I out to have a look.
“A cat had been playing with it, so it was agitated and laying in the road.”
Mr Waldron said the snake was about 15cm long.
They tried to move it away from the house and the cat, which was unharmed.
“My friend who is from South Africa, and more familiar with snakes, managed to manipulate it back into some nearby wasteland using two sticks to get it away from the cat and the houses.
“The snake was angry and struck out a few times, but it was too small to reach anybody or anything.”
An entrapment team was sent out to safely remove the reptile.
From the photo Mr Waldron took, Dr Chenjerai Sigauke, Medical Manager at Ras Al Khaimah Animal Welfare Centre, identified the snake as a saw-scaled viper.
“It is a venomous snake found in this region, Pakistan and some parts of Africa,” said Dr Sigauke.
He said the snake is more active at night and, when confronted, it produces a sizzling sound as a warning or threat.
“They have hemotoxic venom, which destroys blood and can cause coagulation abnormalities and increased bleeding tendencies, and cytotoxic venom which destroys body tissues.
“The snakes are quite aggressive and are reported to cause high mortality rates in people in areas where they are found. It is best to call professional snake catchers who would catch and release them out in the desert,” he said.
Tim Husband, technical Director at Dubai Safari Park also confirmed the predator's deadly identity.
“It is called a saw-scaled viper and it is venomous. It is found locally in the UAE,” he said.
The saw-scaled viper is light to dark brown in colour and has a series of crossbars along the spine, which are inverted with light coloured V-shapes. It has a whitish or pinkish belly.
It can grow up to 80cm and prays on rodents, lizards and frogs.