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Puff adder (Bitis arietans)

The puff adder in the Museum's reptile showcase has a special story to tell; it nearly killed Br. Almarich Schöb, St. Ottilien's porter.

In the spring of 1980, Br. Almarich lived and worked at Twasana priory in Kwa-Zulu Natal (South Africa). As usual, the dry grass on the monastery's farm had to be burned to support its growth after the rainy season. To achieve this, a firing line is drawn with a tuft of grass to ensure that the fire distributes to a large area.

Br. Almarich bent down to pull out a tuft of grass, and missed only for centimeters a puff adder well hidden in the grass.

The puff adder from the viper family is very frequent and is the reason for most cases of poisonous snakebites in Africa. It eagerly bites when approached too close. If disturbed, the adder warns its surroundings with hissing, puffing sounds.

An adult puff adder has a content of poison for 4-5 people. An antidote must be administered immediately; otherwise, the bite causes the victim's death. Even with rapid treatment the tissue around the snakebite can die and then requires amputation of arm or leg.

Now Br. Almarich had almost stepped on the snake! He got scared, as he knew about the poisonousness of the animal. However, to his great luck the puff adder moved to the opposite direction instead of attacking and biting him.

This saved his life. As Br. Almarich later remarked, "the time had not yet come for my death”. However, the incident had dire consequences for the reptile.

The dried hide of the puff adder was sent to St. Ottilien and given to former Museum director Fr. Arnold Walloschek who exhibited the prepared animal.