John Romer’s Cobra Chew in Hong Kong 65 Years In the past

The South China Morning Submit (SCMP) of 23 Might 1958 reported:

On the time the Chinese language Cobra (Naja atra) was thought of a subspecies of the Indian Cobra (Naja naja).

In his entry in Contributions to the Historical past of Herpetology Romer’s household had offered the circumstances of the chew: ‘a supposedly lifeless Chinese language cobra introduced in for identification bit Romer on a finger, which required pores and skin grafts and he wanted months of restoration’.

In his pocket book, Romer later recorded:

An grownup male, caught at Tai Po Kau within the New Territories and acquired from Dr. P. A. M. Van de Linde* on twenty first Might 1958, bit me on the center finger of the proper hand shortly after its receipt the identical day. Solely the proper fang penetrated the finger. Scales in 21 rows at mid-body. Ventrals 171. Anal 1. Subcaudals 50. Complete size 1,330, tail 210 mm. (Scale-counts  made and checked by Miss Lo Shum Chung Ngok) Specimen subsequently ready as full skeleton. The hood marking was of the binocellate sort however incomplete (i.e. interrupted at base).

Three days later, readers of the SCMP had been assured by higher information :

On the time he was bitten, Romer was in correspondence with Hugh Alistair Reid (1913-1983) in regards to the protection and recommendation on snake chew to be included in his information to the venomous snakes of Hong Kong. Alistair Reid was then on the Basic Hospital in Penang, Malaya and establishing himself as a world knowledgeable on snake venoms and the remedy of these bitten. 

On 9 June he wrote to Reid:

I’m at current in hospital, having been bitten by a big Naja naja within the center finger of my proper hand. Though solely the proper fang penetrated my finger, it was a deliberate and forceful chew and possibly concerned a good amount of venom. You’ll be to listen to that there was an entire absence of neurotoxic results however a really nice deal of native response and tissue harm. There was large swelling Involving the complete hand and arm as much as the shoulder. The finger itself 1s very badly affected, and there’s a arduous black necrotic space beginning behind the nail and lengthening proper alongside the higher floor. There are additionally two pretty giant scars on the dorsum of the hand the place two blisters had been minimize. The way forward for the bitten finger continues to be unsure, and apparently relies on its situation after sloughing and of of the harm. Concerning remedy, I utilized a rubber tourniquet inside a minute or two of the chew and was given Haffkine polyvalent serum inside about half an hour. I consider I had in all between 60 and 80 c.c. of this serum, however am very uncertain that it had any useful impact. It was needed for a number of punctures to be made on the dorsum of the hand to alleviate swelling. In addition they gave me cortisone or hydrocortisone (sorry I have no idea which). I’m afraid that, not being a medical man, the above info isn’t very particular however belief that it’ll of some curiosity.

Native necrosis is recognised as a serious impact of being bitten by a Chinese language Cobra. The extent of the harm and the ensuing scars had been nonetheless apparent when John Romer confirmed me his hand over seven years later. His workplace, in addition to the stay Bamboo Pit Viper, had the ready skeleton of the offending however unlucky Chinese language Cobra.

Juvenile Chinese language Cobra, Lantau, Hong Kong, 2011
{Photograph} by Thomas Brown on Flickr

*Patrick van de Linde was a authorities medical officer who went on to review the cholera outbreaks of 1961 and 1963. He’s remembered as a medical officer within the British Military Assist Group (BAAG) which operated in China to help these escaping from occupied Hong Kong and to collect intelligence. Commanded by Lindsay Trip, Professor of Physiology within the College of Hong Kong, who had been answerable for a subject ambulance in the course of the battle of Hong Kong and who had escaped captivity, the BAAG offered medical companies to the civilian inhabitants and Chinese language guerillas working in opposition to the Japanese. Colonel Trip, later Vice-Chancellor of HKU and knighted, wrote:

This officer was posted as MO i/c Superior HQs in Nov 1943 and remained there from that point until the Japanese give up. The Chinese language forces in that space had been notoriously badly off for any type of medical service and Main Van De Linde readily put all his power into organising a scheme to provide their wants; medical posts had been established and staffed in guerilla areas and two hospitals had been run in Waichow. To those hospitals – the one ones in that space – got here all of the Chinese language sick and wounded from the East River forces in addition to all of the civilian air raid casualties. Along with this Main Van de Linde undertook the intensive work necessitated by a cholera epidemic and a famine. Working lengthy hours beneath most primitive situations he was accountable for saving the lives of scores of Chinese language, each troopers and civilians.

For two years and not using a remainder of any type Main Van de Linde gave the entire of his time and unbounded power for the good thing about the needy and the struggling and as a way to improve the worth of his companies he, on the identical time, mastered the Cantonese language. This exemplary devotion to responsibility not solely saved many lives nevertheless it paved the best way in the direction of the profitable conclusion of many intricate negotiations with the Chinese language regarding BAG operations.

See Gwulo.

Anon. 2007. Romer, J.D. (1920-1982). In Contributions to the Historical past of Herpetology (Quantity 2), Edited by Kraig Adler, p 212. Society for the Research of Reptiles and Amphibians.

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