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PAPEÉTE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, Jan. 11) - A striped sea snake with a mortal bite that is native to New Caledonia was found last week on a beach on Tahiti’s east coast.

An adolescent discovered the 15-centimeter (5.9 inch) reptile in the Commune of Hitiaa, which, like the rest of French Polynesia, is not known to be the home of land snakes. Even the sea snakes found in this part of the world are better known for being shy and inoffensive. That was until last week.

"In less than a year, people have already brought me five snakes," said Christophe Giraud, a veterinarian and reptile specialist.

But the yellow and black-striped snake discovered in Hitiaa last Friday is now in Paris for further examination.

"It probably migrated in a natural way, but it is difficult to say," Giraud said. "This little one surely was born here. It may very well be that a female has just given birth."

According to Giraud, this type of snake could "acclimatize itself without a problem" in Tahiti even if "the layout of the land does not permit him to be as at ease as in New Caledonia because of black sand that is too hot and few places where there is no one."

Although this type of snake is "far from aggressive," it comes from the cobra family, which explains its mortal bite.

"Unless it is disturbed, there’s little chance of having contact with it," Giraud said. "One can encounter one, but it shouldn’t be bothered."

However, he said it is possible that this snake has already existed in French Polynesia. Several years ago, someone was bitten by such a snake and died in the water, even if the death was not officially confirmed to have been specifically caused by this snake," Giraud said.

The snake found last Friday appears to be young in age and does not yet have scales, he said, adding that he needed confirmation from a specialist.

He said he is 85 percent certain that the snake is the same as that usually found in New Caledonia.

January 12, 2005



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