Indonesian snake handling trainer bitten to death by a king cobra during demonstration

Indonesian snake handling trainer bitten to death by a king cobra during demonstration

BANJARMASIN, INDONESIA —The founder and chairman of the Sioux Snake Indonesia Foundation (YSUI), Aji Rachmat Purwanto, passed away after being bitten by a king cobra.

Although Aji was immediately taken to the hospital, unfortunately, his life could not be saved.

In a press release, the YSUI board said Aji was bitten by a king cobra snake during a Basic Training Muscle (BTM) event in Banjarmasin, on Sunday (12 February). The event was attended by Fire and Rescue Service officers from across South Kalimantan.

Sioux Ular Indonesia’s coach, Edwin Firdiansyah, said in a press statement on Tuesday that the 46-year-old man was showing how to handle the snake without tools, and suddenly the king cobra, which is often used for education, struck very quickly.

Aji, who is a father of 4 children, was immediately rushed to the nearest hospital from the scene, RSUD Ulin Banjarmasin, where he was immediately admitted to the ICU.

Unfortunately, all hospitals in Kalimantan are running out of anti-snake venom stocks. The hospital then requested assistance from a hospital in Jakarta to send the antidote serum. According to a member, Aji had already received an antidote injection.

“The foundation’s board, fellow Sioux members, colleagues, and other networks have made every effort to assist the family in the process of managing his condition,” YSUI wrote in its statement. Sadly, Aji passed away, two days after the incident in the early hours of Tuesday.

In an interview with the TOC, Tyisha Ramira, one of the Sioux members, gave her testimony about Aji when she attended the BTM training held by Aji in Bandung in 2022.

The 13-year-old girl shared that Aji is so good at handling snakes, even the other trainers said they wouldn’t dare go near any venomous snakes if Aji wasn’t around. He is also very concerned about the safety of the students in his training. He always explains the handling of training material in great detail and provides demonstrations so that the training students are able to receive the material very well.

In a video posted on Instagram by Sioux Indonesia, Aji can be seen handling a Sumatran cobra. It is said in the post that the Goldy Cobra was wildly travelling between rice fields and settlements. The Sioux team happened to pass by and handled the snake to educate palm oil workers about the nature of the cobras around them.

From the data submitted by Muscle Sioux Rizky Akbar as a contact person representative, Sioux was founded on 23 November 2003 at the National Kwartir Building on Jalan Merdeka Barat Jakarta by four people, namely Aji Rachmat Purwanto, Edwin Firdiansyah, Irwan Febriansyah and Lydia. Then, in 2010, it became a foundation.

The mission of the Sioux Snake Indonesia Foundation is to become an established and independent institution in the field of snake studies to increase public awareness of snakes by changing the public paradigm about snakes so that snakes can avoid the threat of extinction due to human activities.

According to the National Graphic, the king cobra’s venom is not the most potent among other venomous snakes. However, the amount of neurotoxin released in one bite can reach two-tenths of an ounce of liquid, enough to kill 20 people or an elephant.

“King cobras are the longest venomous snake species in the world. Although they can reach lengths of up to 18 feet, their average length is 10 to 13 feet,” says Sara Viernum, a herpetologist based in Madison, Wisconsin.

Veterinarian at FKH Universitas Airlangga (Unair) Surabaya, Dr Boedi Setiawan MP Drh told that in Indonesia there is no serum used for king cobra bites. Dr Boedi said that Indonesia only has Bio SAVE serum or SABU (Serum Anti Bisa Snake) produced by PT Bio Farma, which can only neutralise ground snakes (Agkistrodon rhodostoma), welang snakes (Bungarus fasciatus) and Javanese cobras (Naja sputatrix).

“The Javanese cobra is not a king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah), because they are different species. Bio SAVE antivenom cannot be used to ward off King Cobra’s snake venom,” he said.

Currently, the antidote serum of King Cobra can only be found in Thailand. However, the price of the serum is very expensive, around US$76,000 to US$115,000.

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