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Published: October 7th 2014
Western Brown Snakes
Yes, they are both the same snake, and we saw another which was plain dull brown. These can have a very wide range of colours and patterns. Luckily the Australian snake bite ID kit can identify the venom so the correct anti-venene can be given.
The day started badly with a very expensive visit to the doctor - $80 and I only got $37 back. They don’t bulk bill out here. The doctor determined that the pain in my ribs was not a hernia or pleurisy (which I had feared) but he noticed some bruising around the area. He checked I hadn’t had a fall or accident and said he thought I’d torn one of the lower level muscles with all the violent coughing and the bleeding was just now permeating through the other two layers. He prescribed a cough medicine and some special strong throat lozenges and then sent me to get a chest X-ray as I’d been coughing so long.
That was the second shock – the X-ray place was in the Alice Springs Hospital but was a private business and two X-rays cost me $115 for which I only got back $40 as the scheduled charge is $47. It is the only place in town so they can charge what they like. How do people living on dole money or low incomes manage if all medical attention here is so expensive?
Having been told to ring the doctor for the results
A Big Bottle Tree
This lovely tree is sitting in a vacant lot near the Alice Springs Hospital.
on Wednesday, we had a quick lunch and then went to the Reptile Centre. It is quite small but they have a reasonable collection of lizards, geckos, snakes and crocodiles. There were several different Blue-Tongues, the Centralian one being lighter in colour and slimmer than the one we’re used to in Victoria; some Bearded Dragons with their spiky skins; some Shingleback Lizards; a few Thorny Devils, surprisingly small but very cute with their thorns all over; and a Perentie, the largest of our lizards and 2nd
largest in the world, although this one was still young. The poor thing was pacing round and round in its outside pen, looking for a way out and bored to death
Their snakes included among others the King Brown, or more correctly Mulga Snake, that we’d met at the show a few days earlier; some Olive Pythons, also from the show; and the Western Brown, which like the King Brown, is venomous and badly named. They had three on display and only one was brown, and that was very light sandy colour – the other two looked like completely different snakes as one had orange and black bands all down it and the
Unlike most skinks, this one has rough spiny scales. When it is threatened it moves into a narrow crevice in rocks or into a hollow in a tree and inflates its body. The spiny scales act like little hooks and prevents him from being pulled out.
other was patterned.
Their freshwater crocodile was small and young but the Saltwater, or Estuarine Crocodile was more than 3.5 metres long. He had originally been removed from Darwin Harbour in 2002, weighing 200kg, and was relocated to the Centre where he will live out his days. He is now 22 years old and they usually live until they are about 40 in captivity, we were told. He seemed happy enough soaking in the pool despite the small size of his pen.
Definitely, the highlight of the exhibits was Rosie the Goanna, who was loose in one of the display rooms. When we first saw her she was lying near a window sunning herself. There was a sign on the door that led out to the external pens asking that she be kept inside and if she escaped, to call one of the attendants. We found out what they meant when we tried to get back into the building. She’d had enough sun and was full of energy. She’d decided it was time to go outside and everyone who tried to exit or enter through the door had to be extremely fast to stop her. I managed to
Rosie the Goanna
Rosie was loose in the Reptile Centre and was enjoying basking in the sun coming through the window. She then decided it was time to go outside except the sign on the door said don't let her out but don't pick her up either. It was quite a challenge getting out to the external displays!
distract her a couple of times by clicking my fingers and calling her but she soon realised it wasn’t food or something interesting and went straight back to pressing her face to the door’s glass. I was about to go and tell someone when one of the Rangers came to tell us the show was about to start. Rosie was left in peace to gaze out of the window longingly.
The show was very similar to the one we’d seen at the Tavern on Sunday and, like him, this lady talked much too fast for the audience, who were largely visiting from other countries. The information is fascinating but not helpful if you only get part of the words! It was very hard to bite my tongue and not say something.
We did learn a few new things, such as that snakes shed their skins three or four times a year and that they need to drink a lot more than normal (which is almost nothing) at that time so the skin is moister and can more easily slip off. Another interesting fact was about Blue Tongues – they can shed their tails as a last resort when
His lovely blue tongue is used as a defense while inflating his body to look bigger. Blue and red are danger colours in nature and this tongue waved about, as well as the bigger size will make a predator think twice about eating him, he hopes!
caught by a predator but it takes a few weeks to heal and although it grows a bit, it stays as a stump and never gets long and pointy again.
After the show we were able to hold the Blue Tongue (on your open hand and by the middle with both sets of legs supported) and the Bearded Dragon (who you pick up by the base of the tail and lay on your hand with the finger end higher than the wrist as they like to be uphill). The Bearded Dragon, who sat very still on our warm hands, did feel a bit spiky but they weren’t sharp.
We also got to individually hold another Olive Python, this one named Kayla, that they draped around your neck. You hold both hands out flat and wide and let her go where she wants. She was quite heavy, also being about 10 years old like Tom, and very soft and silky, as always.
After my turn, we stayed and watched the reactions of some of the other people. One Asian lady had the snake on her while her friend took a few photos but her face was screwed up
Kayla the Olive Python
She is about 10 years old, and can live to around 40. She's quite heavy, too, but wonderfully soft and silky to touch.
in disgust the whole time. I don’t think she’ll like those photos! Another European young woman plucked up the courage to hold it and then to stroke it. She was very surprised at the texture and seemed fine after that. Her friend also had it draped on her but was too scared to touch it other than having it on her hand and the second the photo was done she wanted it off her. Nothing anyone said would persuade her to feel the skin. So many people have the wrong idea about what snakes feel like and so are reluctant to touch them (obviously not in the wild and not when venomous).
That was the end of the Reptile Show and so we went off to get some shopping. As we passed a bottle shop on the way, we noticed a police car sitting outside and a policeman standing next to the entrance. This has been the case at every hotel and bottle shop in Alice Springs throughout our week here. I don’t know if it’s a short term blitz or if it happens all the time (although it seems a very expensive exercise using a lot of manpower
Barry and a Cental Bearded Dragon
These lizards like to be held on a flat hand and at an angle, probably similar to the way they'd sit on rocks sunning themselves to get warm.
that could be working on other things). The rules regarding the sale and drinking of alcohol are extremely hard and it seems they are strongly enforcing them in the Alice, at least at present. I overheard one policeman ask a car driver that was entering a drive-through bottle shop if he knew the liquor laws in the Northern Territory and then proceed to tell him. It seems to be an initiative to try and kerb the alcoholism problem, especially with the indigenous people. Let’s hope it works.
Another seems to be using plastic bottles for wine. I saw an empty wine bottle on the ground and picked it up to throw in the bin, only to discover it wasn’t glass. I suppose it stops all the broken glass from idiots who smash the empties. We haven’t tried to buy a bottle here so I’m not sure if all wine is like that. We only bought a 1litre cask soon after we crossed the border and haven’t finished it yet. I wonder if it changes the flavour of the wine or if it will become the norm in other cities.
Travelling has shown us so many things we never knew about our own country. What will we discover tomorrow?
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