Ilha da Queimada Grande is a mysterious island off the coast of Brazil in the Atlantic Ocean. No one dares to visit the island that is administered as part of the Municipality of Peruíbe in the State of São Paulo. The government of Brazil has banned people from entering the island, as the Brazilians believe that people – who visit island – don’t return alive!
There are many stories about the island. When a fisherman felt hungry while fishing in the sea, he visited the island in search of foods. People discovered his bloodstained body the next day! The incident triggered a panic among people who started avoiding the island.
Later, the government sent some people to Ilha da Queimada Grande for the maintenance of a lighthouse, which was constructed in 1909 to steer ships away from the island. According to sources close to the government, they spent 11 years (from 1909 to 1920) on the island. Surprisingly, all of them died from snake bites. The last human inhabitants left the island when the lighthouse was converted to being automated.
Where did the snakes come from?
There is another story about this… The pirates used to hide gold and other looted items in this island. To protect those treasures, they released some poisonous snakes there. Thereafter, those – who visited the island to steal valuable loot – didn’t return.
Now, thousands of snakes live there. According to herpetologists, those are Golden Lanceheads (or Bothrops insularis) – a venomous pit viper species endemic to Ilha da Queimada Grande. A recent survey has revealed that there is one Golden Lancehead per one square meter on the Brazilian island surface. Ilha da Queimada Grande is commonly known as ‘Snake Island’.
Meanwhile, herpetologists are of the opinion that the snakes became trapped in the island when rising sea levels covered up the land that connected it to the mainland. The ensuing selection pressure allowed the snakes to adapt to their new environment, increasing rapidly in population and rendering the island dangerous to public visitation. Queimada Grande is closed to the public in order to protect this snake population. Only the Brazilian Navy and selected researchers vetted by the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation, the Brazilian Federal conservation unit, are allowed access to the island. As per a 2015 estimate by a herpetologist, the population remains at 2,000-4,000 Golden Lanceheads.
It is to be noted that Ilha da Queimada Grande is also home to a smaller population of Dipsas albifrons, a non-venomous snake species.
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