A decade ago when I first visited, it was possible to walk inside a huge cage full of boas, which hissed like boiling kettles to announce their displeasure.
The serpentarium’s owner, Sr. Minor Camacho Loaiza, has since populated the cage with eyelash vipers  (locally called bocaracá)—diminutive yet deadly pit-vipers named for the hooded scales above their eyes. Sr. Camacho informed me that this beautiful creature is responsible for many deaths in Costa Rica, second only to the much-feared terciopelo, or fer-de-lance  (Bothrops asper; see my blog post ), which accounts for about 80 percent of all snake mortalities in the country.
Sr. Camacho is one of Costa Rica’s foremost specialists in serpentology, especially with regard to the terciopelo (the word means velvet), of which many are displayed safe behind glass-walled cases.
In 1994 he first reported a dramatic increase in the population of venmous snakes as they migrated from their natural forest habitats into new man-made habitats, such as cattle pastures, sugarcane fields, and suburban areas. Most noticeably, the terciopelo is migrating into the highlands, where they are passing through population areas where they’ve not been seen before. And bocaracás are increasingly found in coffee fields from which they were previously absent.
The number of recorded snake bites has increased correspondingly.
Sr. Camacho explained that climatic change is the causative factor.
First, apparently terciopelos—which are renowned for being aggressive—are even more so at higher temperatures. Consider it like a human who gets irritable when overheated.
“The devastating effects of El Nino and La Nina in the mountainous Atlantic region and parts of the Northern Zone… an almost permanent weakening of the trade winds, an increase in temperature, a drastic decrease of cold fronts and a dramatic decrease in rainfall, all are transforming vast areas,” says Sr. Camacho, presumably creating new snake-friendly habitats.
A corollary is the drier climate is affecting snake morphology. The snakes are now smaller. Many appear to be undernourished, as evidenced by photos that Sr. Camacho showed me.
You can check out the photos at his personal Facebook  page.
Sr. Camacho runs an educational program for schools to educate children on the dangers.
Serpentario Viborana is well worth a visit if you're in the region. Contact Sr. Camacho at viboranamay [at] hotmail [dot] com or 2538-1510.
Now that you’re ready to travel to Costa Rica, buy Moon Handbook Costa Rica .
If you're traveling only to San José and the Caribbean, buy Moon Spotlight Costa Rica's Caribbean Coast  pocket guide.
If you're traveling only to the beaches of Nicoya, buy Moon Spotlight Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula  pocket guide.
If you're traveling only to Arenal and/or Monteverde, buy Moon Spotlight Costa Rica's Arenal&Monteverde  pocket guide.
Learn more about Christopher P. Baker .
Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see in Cuba & Costa Rica Journal are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Copyright © Christopher P. Baker