Loaring, C., Trim, S. 2012. Refining laboratory husbandry of venomous snakes of the family Elapidae. Animal Technology and Welfare 11, 157-164.
Unlike rodent management, captive maintenance of venomous snakes poses a considerably greater risk to operators and those around them: specific protocols are, therefore, required. Traditional techniques used by hobbyists and professionals involve frequent direct contact; agreed-upon safety procedures exist in the form of antivenom and the knowledge of its use although this is a reactive solution as opposed to proactive avoidance of a bite in the first place. This paper discusses novel maintenance procedures that greatly reduce the risk presented by traditional techniques. Venomtech Ltd work with over fifty species of venomous snake but this paper will focus on species of the family Elapidae. Many elapids are nervous, agile and possess fast-acting neurotoxic venom which, combined with a willingness to use it, means separation between operator and snake is critical. Standard husbandry techniques such as feeding and cleaning therefore need to maintain this separation in order to cultivate a safe working environment. Procedures presented here show contact-free management of elapids through the use of modified enclosures based on Really Useful Boxes (Really Useful Products Ltd) and utilising the snakes' natural behaviours. Cobras (genus Naja), mambas (genus Dendroaspis) and taipans (genus Oxyuranus) are used as example species, but these techniques are also applicable to a wide variety of other venomous snakes. Use of these novel techniques as part of the laboratory management procedure reduces stress from traditional handling techniques and minimises the risk of envenomation subsequently refining safe laboratory management of dangerous snakes.