Chapter 4 - Reptiles

Chapter 4 - Reptiles

A large variety of snakes are found in Venezuela, many species of which are poisonous; and the most dangerous of the non-poisonous class is the huge Anaconda, or water snake.
Once when Mr. Gordon Johnston and I were traveling on the inland plains, we reached a large cattle ranch at dusk. We decided to pass the night there, but rather than sleep amongst the rough cowboys in the house, we chose one of the sheds without sides. Before throwing our hammock ropes over one of the cross-beams, we focused our flashlights on the beam and discovered a snake of the “butterfly” variety, so named because of the markings on its skin. It is the largest and most dangerous of the poisonous snakes in this country. The poisonous snakes are nocturnal in their habits and this one was certainly wide awake, coiled around the beam and mouth open. We appealed to the cowboys to kill it but they told us to leave it alone till the morning as it was catching bats which flew in and out of the shed. The big vampire bats in those parts do a lot of damage sucking the blood of cattle, horses and donkeys. It is said that as their sharp teeth are perforating the back of the animal, their large wings, moving at high speed, help to anesthetize the area. In places where there is electric light, the owners often have light in the stable all night to keep the bats away. We wisely chose a more congenial spot that night for hanging our hammocks, and we thanked the Lord for opening our eyes to the danger. How good it is to have the light of the Word to reveal the dangers around us and thus be enabled to avoid them!

In the inland river town of El Baul, where a succession of Gospel efforts have been carried out over the years, and where Mr. J. W. Turkington has had a special interest, the first one to confess Christ was an elderly woman well acquainted with the wild country that surrounds that town. When visiting her one day she related the following incident. For her honeymoon her husband took her on a horseback tour of different cattle ranches. One morning as they sat at breakfast on the veranda of a ranch her attention was attracted to a strange sight. A young heifer was pulling against what appeared to be a thick rope attached to its muzzle, and then began to be drawn in the opposite direction. It suddenly occurred to her that a large water snake had seized the heifer and with its tail firmly anchored to a tree root at the edge of a lagoon, it was playing tug-of-war with the poor brute. She immediately notified the rancher who at first demurred, saying that the lagoon would dry up if they killed the snake which lived there! Finally he sent two men with machetes, who hacked the snake to pieces. To this lady’s astonishment the heifer showed no appreciation for what its liberators had done, but came charging towards them as if they were enemies. What a true picture of an ungrateful world of sinners, who, instead of appreciating the liberating power and grace of the Saviour, have become His bitter enemies. They take His name in vain and have no room for Him in their hearts. We who are saved by His grace must ever remember that we too were in the same “condemnation”: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

When my wife and I, with our five children were on a visit to Santa Rosa in the hills, we had a somewhat exciting experience with a snake. We slept in the Gospel hall which had an anteroom, and had our meals in a Christian’s home nearby. Our son Jack and I, after breakfast went ahead of the rest and arrived first at the Hall. There we found what appeared to be a large snake, both head and tail hidden in the adobe wall and the middle part outside was evidently too thick to enter. Our little boy got panicky but after calming him down, I found a strong stick and brought it down with all my might. However, a protruding stone saved the snake and it managed to squeeze farther into the wall and disappeared. When my wife arrived I got her a stick and she stood on the inside whilst I tried to persuade the snake to come out. At last I lit a piece of rag on the end of a stick and poked it into the wall, but instead of backing up, it forced its way to the inside and immediately I rushed to my wife’s appeal for help and soon the snake had received its death blow. The reason why the middle of its body was so thick was due to it having swallowed a toad which was not yet digested.


A poisonous snake killed at S. S. excursion by a stream. A girl noticed it in the spot where she was going to sit down.

A sister in the Santa Rosa Assembly, whose cottage was surrounded by tropical vegetation, was one evening at dusk calling her little son to go to bed. He slept alone in a small alcove but that evening he was afraid and would not retire. His mother got angry with him and threatened to beat him but could not persuade him to go. Wondering what the cause could be, she took a small coal oil lamp into the place where he was to sleep, and to her dismay found a poisonous snake coiled up on her wee son’s cot, ready to strike. The boy had not been near the room, but we see in this, God’s providential care of children by putting fear into that boy. It is in love for the souls of the lost that the Holy Spirit convicts of sin and produces fear and trembling in the sinner, as in the case of the Philippian jailor, in order to bring to repentance and faith in Christ Jesus.
When our oldest daughter, Jean, was a baby we lived in Valencia. One night she was sleeping in a cot in one corner of our bedroom, when suddenly we were awakened by her plaintive cry. We at once switched on the light and went to see if anything had gotten into the cot. As there was nothing visible, I looked up the electric cord in that corner and there saw a large centipede coming down towards the cot. These ugly creatures are carniverous; they have powerful pincers and their bite is very painful. It took several blows with a hammer to silence it. How we thanked God for His providential intervention on behalf of our little one!


There are two distinct classes of alligators in Venezuela: the smaller kind called the “Baba”, which most resembles the Florida alligator; and the larger kind, very ferocious and powerful like the crocodile and is known as the “Caiman.” The high price paid for their hides in later years has attracted hunters who have considerably reduced the numbers in the big inland rivers. A young man who engaged in this class of hunting once visited our home and explained the technique of that operation. Three men would go down to the river at night, when alligators would do preying on animals arriving to drink. Two of the men would lasso their victim with a raw hide rope and jerk its head to one side. The third would rush in with a sharp machete and hack off the head. This young man showed us an ugly scar, the result of an alligator being too strong for the two men and its teeth just grazed our friend’s leg.


la negra
“La “Negra”, A live Venezuelan Cayman
At one river settlement where we went for a meeting we saw a boy who marvelously escaped from the jaws of a caiman. He had heard the Gospel and had accepted Christ as his Saviour. As he was filling a tin can with water in the early morning at the river’s edge, a caiman seized him by the leg and was about to take him to its lair, but in soul anguish the boy cried: “Lord Jesus save me.” The alligator dropped him and he managed to get safely to land. The wound in his leg testified to the truth of the story.

It is interesting to see how God has put in His creatures of the lower order an instinct for self-preservation. Two examples must suffice.

a) The wild pigs or peccaries keep together in herds. There is a saying that, “the tiger always follows in the steps of the herd.” A hunter once told me that when he was hunting wild pigs he came up with a jaguar doing the same thing. The jaguar will not attack pigs whilst they are all together but waits until one gets separated from the rest. So it is with believers: whilst they keep together they are invulnerable but when a believer lags behind he becomes a target for the enemy.

b) A certain kind of fish called Lebranche, swims around in the sea in great shoals, in a funnel like formation, packed together with their heads outwards, the centre being left free right to the sea bed so that each fish gets its turn to go down and feed, then return to its place. Sharks are swimming around ready to devour any fish which gets separated from the shoal. Some of the Israelites in the desert got discouraged by the way and Amalek, the enemy, seized the opportunity of attacking them because they were lagging behind. The Lord wants to keep His people together (Psalm 133:1). When Peter followed “afar off” he was on the road to denying his Lord.


snake combat

Man and serpent in mortal combat
This picture appeared in a daily newspaper in 1972. It was not taken in a photographer’s studio but in a Colombian jungle. The man is a well known Venezuelan and was on a hunting trip with his wife and an American friend. One day as he passed a big tree an enormous boa-constrictor, coiled around a branch, suddenly dropped on him. He had the presence of mind to grip it firmly by the neck, otherwise its sharp, strong teeth would have soon disfigured his face. The American rushed to his rescue and took this snap first without waiting to calculate distance or light, hence the imperfect picture, but probably unique in its class. The powerful coils of the snake already had a strangle hold around the man’s neck and if it had not been for the timely intervention of his friend he would soon have been crushed to death.

It reminds us strikingly of our pitiful plight, hopeless victims of the old Serpent’s subtle power, and “bound by Satan’s captive chain.” May this solemn narrative lead any unsaved reader to see his hopeless state, his imminent danger and his urgent need of a Deliverer. How thankful we are for that greatest of all Friends, Who came to where we were and set us free:
“If the Son shall set you free, ye shall be free indeed.” Halleluiah, what a Saviour!