AVRU/UPNG Serpentarium Project

One of the priorities for enabling Papua New Guinea to achieve greater control over the future antivenom requirements within the country is the development of sustainable infrastructure. Any move by Papua New Guinea to investigate alternatives to current supply arrangements, such as developing their own antivenom production facilities, requires that there be a reliable source of snake venoms available for use in basic research and as antigens with which to raise antivenom.

In 2004 the University of Papua New Guinea and Department of Environment & Conservation approved the development of a Serpentarium at UPNG's School of Medicine & Health Sciences. An unused animal housing building was allocated for the project as the UPNG contribution, and since then the building has been improved and fitted out by AVRU to accommodate highly venomous snakes, and the rodents that must be bred to supply them with food.

     
Conversion of the first empty room in our Serpentarium to a fully functional snake room.

The Serpentarium which presently houses approximately 60 snakes, will eventually accommodate several hundred specimens collected from locations right across Papua New Guinea. A National Reference Collection of Snake Venoms is being created by regularly extracting venom from snakes in the collection. These venoms are currently being used in basic research projects that have been developed through the collaboration between David Williams and UPNG Associate Professor Dr Teatulohi Matainaho, and provide learning opportunities in the fields of biochemistry, protein purification and pharmacology for UPNG Medical School students.

  
Emergency physician Dr Simon Jensen and AVRU Research Associate Laura Greisman traded stethoscopes and lab coats for paint brushes to put the finishing touches to a new room that will house Papuan taipans. Emergency trainee Dr Wala Marjen also traded her stethoscope for a paint brush to help build new cages for our growing collection of Papuan taipans
  
AVRU Director, Dr Ken Winkel also volunteered to pick up a brush during the construction of cages for our venomous snakes. AVRU has funded the development of the project despite a lack of specific project finance. New cages for Papuan taipans undergoing door and hardware fitout. Our aim is to assemble a representative collection of Papuan taipans from right across their range in southern Papua New Guinea.
 
UPNG MMedSci student, Owen Paiva putting finishing touches on door frames, after the entire building received its new coat of paint Newly painted workroom. We are currently seeking financial support to enable the floors to be levelled and tiled, and workbenches refurbished.
 
Newly installed shelving to hold cages for our growing collection of New Guinean death adders. We are currently undertaking a phylogenetic study of death adder populations to determine the degree of species diversity. David Williams with one of our large Papuan taipans in one of the newly renovated snake rooms at the Serpentarium.

 


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Except where stated otherwise all site content David Williams (1998-2007)