If you’re ever unfortunate enough to get bitten by a snake in Thailand, then just pray that there’s a guy like Vern Lovic within shouting distance. Among numerous other on-line interests, he is Thailand’s ‘farang snake guy’. I couldn’t give the chance to chat with Vern a missssssss.
Mr Vern Lovic, welcome to the ajarn hot seat sir. I began by browsing your website on snakes in Thailand but then one thing led to another and I found your YouTube videos as well as numerous articles you’ve written and books you’ve published. Vern, that’s a whole online empire you’ve got going there. You must spend 25 hours a day in front of a computer?
I used to, yes! Back in the states I started with building websites, selling on Ebay, SEO, and then creating businesses online.
When I came to Thailand in 2004, it was meant to be a break from all that. So I did, I took a break for two years from most of my online activity and then started up again.
And I am within "shouting distance" - I list my mobile phone number for snakebite questions and emergencies in the new book. For non-emergency type questions - email: firstname.lastname@example.org. I usually answer within minutes.
I'll keep that e-mail address handy mate. So just for the ajarn readers, give us a brief overview of what’s available online with the name Vern Lovic attached?
At one point there were 34 ebooks at Amazon; 50+ websites; and today I have around 500 YouTube videos online with something like 34 million views.
Some of the websites I've sold, some I've let lapse into obscurity.
Currently I'm ramping up ThailandSnakes.com and SnakeBiteAid.org as resources for people who live in Southeast Asia. I hope to be focused on that exclusively for the next few years.
So if you needed to compile a resume, what you would put in the interests and hobbies section?
What's a resume? If I had to, I'd list climbing steps, and climbing up mountain trails. I really get a kick out of going vertical. Something about standing on top of a mountain, a hill, and knowing that my own legs got me up there.
Looking for wildlife at night in one of Thailand's lush rainforests is right there at the top. I don't have time for too many hobbies anymore, I tell myself I only have time for family, work, exercise and herping.
In the little chat we had before I put these questions together, you described snakes as a ‘childhood passion’. When I was a child Vern, I collected football cards and built things out of Meccano. No disrespect Vern, but an interest in snakes is not normal is it?
I think when we're young we are all kind of mesmerized by snakes, aren't we?
My aunt and uncle subscribed me to some full color magazine for kids that came every month - no, not Playboy, but I think it was called "National Geographic's Wild Magazine," or something like that. It was just for kids and it showed the coolest reptiles, amphibians, birds, and other cool wildlife.
It started with me catching snakes in the back of my grandmother's large yard. Then, friends were bringing snakes to my house to identify, sometimes they were even venomous.
At twelve my friend and I lost a baby copperhead snake in the yard, and that put an end to my collecting of snakes at the house. As I got older "life" got in the way of plodding through the woods of Pennsylvania to find cool wildlife.
Joking aside, your Thailand snakes website is wonderful. It’s an absolute mine of information. Throw some stats at us first of all. How many species of snake are there in Thailand and how many of those do I seriously need to avoid?
There are definitely over 200 species of snake in the country and there are thirty-five venomous snakes which can kill you.
I just published a book about those snakes, with everything you'd need to know to identify one, and begin preliminary first aid in case of an envenomed bite.
OK, Thai snakes for dummies. Of all the species here in Thailand, which one is the most dangerous? Who’s the daddy?
That's a tough question Phil, one which could be answered in many ways.
If you're teasing a snake, or trying to handle one, I think a 2-3 meter long king cobra is the most dangerous snake you could possibly choose. If you're talking about general snakes you should be concerned about in the country, there is probably none more dangerous than the Malayan Pit Viper (Calloselasma rhodostoma) because it covers nearly all of Thailand, is quick to bite, and has horrific venom.
The venom is so potent that it destroys everything in the body it comes into contact with. An envenomed bite by this snake means you'll be losing some of your flesh - to necrosis!
Your latest book is “Is That Snake in your House Dangerous?” Snakes! In the house! You’re having a laugh. How are they getting in?
Toilets! Hide your ass Phil!
Just kidding. There are probably less than 10 instances of snakes coming up through a toilet in a year in Thailand. For a country of around 60 million people and 25 million visitors, that isn't so often. Most times it doesn't result in a bite, but then sometimes it does. We've all seen the aftermath shots of the poor Thai guy with a python attached to his 'nong.'
Usually snakes come in through the door because people leave them open. They use windows, pipes, cracks, and holes, the same way rats and other rodents enter our homes, snakes can too.
Ain't no snakes getting anywhere near my 'nong' but I do take care of a reasonable sized garden and my wife is always warning me about the dangers of snakes (and to be fair I’ve seen some beauties out there) So when I go outside Vern, is it a good idea to do something like bang a metal tray or sing at the top of my voice?
Singing loudly at the top of your voice is always a great idea Phil, I would encourage that. It won't help you keep the snakes at bay because they can't hear you, but you'll make a lot of friends and introduce Thais to your way of life.
When we do find an obscenely large snake in the garden, my mother-in-law usually runs to the engineering workshop next door and several young Thai guys will arrive with great big sticks and beat the shit out of it (it’s nothing to do with me, honestly) But I could actually arm myself with some proper snake-catching equipment from your website?
I've been considering what to do about this problem. To be fair, there are some very dangerous snakes here that nobody should be trying to catch with tongs, hooks, bags, traps, or bare hands.
On the other hand, most snakes will never be close enough to bite, nor would they ever specifically target you as a prey item. Every snake will get away, when given the chance, except those damn Malayan Pit Vipers and a couple others. They are like toxic landmines.
I'm not sure what to do about the problem of removing snakes from property - there is no easy answer. Can I blame someone who, with no knowledge of snakes, bashes the crap out of one because it is in the same yard as children playing? I can't. I also don't have a safe solution right now except to call your local emergency ambulance personnel or police and tell them you'd like for them to remove the snake.
Sometimes the snake is killed, sometimes eaten, and sometimes it will be let go in a remote area. There is some research now that shows relocation of snakes usually results in death for the snake too. So, no real easy answer. Prevention, keeping snakes out of your home and off your property is probably the best option. It's not foolproof, but there is a lot you can do to keep snakes away.
I’ve always wanted to ask this question to an expert – what happens if I get bitten? I mean apart from flicking through your book to identify the bastard?
Once you flick through the new book and identify the bastard snake, there is a specific set of first aid instructions you can follow before you arrive at the hospital including detailed instructions about wrapping or not wrapping a bite.
Different snakes require different actions. Antivenom, and where it is made is listed in the book, so if the hospital you arrive at doesn't have it, they can quickly source it.
You’ve taught me a new word – ‘herping’ - ‘the act of searching for amphibians or reptiles’. With your passion for photography, I’m guessing that a weekend’s herping is your idea of a perfect weekend (but probably not an opinion shared by your wife)?
I have the coolest wife ever - she's more than accommodating! I can go whenever I want, but she never accompanies me, she's afraid of the common geckos at our house. No joke! Should have seen her face when I first brought home a couple of monocled cobras!
Snake experts from all over the world get in touch with you. What do they usually want to know or do?
So many snake experts across the world have experience with captive bred and raised snakes in a sterile environment, but little or no experience seeing or catching snakes in the wild.
I don't even keep snakes. I don't believe in it. I couldn't tell you how to keep a cobra in an enclosure and breed them, but I can tell you the best place to find many different species.
I think the experience of actually walking around the rainforest at midnight with head-torches to find cobras, kraits, vipers, and coral snakes is something most reptile enthusiasts are keen on doing.
As you know Vern, ajarn is a site for foreign teachers in Thailand so I can’t ignore the fact that many years ago – 2006 in fact – you did a year’s teaching in Surat Thani. I’m guessing that because you’ve never gone back to it, you either didn’t like teaching very much or the online stuff is much more lucrative?
My attempt at teaching for a year was a horrible disservice to the kids. Online business is where I need to focus!
You’ve got another book on snakes coming out in a few weeks on how to stop the slitherers getting into your house in the first place. Give us a taste of what’s in it?
Sure! The most common question I get asked through email and contact forms on my websites is - "HOW DO I KEEP SNAKES OUT OF MY HOUSE AND YARD?!!"
So, that's exactly what the next book is about. I will list the best steps anyone can take to keep their home and yard as free from snakes as possible.
Thanks for the chat Vern. I’m certainly going to take more care when I’m outside in the forest or in the garden. I think that generally Thais worry about snakes far more than foreigners do and I find many Thais have a decent snake story to tell.
If you live here in the country for some amount of time, you probably have a snake story to tell. I have a couple I tell, and a couple I keep to myself!
Thanks too Phil, I hope to see you someday in the middle of the rainforest in the dead of night looking for the most venomous and dangerous snakes in the country. Cheers!
Not if I see you first mate. So where can we get the books then?
I have a free ebook (Photos Of Common Thailand Snakes) available for anyone to download in PDF or iBooks format for just joining our informative mailing list. Get it here https://www.thailandsnakes.com/snake-research/free-thailand-snakes-ebook-get-yours
Our new ebook (Is That Snake In Your House Dangerous? Identify Deadly Thailand Snakes In Under 5 Minutes!) is available here (https://www.thailandsnakes.com/snake-house-dangerous-ebook/). When you purchase that book, you'll get the next book (below) for 60% off.
Our upcoming book "Keep Snakes Out! 35 Super-easy Tips To Keep Snakes Off Your Property," will be available at the end of July 2016 here (https://www.thailandsnakes.com/book3/).