Full of venomous snakes, an island off the coast of São Paulo is considered the most dangerous in the world, but it is also an important Brazilian conservation unit.

Imagine an island completely dominated by venomous snakes. Despite looking like the setting of some work of fiction, this place exists and is here in Brazil. It is about island of snakes, popular name given to Queimada Grande island, located on the coast of the south coast of São Paulo, between the cities of Itanhaém and Peruíbe. 

The place, which is a Brazilian conservation unit, stands out for having the highest concentration of snakes per square meter in the world. However, the real threat there, currently, are the impacts caused by man himself. This is because the jararaca-ilhoa (bothrops insularis), an endemic species that inhabits the island, is threatened with extinction. 

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To preserve it – and also because of its danger – access to the Queimada Grande is not allowed. Only researchers and environmental professionals are allowed to visit it. Even so, authorization from the Brazilian Navy and a series of specific garments are required. 

Among research, mysteries and curious facts that surround the place, learn more about this, which is considered the most dangerous island in the world, but also a true natural treasure of the south coast of São Paulo

Danger on all sides

most dangerous island in the world sao paulo cobras grande burned

Photo: Disclosure / ICMBip

THE island of snakes, or Big Burndefinitely not a place for humans. Aside from snakes everywhere, the island has no drinking water. To make matters worse, landing there is also not the easiest, being necessary to cross cliffs and a huge rocky shore, quite slippery.

For all these reasons, the island was considered by the website listverse the most dangerous place in the world in 2010. In addition, some famous “legends” try to explain the existence of so many snakes there. One of them says that ancient pirates who guard a treasure placed snakes there to protect it.

However, science explains: more than 10 thousand years ago, sea levels rose due to the melting of glaciers and isolated the island, causing the snake species there to evolve and adapt over time.

Jararaca-ilhoa: an endangered species 

most dangerous island in the world sao paulo cobras grande burned

Jararaca-ilha. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Currently, according to information from the ICMBio, it is estimated that there are around 4,000 snakes on the island. The snake that lives there, however, has a curious factor: it is an endemic species, that is, unique. The jararaca-ilhoa has different characteristics from the jararacas that live on the mainland. 

This is because on the island there are no small rodents. Thus, snakes developed the ability to climb trees to hunt birds, which made their venom stronger, about four times more potent, to kill prey faster. In addition, the species developed a camouflage so as not to be noticed among the vegetation of the island. 

The name “Queimada Grande” arose because, some time ago, when fishermen and sailors needed to disembark there, they carried out large fires to drive away its poisonous inhabitants. It was precisely this that put the native forest at risk and also the existence of snakes.  

In addition, animal trafficking was also one of those responsible for including the species on the endangered list. It is estimated that the snake population on the island has decreased by almost half in the last 15 years – which is why researchers, together with the Butantã Institute, are trying to reverse the situation and ensure the preservation of the species, as well as its habitat.

Conservation and research on the world's most dangerous island

most dangerous island in the world sao paulo cobras grande burned

Researchers study the jararaca-ilhoa. Photo: ICMBio

According to ICMBio, the body responsible for maintaining the area, the research carried out on the island is carried out by students from Brazilian federal universities and also by the Butantã Institute. The studies focus on the maintenance of pit vipers and also on the environment where they live. The researchers take the risk to remove the exotic flora of the island and restore its natural plants, in a delicate work of reforestation.  

In addition to the jararaca-ilhoa, other species also inhabit the place, such as several insects, lizards, snakes, spiders and birds. Despite its small territory, Queimada Grande Island has great biological importance and a rich natural ecosystem. 

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