Chef killed by decapitated cobra

A chef died after a cobra he had decapitated 20 minutes ago bit his hand. Photo / Thinkstock
A chef died after a cobra he had decapitated 20 minutes ago bit his hand. Photo / Thinkstock

A chef preparing a dish made from cobra flesh died after the snake bit his hand - 20 minutes after he had severed it from its body.

Peng Fan from Foshan, Guangdong province, southern China, had been preparing a special dish made from Indochinese spitting cobra, a rare delicacy.

It was as he went to chuck the cobra's head in the bin that it bit him, injecting Mr Peng with its flesh-killing, neurotoxic venom.

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The snake was being diced up to be made into snake soup, which is a delicacy in Guangdong and a much sought after dish in the province's high-end restaurants.

Restaurant guest Lin Sun, 44, who was in the restaurant with his wife Su at the time said: "We were in the restaurant having a meal for my wife's birthday when suddenly there was a lot of commotion.

"We did not know what was happening but could hear screams coming from the kitchen.

"There were calls for a doctor in the restaurant but unfortunately by the time medical assistance arrived the man had already died.

"After we heard that we did not continue with our meal."

Police say Peng died before he could be given life saving anti-venom in hospital. Victims of the Indochinese spitting cobra generally asphyxiate after the neurotoxin paralyses their respiratory system.

A police spokesman said: "It is a highly unusual case but it appears to be just an accident. The man had a very severe reaction to the bite.

"There was nothing that could be done to save the man. Only the anti-venom could have helped but this was not given in time.

"He prepared the snake himself and was just unlucky. It was just a tragic accident."

Snake expert Yang Hong-chang - who has spent 40 years studying cobras - says all reptiles can function for up to an hour after losing body parts, or even their entire body.

"It is perfectly possible that the head remained alive and bit Peng's hand," he said.

"By the time a snake has lost its head, it's effectively dead as basic body functions have ceased, but there is still some reflexive action."

"It means snakes have the capability of biting and injecting venom even after the head has been severed."

Indochinese spitting cobras are indigenous Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Burma.

Their flesh is a much sought after delicacy and the skin is used to make expensive designer goods, a trade which has no doubt contributed to their "vulnerable" conservation status.

Snake meat is really good for us. It is not so easy to get and is expensive but it has spectacular health benefits

Residents of the Guangdong province have a long history of enjoying snake meats of all sorts in local culinary dishes.

For many centuries it has been commonly served up in a soup, and is also taken as part of Chinese medicine, for it is believed that snake meat can cure ailments.

One local said: "Snake meat is really good for us. It is not so easy to get and is expensive but it has spectacular health benefits.

"I have never heard any cases of a dead snake killing anyone, especially not in the kitchen."

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