The Brazilian island Queimada Grande is better known as the Island of Poisonous Snakes because it is plagued by dangerous snakes. It has a dimension of 43 ha and is located about 32 km from Sao Paulo.
It is the exclusive habitat of one of the most poisonous snakes in the world: Bothrops insularis, classified as ‘in danger of extinction’.
According to a Discovery Channel documentary there is more than 1 snake per square meter.
There are various legends about the island and the death of people, but researchers who have been there claim that this species does not usually attack people (although they can be aggressive if they feel threatened).
There is an automatic lighthouse on the island that is checked annually, although until 1920 it was run by a lighthouse keeper and his family, the only inhabitants of the island. There are several legends about the final fate of this family but they all have one thing in common: they would all have died due to the voracity of the snakes, as well as a rescue team that went in search of them.
There are also legends about a treasure. One of them assures that the Guarani, a warrior tribe of the area, would have stolen a shipment from Portuguese colonizers and would have hidden it on this island. To guard it, they would have filled the island with poisonous snakes.
It is actually believed that the number of these snakes increased as the sea level rose and the island began to separate from the mainland. Due to the effect of insularity the species evolved differently: its venom is more lethal. In this way they manage to feed on the migratory birds (so they do not escape when they are bitten). According to the analysis of the poison of captured specimens, it is 5 times more poisonous than that of Bothrops jararaca, the most dangerous species of its genus.
Due to the lethality of the venom of this type of snake, the access of tourists to the island is prohibited. Only authorized scientists can enter, although some poachers have managed to get in.