This saw-scaled viper (pictured) was discovered in the corner of a giant container at Tilbury Docks, pictured, forcing workers to call in volunteers from the South Essex Wildlife Hospital.

The vipers are small but have an irritable and aggressive nature and their lethal venom makes them very dangerous to humans. Experts say the snakes are responsible for more human deaths than all other snake species combined.

Wildlife volunteers had the shock of their lives when they were called to rescue a slippery stowaway and discovered it was the world’s deadliest snake.

Volunteers from the South Essex Wildlife Hospital?discovered the saw-scaled viper curled up in the corner of a giant shipping container that had arrived at Tilbury Docks from India.

Saw-scaled vipers are small but have an irritable and aggressive nature and their lethal venom makes them very dangerous to humans.

Experts believe they are responsible for more human deaths than all other snake species combined as they tend to live in more populated areas.

Hospital founder Sue Schwar said: ‘We routinely handle injured and uncooperative wildlife every day of the week but I’m glad it’s rare to get one of these critters.’

She added: ‘They are very dangerous snakes to keep. It’s like having a loaded gun.

‘Their venom isn’t the most poisonous but because they live in highly populated areas they tend to bite more people. That’s why they’re the most deadly.

‘I think the guys at the company wanted it taken away pretty quickly as it’s a risk to their staff.’

Miss Schwar said the charity’s reptile expert Steve Mitchell managed to scoop up the snake before it could slither away.

She said: ‘He knew straight away what it was. Although it’s not a very big snake they move like lightening and can strike pretty quickly’.

The only venomous snakes in the UK are adders, but they are not poisonous enough to kill humans.

She added: ‘We deal with a lot of wildlife but nothing this poisonous. We get the odd scorpion in boxes of fruit in supermarkets.’

The snake could have been in the container for several weeks but it appeared to be in good health.

It is currently being looked after at the hospital in Grays awaiting a suitable home – and all the volunteers have been warned about it’s deadly bite.

Anyone anyone who takes charge of it will have to be an expert, Miss Schwar said.

She explained that in the short-term she was concerned as to how to encourage it to eat, as saw-scaled vipers don’t feed well in captivity.

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