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The Bushmaster Lachesis Daudin,1803
Silent Fate of the American Tropics

Library of Congress Card Number 00192924.  ISBN  0-9705561-0-1

The natural history of the largest, most dangerous viper in the world.

An intriguing inquiry into the life habits of what might be the most fascinating of all snakes . . . The infamous bushmaster is made scientifically accessible without detracting anything from its mysterious allure.

"This book constitutes the single greatest reservoir of facts and interpretations that have yet been offered on this poorly known reptile. It is certain to become the standard work.” -- Charles M. Fugler

“A bushmaster opus, thoroughly investigated . . . I am impressed by Dean Ripa’s incredible experiences with these snakes. . . A labor of love.” Jonathan Campbell, coauthor of Venomous Reptiles of Latin America

“This is the definitive work on the bushmaster, and likely to remain so.” Franklin Everson Shaw

Available in the Summer of 2010!

The largest viper in the world, reaching a length of 12 ft (3.6 m), the bushmaster has long inspired excitement and dread among travelers to the jungles of Central and South America. Indeed, it has been implicated in unprovoked, chasing attacks, and its bite is almost always fatal. In one Costa Rican study, 80 percent of bite victims died even with antivenom treatment. Although the bushmaster has earned a nearly legendary status in popular writings, it remains an almost unknown character in herpetology. Rarely seen in the wild, bushmasters are so thinly populated, so secretive, and live in such remote forests, that even many dedicated field scientists have never actually encountered one for themselves. Their danger, and the difficulty of keeping them alive when captured from the wild, have made them equally difficult to study in captivity. To date, no scientific book has yet been published on the bushmaster’s real life habits.

Dean Ripa has changed the way we look at bushmasters.  Once thought to be a single species, in 1994 he challenged this idea with morphological and geographic evidence. The mt-DNA work of Zamudio and Greene (1997) later confirmed Ripa's view, and today the bushmasters are recognized as three distinct species.

He has since revised the distribution range of at least two bushmaster species, and revealed the likely existence of a "new" species, Lachesis acrochorda (for which L. stenophrys and L. muta were long mistaken) indigenous to eastern Panamá and NW South America.

Most of what is known about bushmaster behavior and morphology comes from Dean Ripa.  Specialized courtship rituals, male combat, among other reproductive behavior were recorded by Ripa for the first time.  In addition, his studies of their predatory strategies have changed our views about these snakes' habits, form and size.  Prior to his work, the bushmaster's great size was accounted for by the "large predator = large prey" hypothesis.  In a genus already rich with anomalies, Ripa discovered quite the opposite.  Pound per pound, the world's largest viper had the smallest prey-size swallowing capacity of almost any snake.  Once thought to be a sluggish, solitary reptile that fed infrequently, he revealed it to be a highly active frequent feeder on small prey, with recognizably social behavior among its own species and even a commensal relationship with the large rodents that construct its underground refuge.

Survivor of seven bushmaster bites, and the first person in the world to reproduce two species of bushmaster in captivity, Dean Ripa has the rare qualifications necessary to tell the life story of these fascinating and frightening snakes. Revealed are the truly unique characteristics of bushmasters, refuting popular myths and long-standing scientific beliefs. Do bushmasters really chase people as has been portrayed? Why does bushmaster venom kill so quickly in human envenomation despite its surprisingly low toxicity rating in the laboratory? What is the correct treatment protocol for bushmaster bite? The unique anatomical features the bushmaster uses in courtship and copulation, the territorial battles for females, the age-related changes in venom composition, surprising dietary requirements and many more strange evolutionary quirks of this little known genus are revealed for the first time. Long considered a single taxon, this book reprints Ripa’s original papers that led to their reclassification into four distinct species. His own first hand experiences with bushmaster bite are recounted in horrifying, close-up detail.

Ripa's work has not been without hazard.  He has survived an amazing seven envenomings by bushmasters, making him "the most bushmaster bitten person of all time." In one Costa Rican study, bushmaster bite was shown to kill an estimated 80 percent of its victims even with antivenom treatment!  In The Bushmaster (Genus Lachesis Daudin 1803), Silent Fate of the American Tropics, the author provides an intimate, first hand look at what it's like to nearly die from bushmaster bite, and challenges our preconceptions of what the venom of this "most lethal of all vipers" does to the human system.

The photographic library is by far the largest and most extensive ever published on this rare pit viper. The scientific information amassed in this book was a labor spanning more than 25 years.


Now available in a deluxe 9 X 12 inch hardcover edition!

Dean Ripa has collected snakes in the distant backwaters of 35 countries.  Over a decade before snake-wrangling  emcees on TV made international careers in front of cameras, stage crews and first-aid "safety nets", Dean Ripa was catching deadly snakes alone in remote places, far from medical help and human settlement, bringing his captures back to America alive and unharmed, studying their life habits and reproducing them in captivity.  Dean's adventures so captivated famous author William S. Burroughs (Naked Lunch) that he immortalized some of Dean's experiences in his final novel, The Western Lands.   "Dean Ripa. . ." he wrote, "could have stepped from a novel by Joseph Conrad." 

Caught up in military coups in Third World hells, tribal wars in Irian Jaya, tribal sorcery over rare artifacts in Zaire, lost in Amazon jungles, chased by corrupt officials, cocaine lords, and the priests of an Ashanti chief who blamed him for the chief's death from snakebite.  Infected by malaria, dysentery, schistosomiasis, and bitten by ten venomous snakes in the process, Dean Ripa lived a life of unrestrained adventure and not a little terror before settling down to breed deadly snakes for middle-aged relaxation.