Thursday, February 19, 2015

Kevin Budden

Today I'm going to learn about Kevin Budden. He's a herpetologist.  Or he was. He might be dead already. I'll learn soon about that from Lord Wiki.

I have reptiles on my mind right now, because there's a lizard (green anole) living in my office. He or she is named Rory. I'm pretty sure it's a she, although I just decided that yesterday.  Because I haven't seen a thing on his throat— this thing that males are supposed to have.  Though in my heart, I feel like it's a he and not a she. Ah! Maybe it's a she that wants to be a he. It could be a transgender lizard.

I found Rory in my closet about a month ago. He fell near my foot when I was looking for a shirt to wear.  I decided since it was too cold outside, we could keep him as a temporary pet.  I managed to capture him, and I put him in a small cage. We went to the store; bought a bigger cage, a water dish, and some live mealworms.

But then he seemed so sad and stressed in the cage. So I let him free. Ever since then, he's been free roaming...mostly in my office, but we once found him hanging out in Jack's bathroom.

The problem is I don't think he's happy, even outside the cage. He should be green, but he's usually brown. Brown is a sign of stress in green anoles.  I also haven't seen him eat. I put mealworms near him. Sometimes I don't see the mealworms later and see that as a hopeful sign. But then later I'll see a mealworm walking around. So not only do I have a lizard living in my office, but I seem to have mealworms as roommates as well.

Twice I tried capturing Rory to put him outside. I failed. So then I decided to leave it up to fate. I put his cage on it's side, with the idea that if he's meant to be put outside, he'll crawl in the cage. Then I'll flip it around and have him trapped. I'll take it outside, and release him. And he did crawl in a few days ago, but it was a very cold day.  I then decided my rule is I'm going to put him outside if he craws into the cage and it's 60 degrees or above. Still, I feel conflicted about it. Fort Worth is supposed to be warm today through Saturday. Then Sunday it gets cold. Monday it might snow.  I'll feel bad leaving him out in the cold.

On the other hand, maybe it's still better for him to be back outside. What if he has a friend out there that he's missing? A boyfriend? A girlfriend?

I do love having him here. He's adorable. But I know he's stressed and that's making me stressed.

Then there's another issue.

When I put him in the cage, the day we first met, he frantically climbed the walls, as if trying to find a way to escape. Since then I haven't seen him climb.  He hangs out on the ground. Anoles are supposed to have these things on their feet that helps them stick to trees, fences, walls, etc. I think Rory's might be damaged. Then again, they might be fine, and he's not climbing because he's too depressed. Maybe if I put him outside, he'll happily climb up a tree.  But what if he IS damaged, and is stuck dwelling on the ground and that makes it hard for him to escape from predators?

Well, I really don't know what's the right thing to do. That's why I'm leaving it up to fate and Rory.—see if he climbs into the enclosure within the next couple of days. If not, then I'm probably going to buy some crickets. Maybe he'll eat those. Then I'll have crickets and a lizard as roommates.

So. That's my lizard tale.  Now I shall go learn about Budden. I did skim over some information about him last night. I can't remember if he's dead or alive; but I do remember that he worked with snakes...taipans, specifically.

Lord Wiki says Budden is dead. He died from a snake bite. Yikes.

He was born in 1930.  He was an amateur herpetologist. I think that means he learned about snakes on his own, and didn't have formal training.

When Budden finished his childhood education, he joined the workforce as a retail assistant.  For a hobby, he joined the Australian Reptile Club, and he started hunting snakes. This was in the late 1940's.

In the 1950's, he and some friends went in search for a taipan.  They were doing this for anti-venom research purposes. On July 27, he found a taipan in Cairns and managed to get it in a bag. But the snake managed to get in a bite. The next day, Budden died.

I was about to say he didn't die in vain, but I don't think I like that phrase.  What does it mean if you DO die in vain? How does someone die in vain? If I sliced up by a serial killer tomorrow and society doesn't benefit from my death, does that mean I was vain? Or my death was vain?

What I will say is that Budden risked his life, and that risk he took did end up benefitting society. Yes, I know. It's just a matter of semantics, really. Still. I like phasing it that way better.

The killer taipan was sent to a laboratory in Melbourne. A zoologist named David Fleay milked the snake.  And thanks to Fleay and Budden, since 1955, there's been a taipan anti-venom. It's a relief to know that; although I don't think taipans often bite people.  I think they're pretty shy. At least the inland ones are. Maybe the coastal ones are more aggressive.

Lord Wiki says the coastal taipan is not confrontational. He's not going to seek you out for a rumble. But if cornered, he'll fight. The problem is sometimes humans ACCIDENTALLY corner a snake.  A snake probably can't tell whether you're standing in front of it because you want to kill it (or involve it in your latest Selfie), OR if you've just accidentally crossed it's path.

A bite from a coastal taipan will kill someone in about 2.5 hours. So there's going to be a need to rush to get to the place that has the anti-venom.

Here's an article from 2012. A man died from a taipan.  I was going to say deaths by taipan must be rare enough that it appears on the news when it happens. But car accident fatalities aren't rare, and everyday I see articles about that.

Still. I do think taipan deaths ARE rare. And the article seems to agree with me.

The man who got bitten was doing work—electrical stuff. He got separated from his workmates, and got bit.  Another person got bit a few months earlier, but he was able to be saved with anti-venom.

Here's an article about the person who survived.  It was a teenager, and it happened in the Hunter Valley; not too far from Sydney.  Because taipans aren't usually hanging out in the area, there was speculation that it might have been an illegal pet. I wonder if it was the victim's pet; or the pet of someone he knows. The article doesn't say where he was when he was bitten, or what he was doing.

I should get back to Kevin Budden. I wonder if I'll be able to find much else about him.

I found something! Here's a feature about him.

The second sentence of the website says,  Not the sort of dream aspired to by most 20-year old men, mind you, but a significant dream nonetheless. Budden dreamt not of motor cars, pretty women, a career or secure family life, but of a singularly fantastic feat - the capture alive, of a taipan snake!

I think there are many 20-year-old men who are passionate about things besides motor cars, pretty girls, and their careers. At least today. I'm pretty sure it was the case back then as well.

The article says that on July 27, Budden was about to give up for the day when he heard a squeal.

The squeal was from a rat about to become a taipan's lunch.  I'm not sure why he did this, but Budden then stepped on the snake's neck, causing it to release the rat. I suppose he was doing that in attempts to capture the snake, and wasn't attempting to make the snake lose its lunch. Although maybe he was feeling sympathetic towards the rat?

Budden was alone at this point. I'm not sure where his mates went. But he somehow picked up the snake and had it held in a way that it wouldn't bite him. Unfortunately, though, he couldn't get to his snake bag.  He then walked with the snake. I can't really get an image of this from the description. I guess it's about holding the snake tight enough that it can't wiggle into a biting position.

Budden found a ride with a guy and his truck. The guy was understandably a bit freaked out. Budden assured him he had things under control.  The driver took him to the home of another snake hunter. That's where Budden got bit.

When they were finally getting the snake into the bag, Budden's grip failed a bit, and the snake grabbed the opportunity to bite.

The other snake hunter told Budden to scarify the wound. I'm not sure what that means.

I found this old article from 1921. It mentions scarifying, but I'm still not sure what it means.

I'm going to forget it.  I think the important thing to know is, Budden was encouraged to aid himself, but he refused. He said something about the snake's fright being worse then the venom. I guess it's like that saying about the dog's bark being worse than it's bite.  Budden was a bit wrong in this case. I sort of imagined that he suspected the taipan had a very deadly venom, and was trying to bring proof of that.  But maybe it was the opposite. Maybe he was capturing the snake in attempts to prove it wasn't that deadly.

Lord Wiki says that before the Budden snake capture, there were rumors about the taipan's venom, but no one knew anything for sure.

Budden's family had a very hard time with his death. That's not at all surprising.

One thing that does kind of surprise me is the truck driver was one of the pallbearers. I guess they really bonded with that whole snake experience.

There's a photo of Budden in the article. He looks sweet and gentle. When I read the bit about him stepping on the snake and making him release the rat, I kind of pictured a bully.  Looks can be deceiving of course. The article does talk, though, about how Budden seemed to care more about the welfare of the snake than his own health.  Was that because he cared for the snake as an individual? Did he have compassion for it?  Did he want the snake to be okay for the sake of society—the search for an anti-venom. Was it for his ego? Did he want to be the hero who managed to capture a live snake?

Maybe he felt a bit of all those things.

The article goes into a lot of detail about what was done by hospital staff to try to keep Budden alive. This includes giving him tiger-snake venom. They did manage to keep him alive longer than the average 2.5 hours, but in the end he died.

He came to the hospital at 11:00 am, which is only an hour after being bitten. So all that stuff with the holding of the snake, finding the truck driver, refusing to scarify, etc. It all happened within a very short time.  I kind of pictured it being longer.

When he entered the hospital, he was in good spirits. At 1:30 pm, the next day he was dead.

By the way, the website I'm looking includes a lot of clippings from original sources and old articles. It's pretty interesting.

There's conflicting stories about Budden's time of death. The truck driver claims it happened not at 1:30 PM, but 1:30 AM.

The article comes to Budden's defense in not freaking out and rushing to give himself first aid.
His foolhardy disregard for himself following the bite, despite the magnitude of the predicament he was in, seems hard to appreciate, but then perhaps Kevin simply accepted the inevitable, and chose to maintain his dignity and good nature to the end.

I liked that image, better than the one I had earlier. I was picturing Budden reacting as a typical ignorant macho man.  You know...when you nag them about danger, and they assure you they'll be fine. Yeah, because they're magical superman, and the universe wouldn't dare harm them.  Maybe Budden wasn't like that. Maybe the website is right. Maybe he DID know the Taipan was dangerous. He knew he was going to die, and wanted to leave the world as a brave, happy, strong person.

Either way, Budden ended up doing something that has benefitted society. I'm grateful to him for that.

I admire him for his passion. I like people who have a strong interest in things. I also admire him for his fearlessness.  He could have had courage, but for courage you have to have fear. I don't really imagine Budden being scared of snakes. I could be wrong, though.

Well, that's it for now.

In the meantime, if you have any spare moments, please lend a thought, prayer, magical spell, etc. for Rory.  Whether it's in my office as a roommate or a outdoor lizard...I just want him to be happily green.