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Cape Fear Serpentarium


Genus 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.


"A bushmaster opus.... thoroughly investigated... I am impressed by Dean Ripa's incredible experiences with these snakes, successes with captive husbandry, attention to detail, and beautiful photographs... A labor of love...." Jonathan A. Campbell, co-author of The Venomous Reptiles of Latin America

"Not only the only work on bushmasters, it's one of the best works I've read on any snake. . . What Klauber was to rattlesnakes, Dean Ripa is to bushmasters . . . [He has] altered forever our preconceptions about this most fascinating of dangerous snakes. . . Especially intriguing is how the author correlates the bushmaster's particularized morphology with all aspects of its behavior, from feeding habits to choice of breeding partners, and in the process, refutes half a dozen other scientists before him.  Ripa's own four bushmaster bites are described in detail—and they are simply horrifying."   Trevor Wyman 

"Everything you could ever want to know about the bushmaster, with enough new data to keep herpetologists jumping for years to come . . . This is the defining study, and the one all future historians will have to answer to when they begin arguing about what bushmasters are and do. . .  A work of such breadth and with so much first hand and new-to-print information, that it can probably never be repeated . . . Where else are you going to find an eloquent writer who has not only spent years hunting these rare animals all over Central and South America, who has reproduced them in captivity by the hundreds, and who has been bitten by them an astounding four times into the bargain?"  Blair Mitchell, Jr. 

"One does not have to accept all of Ripa's ideas uncritically to realize that this is the deepest anybody has yet peered into the lives, ways, shapes and forms of Lachesis muta and company.  This is the definitive history of the bushmaster, and likely to remain so."   Frank Shaw

"The next best thing to spending years in rainforests, museums, zoos, and hospital recovery rooms dying from bushmaster bite . . . The text is fascinating and adventurous, ignited by an unconventional spark.  The world's largest pitviper proves to be even stranger than herpetology thought.  Ripa's contribution to our knowledge of these snakes is an important one.  The photos are wonderful, offering us a look at bushmasters never seen before."  Allen Spears

"A thorough and immensely readable scientific investigation into a rarely treated subject matter. . . Till now learning about bushmasters has been mostly a haphazard process of hunting up short and inconclusive passages found in other books . . . Now, we have this huge, fact packed book filled with scientific experiments and exciting personal experiences you would be hard pressed to find anywhere else!"  Larry Kozinsky

Now available in a deluxe 9 X 12 inch "coffee-table" size hardcover edition!



We are offering the definitive guide to the world's largest pitviper, the bushmaster.  By far the most complete study ever of these gigantic pitvipers, it includes over 585 pages of never before published information and hundreds of photos covering nearly every aspect of bushmaster morphology and behavior.

An intensive look of bushmaster life habits, unique mating rituals, reproduction, combat, feeding tactics and the influence of these behaviors on bushmaster morphology, this book contains also a literal re-writing of the systematics of the genus.  There are chapters on bushmaster bite, with a detailed reviews of the effects of the venom and its treatment.  Ripa's own harrowing near death episodes are recounted in detail, making this the only firsthand, autobiographical look at bushmaster bite ever written.

The photo library alone exceeds all others previously published on these snakes, with hundreds of pictures of bushmasters copulating, combating, egg-laying, hatching from eggs (some with the mother coiled around them), striking, feeding, the effects of bushmaster bite, morphological comparisons of each species, and much more.


From the book


Few other creatures so inspire within the residuum of our instincts—within the inherited associations that cling about all processes that are unpredictable and mysterious—the ancestral fixation of what must have been for eons man's greatest fear—being murdered by a wild animal.  Even the name "Lachesis" honoring one of the Greek fates ("the slender thread on which life hangs") exudes the romantic aura of the unknown.


About the author . . . .

Dean Ripa was born in 1957, in Wilmington, North Carolina. A herpetological-wunderkind, he was already catching dangerously venomous snakes before the age of ten in the swamplands near his home. At age 13 he was seriously bitten, and hospitalized in intensive care for 2 weeks, losing the functional use of his right hand for over two years. Undaunted, he continued, and by age 15 was already keeping some the world’s most dangerous snakes, king cobras, Gaboon vipers, black mambas, and many others, unbeknownst to his parents, in cages hidden in the attic rooms of their spacious mansion-like house. In his early twenties, he left for Africa to capture and export live snakes back to America. As this proved successful, he began traveling the world, becoming what was probably the first international snake hunter for hire. Major zoos, laboratories, and private fanciers were his customers. Long before television snake-wranglers were staging “cobra captures” in front of camera crews, Dean Ripa was prowling the remotest areas of the earth, far from medical help and human settlement, catching deadly treasures and bringing them back alive to America in order to study their habits in captivity. His adventures have taken him to five continents and more than 30 countries, and they have sometimes been harrowing. He has been wracked by malaria, schistosomiasis and dysentery, lost in Amazonian jungles, stranded in the New Guinea highlands, an held up atd gun point during military coups in West Africa and Suriname. He has survived twelve venomous snakebites to date, including five by bushmasters, surely the record number of bites on any individual by this deadly snake. As author William S. Burroughs described him in his book, The Western Lands, “Dean Ripa could have stepped from the pages of a novel by Joseph Conrad.”

Dean Ripa is presently the owner and director of one of the world’s most extensive reptile museums, Cape Fear Serpentarium, where he maintains the largest breeding population of bushmasters in captivity. The literary magazine Oxford American ran an award-winning feature on his life’s work, which has culminated in these pages.

Hardcover Edition: $125.00 plus $6.00 shipping and handling ($131.00)

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Cape Fear Serpentarium    20 Orange Street Wilmington NC 28401, USA

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