A snake considered to be one of the most dangerous in the world sparked alarm when it arrived in the UK after sneaking into a suitcase and travelling 4,500 miles as a stowaway.
The venomous saw-scaled viper was found by a stonemason as it slithered from a container of rocks from India.
Luckily the reptile was too chilly from its long journey to launch an attack when it was found in Coryton, Essex.
But wildlife officials said the viper was "very agitated and aggressive".
A reptile expert reportedly rushed to collect the animal and took it to South Essex Wildlife Hospital after being urgently called out on Friday.
Sue Schwar, manager of the wildlife hospital, said: "It's highly likely that if we didn't pick it up then someone could have died.
"The stonemason was walking around holding it and then when the police said it was dangerous he put it into a box.
"He could have died. I don't know if we have an antivenom in case someone was bitten. He's lucky to be alive."
Saw-scaled vipers are notorious for quick and vicious attacks, and their bites can cause a very painful death if not treated quickly.
Sue said: "Your organs will rot. It's not instant death. They are highly aggressive snakes. You won't get away with picking these up – it will bite you.
"Luckily, this snake was less active because it was cold [from being stowed away]."
The well-travelled viper is now reportedly locked inside a box in a sealed room at the wildlife hospital to keep its staff safe.
Sue claimed the reptile was too dangerous to be kept.
She added: "It was hissing and spitting when our reptile expert collected it. I don't think people understand how dangerous this animal is.
"It will kill you if you open the box. It's not an option to keep the viper."
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The creature will now be transferred to a scientific facility.
A post on the South Essex Wildlife Hospital Facebook group said: "We had a call regarding a stowaway snake that had arrived in a shipping container from India.
"As it was identified as a saw-scaled viper and having had one before we understood fully the gravity of just how dangerous these reptiles are, they are way up there in the top few most deadly snakes (it is believed to have killed more people than all the other species combined)."
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