Temporary Exhibition » POISON



  • Visual of the exhibition POISON (the snake Bothriechis schlegelii)


Fri, 07/10/2016 to Sun, 03/09/2017

Displayed at the Museum: 07/10/2016 > 03/09/2017

The exhibition with a sting in its tail!

The snakes, lizards, frogs, spiders, insects and other venomous creatures in the POISON exhibition are live and spread throughout more than twenty terrariums. A trained specialist looks after their health. With a bit of luck you can even observe him working (through the window of our secure laboratory)!


For the welfare of the animals, during your visit please try to move slowly, don’t knock on the tanks and make as little noise as possible: (sound) vibrations disturb them and could make them hide away in a corner where you will not be able to see them.

A Grupo Atrox exhibition

Venomous Animals
  • The puff adder Bitis arietans. Photo: Museum/Thierry Hubin
  • The Glauert's monitor lizard (Varanus glauerti). Photo: Museum/Thierry Hubin
  • The tarantula Chromatopelma cyaneopubescens. Photo: Museum/Thierry Hubin
  • The poison-dart frog Dendrobates azureus. Photo: Museum/Thierry Hubin

Animals can transmit their poison by biting, stinging or through skin contact. Among those who bite, in POISON you can observe the puff adder Bitis arietans and several other snakes, the Glauert's monitor lizard (Varanus glauerti), three tarantulas, three black widow spiders and a centipede. The stingers are well-represented by a scorpion, several assassin bugs, and stick insects. Meanwhile, brightly coloured poison-dart frogs, a toad and a Chinese fire belly newt all secrete a toxic substance on their skin.

A Precious Substance
  • Two oriental fire-bellied toads (Bombina orientalis). Photo: Museum/Thierry Hubin
  • The western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox). Photo: Museum/Thierry Hubin
  • The "rattle" of the western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox)
  • The animal keeper in his laboratory inside the exhibition, with the milk snake Lampropeltis triangulum. Photo: Museum/Thierry Hubin

The venoms these animals produce can cause pain, paralysis or death. Venom is a powerful weapon for hunting or self-defence, but it requires energy to produce, making it a valuable resource.

In POISON the oriental fire-bellied toad’s bright colouration, the King cobra’s intimidating posturing and the western diamondback rattlesnake’s distinctive sound are certainly impressive, but do you know their purpose? They act as an alarm to warn potential predators of the risk of getting too close, and so prevent the venomous animal from wasting its precious venom!

Some species imitate these warning signs: they protect them from predators (this is known as mimicry). For example, the colouring and markings of some non venomous milk snakes resemble venomous coral snakes (but milk snakes kill their prey by constriction, not by biting).

  • The copperhead snake (Agkistrodon contortrix). Photo: Museum/Thierry Hubin
  • The waxy monkey (tree) frog (Phyllomedusa sauvagii). Photo: Museum/Thierry Hubin
  • The Gila monster (Heloderma suspectum). Photo: Museum/Thierry Hubin

Some poisons from plants (yew, deadly nightshade, opium poppy) and minerals (arsenic, radium) have medical applications which can save lives! It is also the case with venoms of animals like the copperhead snake Agkistrodon contortrix (a viper whose venom contains a protein which halts the growth of cancerous cells in mice), the waxy monkey (tree) frog Phyllomedusa sauvagii (whose skin secretions contain a painkiller – 40 times stronger than morphine – that generates energy), and the Gila monster Heloderma suspectum (a lizard whose toxic saliva contains an protein which regulates insulin).

Opening times and admission fees
Opening times
During the Belgian school yearclosed9.30
During Belgian school holidays (which are at least a week long) and weekendsclosed10.00
  • Last entry for temporary exhibitions is one hour before the Museum closes.
  • Last entry for the permanent exhibition halls is 30 minutes before the Museum closes.
  • The Museum is closed on the 25st of December, 1st of January, and 1st of May.
  • Consult the dates of the Belgian school holidays.
Admission fees (permanent halls +POISON)
  • 7 € : children aged 6-17 (accompanied by a paying adult)
  • 8,50 € : students BILL/EYCA, Carte J, Seniors (65+), Friends of the Institute, Disabled visitors, FED+
  • 9,50 € : adults

Admission to the permanent exhibition halls and the temporary exhibitions is free:

  • for everybody on the first Wednesday of every month, after 13:00
  • for children under the age of six, accompanied by at least one paying adult
  • for Museum members
  • for people accompanying disabled visitors
  • for ICOM members
  • for teachers with professional ID

Fan of the Museum and its halls and exhibitions? Become a member! With a year’s membership, you can visit the museum as often as you like, throughout the year.

30 €: adults
20 €: children aged 6-17 (accompanied by a paying adult), students, carte J, seniors (65+), Friends of the Institute, disabled visitors

B-Excursions: combined tickets Train + POISON

Visit the POISON exhibition and the permanent exhibition halls with B-ExcursionsThe SNCB offers tickets combining a train fare with admission to the Museum and POISON (Dutch or French) that are on sale in all Belgian railway stations. There are several options:

  • B-Excursion for individuals
  • B-Excursion for groups, excluding school groups
  • B-Excursion for school groups

Please note:

  • Groups are always required to book in advance, first with the Museum, and then with the SNCB. For more information on travelling as a group, please visit the SNCB website.
  • Admission to the permanent exhibition halls and the temporary exhibitions is free on the first Wednesday of every month, after 13:00. Therefore we advise you not to buy B-Excursion for those afternoons.

Other questions? See our practical information.

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