It’s a bit of a slippery subject this one as it inspires fear in so many of us but one of the main ethos of the camp is education so we felt we’d tackle it a bit here. Snakes. It’s often a question posed by visitors, are there snakes? There’s no beating about the bush on this one as they are an integral part of the bush. Yes there are snakes. I’m sure on a daily basis I must walk in the vicinity of at least fifteen serpents. And yet I can count on my fingers the number of living snakes I have seen on the land after living out here for three years.
Snakes are like any other animal, they’re scared of humans and want nothing more than to be as far away from you as possible. A snake will only attack in defence, it can’t eat you so what’s the point in wasting it’s energy on attacking you unless you are posing a direct threat to it. If there’s the option to flee a snake will go for that rather than attack. For venomous snakes it’s a big waste of resources to bite and inject venom, that venom took time and energy to make and it will take even more time and energy to replace. No animal, not even a human would waste that if it had the option not to.
A common misconception we come across is that black snakes are deadly. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Take for example this little beauty found one evening, a rather rare sighting, a Christy’s snake-eater Polemon christyi.
Now as the name suggests, it eats snakes and it doesn’t use venom to do so. This is not to say that all black snakes are harmless, the burrowing asps look very similar and they are venomous. A safe rule of thumb is, if you’re not sure, keep your distance.
As the Christy’s snake-eater shows us, snakes can be very useful to have around. They can keep other populations of snakes in check and they can control vermin such as mice and rats. They form a key step in the food chain, feeding on lesser creatures and being food themselves to others. I’m sure the mongoose found at the camp enjoy a snake snack as do some birds of prey we see swooping around.
One thing which often scares people about snakes is the surprise factor. Snakes aren’t noisy creatures, often when you do come across them it’s a real surprise, perhaps shock is the better term. In these cases the snake is usually just as shocked as you and will try and get away fast. It may be that a snake drops from a tree or bush, you may disturb it while it’s catching up on a bit of sun bathing or you may stumble across it in some thicker vegetation. Can you spot the blind snake is this picture?
While a blind snake is very harmless I was very cautious around it as at the time I was not 100% sure of what it was. Snapping a few photos is a great way to ID a snake accurately. Often you need photos of the head and body scales to accurately ID a species.
Thanks to the internet there is a wealth of information ready and waiting for you. Social media has allowed experts in the field to link to the general public, providing accurate, up to date information for education. A great example of this is the Facebook group, The Snakes & Reptiles of East Africa. A tool used every time we have a snake or other reptile find.
In essence we encourage you to fight your fear of snakes, fight it by arming yourself with more knowledge. Get an idea of the common snakes in your area and learn how to tell them apart, paying particular attention to learning which are venomous and which are not. With this information you can become a teacher yourself and help others through their fears.