Today is World Snake Day, a globally celebrated day to raise awareness for snakes. Snakes truly need this day! There are many who fear or even hate snakes. As snake populations are becoming increasingly threatened by human activities, can snakes be saved if people continue to despise these animals?
This World Snake Day, Save The Snakes aims to draw attention to the gap between snake conservation and human-snake conflict mitigation efforts. We have collaborated with artist Zoe Keller to create a stunning piece of art on the issue, which features five snake species commonly encountered in human-snake conflict situations.
Snakes Are Important And Should Be Saved
Despite their unwarranted reputation, snakes are critically important animals for our world. Snakes maintain balance in the food web and provide humans an ecological service by controlling pest populations. Yet, global snake populations are at risk from habitat destruction, disease, over-harvesting, invasive species, climate change and persecution by humans.
Currently, the conservation needs of most snake species are underfunded, remain poorly understood by researchers, and garner little attention from society. However, as human populations rapidly grow and spread into areas that wildlife depends on, conflict with snakes is becoming increasingly common.
Snakebite: A Neglected Tropical Disease
Each year, over 2.7 million people around the world suffer a serious snakebite envenomation. In response to this snakebite crisis, the World Health Organization classified snakebite as a neglected tropical disease as few efforts exist to reduce snakebite in developing countries. Currently, there is a gap between the conservation needs of snake species and the human-snake conflict solutions that exist in rural, impoverished communities. These communities are the most impacted by snakebite because they lack access to appropriate medical care. For many, the solution to this snakebite crisis is to kill snakes, oftentimes indiscriminately. Left unaddressed, the indiscriminate killing of snakes will bring already threatened snake species ever closer to extinction while human lives continue to be lost from snakebite.
Bridging The Gap Between Snake Conservation And Human-Snake Conflict Mitigation
To ensure the long-term impacts of snake conservation efforts, the challenge of human livelihoods must be addressed, and conservationists must work to understand the delicate balance between humans and snakes. Conservation programs should pay close attention to the human context and actively explore ways to benefit the communities involved in order to protect snake populations and their ecosystems. Save The Snakes works to empower and support snake conservationists to mitigate human-snake conflict who implement this community-based approach to snake conservation.
The Conflict Between Snakes And Humans Highlighted Through Art
In the art piece, artist Zoe Keller beautifully illustrates five snake species, which often occur in human-snake conflict situations. The species depicted from left to right are the Common Krait (Bungarus caeruleus), Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis), King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah), Western Diamondback Rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox), and Terciopelo (Bothrops asper). Currently, only the king cobra is a threatened species. However, if human-snake conflict continues, then snake populations could be further driven towards extinction. This important point is symbolized by the snake skeleton depicted in the lower left of the illustration.
Learn More About Human-Snake Conflict Snake Species
Common Krait – Bungarus caeruleus
The shy and secretive common krait is a highly venomous snake species found on the Indian subcontinent. Conflict situations occur when this nocturnal snake species enters people’s homes at night, usually in search of their favorite prey, rodents. Sometimes the krait bites defensively when accidentally stepped on or touched. Due to this species’ powerful neurotoxic venom, bites are often fatal. Prevention of snakebite is possible if landowners increase their snake awareness, secure their homes, and ensure no rodents are attracting snakes.
Black Mamba – Dendroaspis polylepis
The black mamba is a large, fast-moving snake species in the Family Elapidae found in Sub-Saharan Africa. This active predator can slither up to 12 miles per hour! Like other members of its family, the black mamba has a highly venomous bite, with neurotoxic venom. If threatened, the black mamba will defend itself, and bites to humans can be fatal. The neurotoxic venom of the black mamba is being studied to treat brain injuries and brain diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease. Snake venom saves lives!
King Cobra – Ophiophagus hannah
At 18 feet long, the king cobra is the longest venomous snake species in the world. King cobras thrive in large forests throughout South and Southeast Asia. This species is the only snake to make its nest in fallen leaves, which they use to keep their eggs warm and safe. The mother king cobra has been observed actively guarding her nest against predators. King cobras are shy and prefer not to interact with humans, but because of increased contact with humans and loss of their forest habitat, these snakes are under threat of extinction.
Western Diamondback Rattlesnake – Crotalus atrox
If one thinks of a “rattlesnake”, then oftentimes they think of this iconic snake species, the western diamondback rattlesnake! These rattlesnakes are native to the southwestern United States and Northern Mexico and can be found in several different habitats. Unfortunately, persecution by humans is a grave threat to this species. Each year thousands of rattlesnakes are captured from the wild and slaughtered at rattlesnake roundups in the United States. If this intensive practice continues, the western diamondback rattlesnake may become locally rare, potentially disrupting the ecosystem balance.
Terciopelo – Bothrops asper
The beautifully patterned, large, and venomous snake Bothrops asper is notoriously fast, irritable, and defensive when provoked. It has been given many names by communities across the Americas, including terciopelo, fer-de-lance, common lancehead, yellow jaw, and tommy goff. This snake lives in a variety of habitats, usually near water, but has adapted to live near humans in order to hunt rodents that enter peoples’ homes and farms. This snake’s highly venomous bite and closeness to people makes it the most dangerous snake in the Americas.
How You Can Help
Save The Snakes and our Conservation Partners implement sustainable solutions in communities impacted by snakebite and together we mitigate human-snake conflict. You can support our work by donating today, which will help fund snake awareness and snakebite treatment workshops. Together we can save snakes and protect people in communities impacted by snakebite.