By Hannah Campbell
World Snake Day is celebrated every year on the 16th of July in order to create awareness of their importance in the ecosystem, and to spread positive messages about this often hated reptile.
Snakes are threatened by habitat loss, climate change and disease, but their biggest threat remains negative attitudes towards snakes. Often perceived as animals to be feared of hated, efforts to address their conservation concerns are often impeded.
Northern Kenya is a hotspot for conflict between people and snakes, where they are perceived as dangerous and unimportant to the ecosystem, meaning they are often killed when sighted. Although some snakes in Kenya are venomous, they all play an important role in the food web and their conservation should be promoted.
Letoluai Ambrose, who works at Loisaba for the SDZG Leopard Conservation Program, is passionate about the conservation of all species and believes it is highly important to teach people, especially children, the importance of species conservation – including snakes.
Earlier this month, Ambrose spotted two northern stripe-bellied sand snakes (Pasmmophos sudanesis) mating in his village. “The Samburu community of northern Kenya believe that snakes and man are ‘Raato Twins’ – meaning every twin born has a unique relationship with snakes” he tells us. “Sighting mating snakes is not only a momentous time, but also sacred to the Samburu/Maa community”.
Ambrose has also set up a wildlife kids program with Kennedy Lenauyia (Save the Elephants) in order to educate school children on the importance of wildlife conservation, including snakes. One of the best ways to protect snakes and their important role in the ecosystem is to take steps to avoid conflict wherever possible.
Steps to Avoid Snake Conflict:
- If you see a snake, move away slowly
- Never follow, try to catch, or kill a snake
- Always wear shoes or boots and watch where you step
- Use a stick to explore areas (such as holes in the ground, hollow logs or bushes) before using your hands
- Keep food and water in your home in sealed containers to discourage snakes from coming inside
- Keep inside areas rodent free by clearing food scraps
- Keep wood piles a safe distance from the house
- Keep the area around your house free from garbage, stacked items and long grass