International Snakes Day and Our Society

We recently celebrated the International Snakes Day on June 26. But unfortunately our attitude towards snake is still highly negative. Snakes constitute an important part of our nature and natural ecosystem.

By Saikat Kumar Basu

Unfortunately, these reptiles around the globe are quite misrepresented in various cultures as evil forces, ghosts, enemy of humans, societal scar or scum. Even in those cultures where snakes are worshipped and revered; still at large in those societies too snakes are brutalized, mistreated, manhandled and killed through unimaginable cruel and gruesome methods. Mob fury on the sight of a snake is mostly due to fear of snake bites as well as an lack of education and awareness about the important role played by snakes in the nature. We all need to appreciate that all snakes (venomous or non-venomous) are apex predators and help in keeping the number of rodents, insects, birds, mammals under natural control.

These natural predators are exceptionally important to play an important balancing role in nature to maintain a healthy population of other species since our natural resources are finite. Snake bites could be well treated with anti venoms. But unfortunately, the production level is way beyond our average annual need. Often snake venom show strong biogeographical and genetic variations.

As a consequence anti venoms generated in one specific geographical area using same local species may not be fully effective in neutralizing the venom and save lives. Restless poaching, illegal wildlife trade for snake skin, bones, fangs, gall bladders and venom, habitat loss, pollution has pushed several species of snakes almost towards extinction. It is very important for people living close to snake habitats to be able to correctly identify the species before going to local health centres as this will facilitate anti venom administration better. All health centres in rural and forested areas need to stick emergency anti venom shots to prevent unnecessary deaths. Snake bite victims are often treated in remote rural areas by bogus health workers with no credibility, education or training on pseudo religious norms that has no scientific basis. Hence deaths are inevitable. Snakes actually are extremely timid animals and they use attack as the best strategy for survival. So it is often best to keep distance from them and allow them an escape route to avoid any harm. Lack of toilets in the rural homes often causes people to go out in the open due to nature’s call.

This is particularly dangerous during night hours and rainy season as snakes are out foraging. They mostly try and avoid humans; but if someone accidentally steps on them could result in a powerful bite in case of highly venomous snakes. People working in agricultural fields need to wear snake bite preventing long and thick boots. This can considerably cut down snake bite victims. Because snakes often gather in crop fields to catch their preys. Overall, it is important that we understand and respect our snakes else we could be overrun by rodents particularly as we have seen in Australia recently due to lack of natural predators. 

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