World Snake Day is celebrated by wildlife enthusiasts to increase the awareness about the different species of snake and conservation of a sometimes dangerous but mostly misrepresented reptile. Due to their prehistoric lineage, snakes give a glimpse to prehistoric times. Snakes are highly effective predators and play a vital role in maintaining the balance of nature and controlling the rodents and pests. Snake venom has been used for anti-tumour treatments to antibacterial properties.
There are more than 3,500 species of a snake of which ~25% are venomous and ~200 species pose a considerable risk to human life. Snakes are found in every continent except Antarctica. There are many different species of snakes, small, as small as, four inches (Barbados thread snake), heaviest-more than 500 kilograms (green anaconda), longest – as long as more than 25 feet (reticulated python). The King Cobra is the largest venomous snake and most fascinating to many.
Snakes generally are not aggressive excepting when they are hunting for food or they need to defend themselves. Snakes use a variety of methods to defend themselves, including camouflage or simply curl up to avoid being seen. There is an abundant colour to the Snakes and are cold-blooded. They use their tongues to smell their air and shed their skin three to six times a year. While most snakes lay eggs, some give live birth. Interestingly snakes eat their prey whole and separation of their lower jaw from the upper jaw, helping them.
They have played a major role in religion and mythology, from the Bible to the Mahabharata to ancient Egyptian texts. Krishna’s Kalinda Mardhanam on a multi-hooded snake in the River Yamuna. The picturesque Sheshnag Lake considered as one of the holy places in Kashmir Valley is believed by many that it was created by Sheshnag (the King of Snakes).
Göbekli Tepe in Turkey estimated to be built 11-12 thousand years ago, have carvings of abstract symbols and animals such as foxes, lions, bulls, snakes and insects. Ancient temples in India also have snakes inscribed on the walls. A snake sculpture belonging to the 17-18 century on palaeographic grounds was found in a remote village close to Trichy.
Maximum snake bite incidents occur when humans inadvertently step on or otherwise disturb the peaceful creatures. Though the exact number of snake bites is unknown, it is estimated that world over there are around 5 million snake bites. Half of them are envenoming’s and around one lakh people die of snake bites each year. Snake bites also cause many amputations, other permanent disabilities. In India, it is estimated that 11000 fatalities a year.
There are many myths about snakes, most widely perpetrated one is that a bowl of milk will attract snakes. Reptiles can’t digest milk and other dairy products. Sucking the venom out from a snake-bit person saving a life. When a snake bites its venom spreads quickly and sucking removes little of the venom.
Climate change, loss of habitat and exploitation threaten many snakes. Snakes are an important part of our ecosystem. Fear and negative attitudes about snakes is the biggest barrier to their conservation.
Next time you see a snake, move away, take precautions and leave it to itself.
Snakes need our help