Often detested and mostly feared, snakes are often not high up on our guest’ list of animals they would like to encounter on safari. The reality is snakes are often misunderstood and therefore unappreciated. Unfortunately many snake species have become threatened and while snakes may not be the most popular reptile in the world, have you ever wondered why they play a critical role in the ecosystem?
Today on the 16th July we celebrate World Snake Day. It is the perfect opportunity to shed some more light on these interesting reptiles. We hope by the end of this article you will feel a little bit more comfortable (and even a little bit excited) with the possibility of encountering a snake on your next safari. If the thought of this really turns your stomach into knots, please don’t worry, all our guides are highly-skilled and trained and know exactly which snakes are venomous (and not) and what to do when encountering them.
Here are a few interesting facts about snakes that you might not have known before:
1. Snakes are not always the highest up on the food chain
Snakes are carnivorous, which means they are predators. Not only do they help control rodent populations and fast breeding reptiles like geckos and lizards, they are often also the prey of other predators. They are the favoured food of some of the eagle species, including the Brown Snake Eagle and the Black Chested Snake Eagle. Some of the Mongoose species also eat snakes.
Did you know? Phagy or phagia is a behavioural term used to describe particular feeding behaviours. Oplinophagy is an example of this and refers to the behaviour of animals who feed on snakes.
2. Snakes’ most common defence mechanism is to flee
Snakes’ first action when encountering them will always be to flee. They have no outer ears to pick up sound like humans do. Instead they have auditory nerves that respond to vibrations they pick up through the ground. This is why it is often very hard to find snakes as they almost always are aware of your presence or approach long before you arrive and can move off in time.
Did you know? Despite snakes often being feared, more people are killed by bees than snakes every year.
3. A snake’s skin does not grow with the body like it does with humans
Each year a snake will shed their skin three to six times to allow for further growth. This process is called ecdysis and usually takes a few days. While shedding their skins is part of the growing process, it also helps remove unwanted parasites which can harm snakes.
Did you know? Snakes are not often killed by people in Tanzania. The Fipa tribe from the Bukwa region in Tanzania believe snakes are a premonition of good or bad luck depending on the circumstances. This means they do not kill very many snakes. Some African tribes use snake skeletons, predominantly python skeletons, to make traditional medicine which means they are often protected.
There may be a very slim chance you may encounter a snake on safari. The thought of this can initially seem very scary, but we encourage you to take a moment to appreciate these interesting creatures for playing an important part in the ecosystem. You can absolutely rest assured that you are in the expert care of our entire team during your stay.
We look forward to welcoming you to our camps in the near future!