Snakes – Its Ecological Importance

Since time immemorial people have been fascinated and awed by snakes. Many people dislike and fear them.

In reality they are beneficial creatures. It is time to learn a little more about them.

With sufficient background and knowledge of them, we can put our fears in proper perspective. Truth to the matter, is that most venomous snakes would not attack people unless they are provoked.

Fear of snakes should not deter people from enjoying the great outdoors out there. While poisonous snakes are dangerous, there are just few areas where their abundance would prevent people from enjoying the beauty of nature. There are thirty two genera of land snakes known in most tropical countries and five of these are endemic.

The natural habitat of snakes are rural and remote forested areas. Snakes are in many cases are arboreal (tree climbing) but some are natatorial (swimming). Many are very shy and will not attack people unless they are harassed or cornered.

Comparatively, little is known regarding their crucial role in maintaining ecological balance. Their contribution is not widely appreciated either that a considerable number of them control agricultural pests like rats and the likes. Their skin is used for making shoes, belts, purses and other items beneficial to man.

There are certain selective poisonous snake species now raised in captivity for venom production. There is a growing list of foreign buyers of crystallized snake venom at an estimated price of US$ 75000 per kilogram.

The venom is used to produce antivinems which physicians administer as an antidote to snake bites. Venom extractors buy poisonous snakes from trappers or hunters raise these in captivity and milk them with their venom. It is not however, an appropriate job for the faint of heart since milking is done with live snakes.

In milking the extractor holds tightly the neck of the snake and let it bite on a glass covered tightly with cloth to collect the venom. Another method involves stroking of its poisonous glands until it ejects the poisonous venom through its fangs.

Small doses of the venom then are injected into an animal at intervals until the same develops immunity to the venom. The blood serum of the animal soon contains the desired level of antivenim. The serum then is extracted and the antivenim is packed in dry form, use in making solutions for hypodermic injections in snake bite victims.

Interestingly, snake extracts are said to have medicinal and aphrodisiac properties. Extracts from the reproductive organ of the snakes, livers and galls are processed into pills and taken by people to strengthen their kidneys and improve their reproductive sexual functions.

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