Having an unexpected visitor knock on your door can take you back at the best of times. What about a venomous snake slithering up to your doorstep or finding one under your tent?
For our Peace Parks staff, living in the bush among snakes is a way of life—it is their home too, after all. Unexpected encounters with certain species, such as the notorious Mozambique Spitting Cobra, aka ‘Mfezi’, which is highly venomous and can spit up to 3 metres, can pose a serious threat to humans. Though humans can come into conflict with snakes, they do play an essential role in the ecosystem. Relocating snakes encountered in human living quarters requires professional handling for the safety of both us and the snakes and to ensure we live in harmony with them.
With knowledge and understanding of the many different species, encountering a snake in its natural habitat—like the Rungwe Tree Viper or Southern African Rock Python seen here— can be an exciting and mesmerising experience. These should be moments to cherish if you are lucky enough to come across them, provided you respect them and give them the space they need.
Importance of snakes
Depending on the species, their diet may consist of frogs, rodents, birds, and small mammals, while they themselves are eaten by birds of prey and other predators such as mongooses. As a benefit to us, they help regulate rodent populations, and their venom can be synthesised and used in many life-saving drugs for the treatment of heart attacks and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and strokes.
Snake populations face various threats, including habitat loss, persecution, and exotic wildlife trafficking. Human-wildlife conflict is an issue that Peace Parks Foundation and other conservationists constantly seek to address, particularly in southern Africa where human populations are growing and natural spaces are shared.
The fear of snakes largely stems from a lack of knowledge about them and how to peacefully coexist with them. Hence, not only does Peace Parks showcase how our teams on the ground respectfully and professionally handle snakes, but we also do community education drives to demystify these slithering beauties and reduce human-wildlife conflict.
Encountering a snake can be scary, but with knowledge and understanding of them, it doesn’t always have to be. Showcasing how our Peace Parks team on the ground respectfully and professionally handles snakes can hopefully reduce fear of them and instead instil an admiration for them that promotes the significance of living in harmony with nature and protecting ecosystems.