Reptile conservationists have appealed for the safe handling of stray snakes in homes to help preserve endangered species. Snakes implant a deep-rooted fear in many people.
Uganda is home to over 110 venomous and non-venomous snake species. Of those, 15 of the species have been enlisted as nationally endangered types due to their sudden rapid population shrinkage.
James Ntulume, the Chief Executive Director of Snakes Uganda disclosed that some of the disappearing snake species include Great Lakes Bush Viper, Rough-scaled Bush Viper, Rhinoceros Viper, Goldlites Cobra, and Spitting Cobra among others.
Ntulume says that the extinction of the endangered snake species in the country is attributed to the destructive human activities on the environment that serves as a natural habitat for wildlife.
He also pointed out that human myths associated with snakes in the guise of the serpent represent temptation, death, evil world, and suffering that have largely been responsible for man’s hostility against snakes, which he debunked as mere beliefs that deprive the ecosystem.
Vanice Mirembe, the Manager in charge of Awareness and Human-Wildlife Conflict at the Uganda Wildlife Authority – UWA, says that the existing myth has compelled humans to kill snakes, coupled with the destruction of their habitats.
Mirembe explained that the different species of snakes in the country attract hundreds of snake enthusiastic foreign tourists who earn revenue for the country and urged households to alert UWA to go and safely evacuate any stray snakes rather than killing them.
In December 2021, the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre – UWEC backed by UWA trained 24 wildlife rangers and scouts and equipped them with rapid response skills towards community outcries relating to snakes that need safe evacuation.
Betty Binen, who attained the training skills says that while women and snakes rarely share space, she has developed the resilience and technical competence to identify and handle both venomous and non-venomous snakes in the community.
The conservationists have also tipped households to avoid disturbing the snake or driving it into hiding in an event of both indoor and outdoor encounters. They say that if possible, carefully open a nearby door to gently herd the snake outside call out for help from an experienced handler.
Apart from serving both the predator and prey role, snakes make for a healthy snack for hawks, eagles, weasels, foxes – thus controlling pest populations. Snakes also provide venoms for pharmaceutical industries to treat strokes, heart attack conditions, and perfumes among others.
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