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Adefolake Adekola: Facts about Snakes & their Place in Balancing the Environmental Ecosystem



Snakes are long, legless reptiles that have a highly developed sense of sight, taste, touch and sound. They are highly mobile and some snakes have venoms that are lethal.

According to the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection of Queensland Government, there are more than 2,600 species of snakes, but some species are more predominant than others. The presence of snakes combat the problem of pest in the environment such as brown rats. Brown rats which originated from Asia have spread to different parts of the world. A pair of brown rats can have up to one million descendants in 18 months; this number is very alarming. Cape Snake Conservation believes the venom from snakes is medicinal, as it is said to reduce high blood pressure, heart fibrosis and protect the kidney. It may also be the long awaited cure for cancer.

Earlier in November, reports came that 250 people died in Gombe and Plateau states as a result of snakebites. An average of 50 victims sort treatment daily and about six of them died every day. It is not uncommon that people have died from snakebites in Nigeria over the past decades, but this brought its own uniqueness, as the number of people involved created a nationwide scare.

The common assumption is that snakes are a menace to humans but this is far from it. In Northern Nigeria, several snakebite incidences have been reported. It is very likely that there was confrontation on the part of the human. Some snakes clash with farmers in yam barns because they are there to eat pest such as rats and the rats are there for the yam tubers. That is a food chain cycle, which is the sequence of events in an ecosystem where an organism eats another and it is being eaten by another. It is only natural that snakes are looking for food and at some point they become food. The problem now is why they attack us? It is believed that when farmers are clearing their farmlands, they encounter snakes which instinct tells them to attack.



1 They threaten humans When left alone, they present little or no danger to humans
2 They are irrelevant to humans They bring about biodiversity and maintain a balance in the ecosystem via food chain.
3 All snakes are venomous No, not all snakes are venomous
4 Snakes are active in cold seasons Snakes gain their body warmth from external sources such as the sun. Therefore, they are more active in hot seasons (August, September)
5 Snakes crawl faster than humans Humans can outrun snakes. The fastest snake is the Black Mamba of Africa and it runs 12km/hr.
6 All snakes produce their young via eggs 70% of snakes lay eggs. Some give birth to their young, examples are rattlesnakes and vipers.
7 Attack them before they attack you Walk away. If you attack, they will defend themselves.
More facts about snakes:

They can swallow food larger than their head. They are drawn to untidy environments and can move on various surfaces. In most cases, venomous snakes will leave two deep puncture snake marks, while non-venomous ones will leave a shallow snakebite mark.

Back to the question of why they attack? The answer is that they feel threatened. In this part of the world, both domestic and wildlife animals are left in the open and some are kept in zoos. Whenever an urban development kicks off in a location, the land is cleared and construction begins. This causes the animals in that region to migrate and they keep migrating till they find a suitable location for themselves. When these farmers or rural indigenes go into the animal’s new habitat, they are ill-informed and they begin clearing without prior knowledge of the area. This leads to problems, such as the one that is currently ongoing in the north.

So now we know two important reasons: they feel threatened and they do not have a stable habitat.

Another question is why are people dying after the snakebites? It is believed that there is no pharmaceutical company in Nigeria that currently provides anti-venom, and this is the reason for scarcity. The anti-venom is imported and expensive to come by. Lack of first aid treatment or improper first aid treatment could also be a reason for the multiple death cases. Traditionally, it is said that tobacco leaves can be used as a first aid for snakebites.

What should I do when I encounter a snake? The first line of action is to move away from the snake slowly and contact local snake catchers in your area. Create distance between you and the snake. In a situation where the snake has already attacked and you have a bite, what can you do?

First Aid After a Snake Bite

  1. Do not panic. Yes, this is a treatment as most times fear causes people to make wrong decisions.
  2. This is debatable, but the area can be washed or disinfected to reduce infection.
  3. Apply bandage or rip out a part of your clothing and tie around the area (do not block circulation). This will help prevent the venom spreading through the body.
  4. Sit still; do not run or walk. Walking or running will only increase the spread of venom.
  5. Call out for help
  6. Go to the emergency unit of the hospital and relate ordeal for immediate response.

Protection Against Snakes

  1. Keep tidy gardens and bushes
  2. It is believed that onion, tomato or garlic plants can keep snakes at bay, because of their strong smell. Grow these in your garden
  3. Block access points or holes in your house
  4. When doing garden/field work, always create a distance when lifting things to avoid any surprises
  5. Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves, boots and long pants when doing garden or field work
  6. Always use a torchlight when in your garden/field at night.
  7. Enlighten your workers on safety measures to take while working

It is the responsibility of the Government to ensure anti-venom drugs are readily available at hospitals for snakebites. Not just the availability, there should be more than enough for treatment. A more effective solution would be the formulation of an agency to ensure the safety of wildlife and avoid the extinction of animal species. Also, mechanized farming should be encouraged to reduce such cases like that which happened in the north. If these farmers are provided with tractors and other tools and equipment, there would be no need for manual clearing of lands.

Most importantly, education is key – formal or informal. Seminars and trainings should be conducted for farmers, and the general public at large.

Photo Credit: © Photoeuphoria | Dreamstime

Adefolake Ayotunde-Salami is an Environmental and Social Development Specialist. She is currently the Social Safeguard Consultant on a World Bank Assisted Project (SFTAS) across all 36 states and the FCT. Her experience spans across different sectors as she has worked both in the Public and Private sector. She has a Masters’ degree in Environmental Assessment and Management and hold numerous certifications. She is also an Independent Consultant for top companies in Nigeria and has work experience in Nigeria and the United Kingdom. She is the author of a book titled “Functioning in the knowledge of who you are” and a website where she and a few others talk about everything and anything She loves to watch series when she is less busy and write articles based on extensive research.


  1. Fleur

    November 27, 2017 at 3:29 am

    This one na real scientific story oh. Snake na snake na snake. Especially dem venomous ones like viper shall be struck before they strike. Sorry.

  2. Dust

    November 27, 2017 at 6:42 am

    one of the many ways there could have been that many snake attacks is if the snakes were used to attack the farmers and the community,

    according to your write up, the average reaction of a subsistence farmer to a snake is to attack, what if the farmer or person didn’t know a snake was there and mistakenly steps on the snake the snake will still attack.

    farmers clear their farms daily, if that area was known to have snake infestations then the people would have been on the look out for snakes.

    one of the cures for cancer is the sun, they use artificial light to treat cancer just to make money from the patient… why not just use the only natural light in the world (the day star).

  3. #ProudNigerian

    November 27, 2017 at 7:52 am

    No time to read this right up?. Snake na snake! I hate them. . There’s everything DEMONIC about them from movement to colour to facial features.I would never forget watching a documentary on NATGEOWILD as a kid dreamt of them for weeks???. To me a lion looks more friendly. I HATE THEM. ??

    • Sakura

      November 27, 2017 at 12:04 pm

      Hahaha you’re funny. I understand your sentiment….. I don’t hate snakes, they look elegant to me and I love the patterns. I see snake and imagine a pair of sexy shoes or tiny clutch. Me on the other hand I HATE GECKOS AND THEY ARE DEFINITELY DEMONIC ??????

  4. Loki

    November 27, 2017 at 7:59 am

    Honestly, I won’t mind having a pet snake….I could call him something nice like Adeleke or Bimbo….

    • Teemah

      November 28, 2017 at 11:32 am

      Bimbo ke…. Pet Snake Kia * looking at you with isoko eyes

  5. True Talk

    November 27, 2017 at 8:48 am

    Thanks for the tips.. I’ve just gone to block one big hole that a snake can use as an entrance(There are snakes in my area) I dread snakes o.

    • Loki

      November 27, 2017 at 11:40 am

      What did they ever do to you?
      Imagine if a big creature just hated you for no reason and blocked the door to your house. How would you feel?

    • Adefolake Adekola

      November 27, 2017 at 12:17 pm

      Great move

  6. Tushae

    November 27, 2017 at 8:58 am

    They do add to the ecosystem, but Nigerians will kill any snake they see ?
    The fear of snakes outweighs their improvement to the ecosystem so they gotta go ?

  7. Mamamia

    November 27, 2017 at 9:10 am

    Please learn to not put up a photo of a snake. They are scary like that to me.Please God has already stated we will hate them and I do with a passion. God forbid! They should all be killed if seen please. The thought of it self gives me the creeps.

  8. OJ

    November 27, 2017 at 9:25 am

    One fact the writer didnt mention is that certain snakes (many actually) are a tasty cuisine…oh my oh my, snake pepper soup, hot and spicy…takes you to another realm when you have it with boiled rice, taste a bit better than the monitor lizard, your life can never remain the same again when you try it!!!

    • adelegirl

      November 27, 2017 at 3:58 pm

      God forbid bad thing. Eat snake and monitor lizard???

  9. o

    November 27, 2017 at 9:55 am

    The comments ??

  10. Liz

    November 27, 2017 at 10:31 am

    Hmmm Nigerians & superstitions!
    Snakes were created by the same being who made the other animals & us.

  11. Rayva

    November 27, 2017 at 10:48 am

    Ahhh………@OJ dear, please be my friend you know what’s up when you talk of the taste of a snake in hot spicy pepper soup, my personal favourite is the Puff Adder …….and then the monitor lizard….Gosh, am sure you are from delta state, where they abound in numerous sizes. I head of a market around okokomiko, where exotic meats such as these are sold, let’s head there together………..who needs another boring chicken or turkey for Xmas (yuk!)

    • Loki

      November 27, 2017 at 11:39 am

      Christmas Snake? That is unsettlling on so many levels…

  12. Deleke

    November 27, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    In my country snakes represent satanic agents so they are therefore bound and told to die by fire, both physically and especially spiritually.

    To those who enjoy the snake peppersoup and monitor lizard, well……….I respect your choices but if should in case, paraventure or maybe we meet now or in the future and become friends, please do not be offended if I decline to eat in your house oo. ehn, you eat snake; nuff respect

  13. thatnaijababe

    November 27, 2017 at 3:51 pm

    Please we need facts about scorpions too. I’ve been killing scorpions in my room since we moved here. It’s a new apartment. I’m tired.

    • Uchechi Opara

      November 28, 2017 at 9:21 am

      please kindly move out asap. They are highly poisonous even more than some snakes.

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