Snakes are often referred to as evil, dangerous and slimy creatures. While it is true that some snakes can inflict fatal bites on humans, they are in fact very useful to humans and to the environment.
Snakes play an important role in the environment: Snakes control prey populations, including populations of other snakes! Being slow, snakes tend to eat whatever is in abundance. Uncontrolled prey population growth may adversely affect the habitat. By controlling prey populations, snakes also control the populations of predators which eat the same prey. Snakes are also an important food for many other creatures.
Natural Pest Control:
The Eastern Screech Owl in Southwest America actually seek out and capture tiny blindworms and bring them back alive to their nest. There, the blindworms feed on the larvae and pupae of parasites like the bot fly, keeping the nest safe for the owls nestlings!
Medical uses of snake venom include
Anti-stroke medication: The venom of the Malayan Pit Viper has been used to create a new drug to treat stroke victims by thinning the blood and preventing blood clots from forming. Reducing high blood pressure: A component of the Brazilian Arrowhead Viper venom prevents the constriction of blood vessels which cause blood pressure to rise. It is now commonly used to treat high blood pressure patients. Controlling diseases affecting the nerves: Because the toxins have powerful effects on nerves, scientists are now studying snake venom's possible applications in Alzheimer's disease and epileptic convulsions. Cobra venom has been used for many years in medical research because it contains an enzyme which dissolves virus cell walls and membranes. Not all snakes are dangerous to humans: Of the 2,600 or so species, only 450 or less than 19% are venomous. Most of these snakes are not dangerous to humans because: their venom is mild or injected in too small a quantity; their mouths are too small to bite a human; mouth parts too weak to break human skin;or teeth placed too far back in the mouth. Only 4 families are dangerous to humans: Atractaspididae, Colubridae, Elapidae, Viperidae. Half of actual bites to humans are "dry", no venom is injected. Unlike other animal bites, snake bites don't carry disease. For more on snake bites and first aid.
In fact, snakes are useful to humans
Snakes control the growth of destructive rodents and other pests. These rodents not only destroy crops and food stores but uncontrolled populations in disease-bearing pests may result in plagues and other health threats.
CONSERVATION: Status and threats to snakes
Major threats to snakes are habitat destruction and wild collection for their meat and leather. 95% of snakes traded are wild caught, of which 2% are as pets. Because snakes are not as cute as furry animals and don't scream out in pain, there has been little support for conservation of endangered snakes and more humane treatment of snakes used commercially, e.g., for their skin. Being ectothermic, snakes can better withstand travelling and poor care, so they often suffer for a long time and die a lingering death. Snakes are commonly killed in a cruel manner just to entertain people. Harmless species are also often killed in ignorance.
Snake charming can harm the snakes, although traditional charmers often take good care of their snakes.
Some endemic snakes are also threatened by introduced animals which poison them, eat baby snakes or compete for the snake's prey. The introduction in Australia of the Giant Toad (Bufo marinus), which has toxic skin secretions, killed many snakes which did not have immunity to its poison. Many island snakes are seriously endangered.
The following snakes are listed in the IUCN Red Data Book of Threatened Animals: Round Island Boas (Bolyeria multicarinata), Round Island Keel-scaled Boa (Casarea dussumieri), Puerto Rican Boa (Eripcrates inornatus), Central Asian Cobra (Naja oxiana), Lebetine Viper (Vipera schweizeri), Latifi's Viper (Viperia latifi).
The Snake in the Chinese Zodiac: People born in the year of the snake are sophisticated and appreciate the finer things in life. Graceful, soft-spoken, with beautiful skin, they have a great sense of humour and keep cool even in times of stress. They don’t reveal their true feelings or suspicions. Lucky with money but don’t gamble. Passionate but possessive lovers. Relentless, holding on to the bitter end. Never forgives a broken promise. They admire power and surround themselves with successful people.
Living with snakes: People throughout the ages have lived in harmony with snakes. Snakes have become so much a part of human life that they feature prominently in many myths and cultural beliefs. Myths about snakes are usually based on the snake’s features and behaviour.
Crawling, scary: seen as the manifestation of evil, as in Christian and Western tradition.
Moulting of skin: immortality, renewal. Mesopotamians believed each time a snake shed its skin it was reborn. Aztecs believe Quetzalcoatl the feathered serpent was the inventor of the calendar, and associated it with birth, death and resurrection.
Unblinking eyes: clear-sighted, vigilant. Often depicted as guardians. In Africa, they are village guardians. The Egyptian Asp Goddess Ejo protected the Nile delta and the pharaohs.
Mute: Keeper of secrets, usually of immortality or life.
S-shaped movements: Symbolised important rivers; the Ganges, Euphrates, Nile by the various cultures there. Chinese river gods are snake-like.
Their long shape: phallic and fertility symbol. Hopi Indians of Arizona perform a ritual dance with live snakes to bring rain and ensure crop fertility. Some fertility rituals in Africa and Southeast Asia use snakes.
The snake is often associated with healing knowledge and medicine: The modern symbol of the medical profession has two snakes wrapped around a staff and is based on the staff of the mythical Greek God of Medicine Aerculapius. Apollo is said to have sent him the snake to teach the value of medicinal plants. The snakes are Elaphe longissima, harmless and common in Europe. The snakes were kept in Grecian hospital-temples and later by the Romans too.
More about snakes
- What are snakes?
- Are snakes cold?
- Why are snakes long?
- What do snakes eat? Do they drink?
- How do snakes swallow?
- How do snakes hunt?
- Why and how do snakes kill?
Snake predators and how do snakes protect themselves?
Snake mating, eggs and babies
Where are snakes found?
Fascinating snake adaptations to various habitats
Snake bites and first aid
Snakes in danger: role and conservation and snakes in human culture
Snake records: biggest, smallest, deadliest and more
- More snakes
- More animals
- General snake links and references
Further informations in german can be found here!