The snake population is speedily being destroyed to make way for human dwellings or industry.They are also being driven out of their habitat by the introduction of exotic animal species, and are getting contaminated by pesticides too. In the United States, more than half of the snake species currently listed as endangered have declined as a direct result of habitat destruction.
Why should I be aware of this?
- Snakes play a critical role in our environment, because of their role in the food chain.
- Different types of snakes perform different roles.
- Numerous snakes are top level predators, for example, a single rat snake lands up eating over a 100 rats annually.
- They perform a crucial function in controlling insect and other invertebrate populations.
- Snakes in turn are food for other predators, such as foxes and hawks, and so discharge an important role in linking higher and lower feeding levels.
- Endangered species such as the copperbelly water snake is an umbrella species as well. Protecting an umbrella species potentially protects other species sharing all or some of the same environmental requirements. Copperbellies were a large integral part of the wetland ecosystem.
All about endangered snakes
When we talk of endangered species we hardly think of snakes. What comes to mind first are the Giant Pandas, Snow Leopards, Gray Wolves etc. Among major human activities which affected snake population are extensive land clearing, whether for housing, industry, mineral exploration or agriculture.
Family of snakes endangered
Some of the snakes which are prominently in the endangered list are:
The San Francisco Garter Snake
- It is the most endangered reptile in North America.
- The San Francisco Garter Snake was one of the first species to be listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1966.
- Over the past three decades, however, their population has continued to decline and since 1978, little or no progress has been made to secure a habitat for them.
- Continued urbanization, illegal collecting, freeway construction and pollution are all contributing factors to the threat of extiction for the San Francisco Garter snake.
The Eastern Indigo
- The largest snake native to the United States, it has been on the Endangered Species list since 1978 due to destruction of habitat.
- Development activities in Florida, Georgia, southern Alabama and Mississippi, plus the eastern edge of South Carolina over the the past forty years, have left these large, calm colubrids struggling to survive.
The King Cobra
- The largest venomous snake in the world, they inject amounts that would be lethal to a full-grown elephant, or about a dozen adult humans, all in one bite. They are found in the heavy deep forests India, the Phillipines, Malaysia, southeast Asia and southern China.
- Due to its secretive and cautious nature, King Cobras are seldom seen.
- The Dumeril's Boa is found naturally only in the arid southwestern tip of the island of Madagascar. It is a smaller member of the boa family, rarely reaching more than 6 feet, with females being larger than males. It is a ground-dwelling species that preys on small mammals and reptiles.
- The destruction of Madagascars forests for agriculture has left it vulnerable.
What can I do?
- Conduct a community awareness survey
- Conduct a public awareness campaign on the threats to the snake population
- Write a newspaper column in a local newspaper to educate the members of the community
- Conduct an environmental seminar or debate and include endangered snakes as one of the topics.
- Learn more about the causes of habitat loss. Find old and new aerial photographs of a habitat near where you live and compare them. Find out how far planned development threatens snakes
- Snakes are the most modern of reptiles, first appearing in the fossil record during the time of the dinosaurs.
- They gave up external ears and developed clear scales to shield their ever-open eyes from dust and damage.
- They also developed instinctive behaviors that enabled them to find and catch prey, hide from predators, reproduce and survive in a great variety of climates.
- They are distributed through most parts of the world.
- They are closely related to lizards, but do not have external ears or eyelids.
- Snakes have no eyelids. Their eyes are protected by a transparent layer of skin over the eye.
- When a snake flicks its tongue at you it is merely trying to figure out what you are.
- As they cannot generate their own body heat snakes remain relatively inactive when it is too cold.
- The most common form of defense by snakes is avoidance. At the first sign of danger, they usually flee. Any other defensive behavior by a snake, such as biting or striking is usually a last resort.
- All snakes have teeth and will bite if they feel threatened and have no means of escape.