Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Halloween Countdown Day 2: Sneaky Snakes 🐍

Citizen scientist @Snorticus found this amazingly clear and huge black cobra at our Aged Violet site this year. You can see the snake in these videos ACP000eg9h ACP000eg9i ACP000eg9k ACP000eg9m and it moves ever sssssso ssssssslightly in the second one (and below)!

Although snakes are often considered scary, sometimes that fear can help with their survival! A study from Nigeria found in 2013 that taboos for certain snakes resulted in their protection:
(Table adapted from Dagba et al. 2013)
"In almost every traditional African setting or community, each community has what they revere or hold sacred either as the presence of their gods or their goddesses, or there is a very important role such objects played in the course of their existence and history. The belief in chimpanzee as “totem”, that is animal into which human beings could transform is also common in many localities in the forest zones of Nigeria... In Nnewi, Awka and Mbaise communities in South east zone of Nigeria, python is man’s friend, the killing of python is an abominable act, so it is held sacrosanct. Among the Ngas of Plateau State, Nigeria, it is believed that the spirit of the gods lives in Python and that it gives protection to the people. The Tiv people regard the green snake as a totem. They believe that the snake assisted them in crossing the River Congo in Central Africa, so they see it as a friend and do not kill it." (Dagba et al., 2013)
 And another study from Cameroon published in 2015 found that:
"Segment taboos are manifested by the restriction of women and children from consuming certain animals such as Red river hog (according to 15.6% of [household residents] HRs), Snakes (according to 8.5% of  HRs) and most primates. It is however important to note that threats to wildlife is real. An evaluation of the perceptions of HRs on the use level of wildlife showed that, wildlife use for cultural and traditional purposes is disappearing progressively (according to 96.7% of HRs). This trend was mainly because of the scarcity of wildlife (65.3% of HRs) and the loss of culture among the youths (12.5% of HRs)." (Bobo et al. 2015)
The take home message is that when we understand the importance of a species, we are much better at protecting it. So even if your culture doesn't revere or fear snakes, we can all learn to value them and the important ecological functions they play! 

Dagba BI, Sambe LN, and Shomkegh SA  (2013) Totemic Beliefs and Biodiversity Conservation among the Tiv People of Benue State, Nigeria. Journal of Natural Sciences Research 3(8): 145

Bobo KS, Aghomo FFM and Ntumwel BC (2015) Wildlife use and the role of taboos in the conservation of wildlife around the Nkwende Hills Forest Reserve; South-west Cameroon. 
Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 11(2): doi: 10.1186/1746-4269-11-2

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