Do you have a massive fear of snakes? Welcome to what was my world. The mere mention of these slithering, legless reptiles easily created imagery that would have an icy shiver run down my spine. I could never imagine myself being comfortable around them.
They have a way of instilling a morbid fear rather than the perennial fascination and admiration they deserve. It’s not a shock that Ophidiophobia, the fear of snakes, is one of the most common phobias in the world. Understandably, some of them are very dangerous and contain venom that could kill you almost instantly. But just like any other animal, they only bite in defense when they feel threatened. Otherwise, they mind their business most of the time.
So why do you and I have this innate fear of these reptiles?
Like me, you have likely never seen or encountered a snake first hand (
well, maybe people snakes). But, for some reason, when you see a snake anywhere, your reaction, first and foremost, is to try and kill it before it gets to you, even when it shows no signs of aggression towards you.
In fact, in most Christina African states like Kenya, it is a chief villain. Snakes associate with evil and everything bad with the world. The Bible says humanity is where it is as a corrupt, labored society, instead of a paradise of people loitering around naked in a garden of luscious fruits, flowers, and fantastic creatures, because of a snake and its manipulative ways. The darn snake manipulated the first woman and mother of all that is living, Eve, to abandon her vows to God by eating the forbidden fruit and so, humanity suffers the consequences of that fateful day. Poor snakes. That’s a lot of liability for any creature to carry.
Luckily, I am all about conquering my irrational fears and preconceived notions about life and hopefully, yours as well. What else is life about if not knocking those fears off their pedestal and breaking barriers, right? To achieve this, I set out to visit one of the most famous snake’s parks in Kenya, Bio-Ken Snake Park located in Watamu.
Bio-Ken is a research and conservation centre dedicated to conserving and educating the general population on snakes and other reptiles. They keep a wide variety of snakes for education purposes and release some of them safely into the wild. The facility is relatively small, but I would assume they wouldn’t need a big space because snakes and reptiles don’t take up much space.
The entry fee is Kes. 1,000 (USD100) for adults and Kes. 500 (USD5) for children. You get a guide to take you around while giving you all the fabulous snake facts that are nothing short of amazing. For example, did you know that in the snake world, big doesn’t necessarily equate to more lethal? Small snakes such as the twig snake, which, as the name suggests, is the size of a twig, is highly poisonous and is one of the only snakes in the world that doesn’t have an anti-venom yet. While in contrast, snakes such as pythons, which often come in large sizes, are non-venomous and pose no significant threat to humans.
Needless to say, I left there with a new found respect for snakes. They are one of the most misunderstood animals on earth. As I also came to discover, snakes, just like us, are here for a good reason. They are a vital part of the environment and play an integral role in the ecosystem.
For one, snakes are our natural, environmentally friendly, and free pest controllers. They help in the control of pests such as rats and mice, which are a big nuisance to society as they are destructive to crops, which affect food supplies, and they spread a variety of harmful diseases. Secondly, venom from some snakes is useful in medical research, including the treatment of cancer. Therefore, the conservation of these creatures is critical.
While I’m probably not going to keep one as a pet, I have a new found respect and admiration for serpents. I think they’re fantastic and I applaud any conservation and education efforts geared towards them.
So next time you come across a snake around you, don’t harm it. Keep calm. Stay away from it, if possible, to avoid any misunderstanding between the two of you and finally, make sure you both have a means to escape, because at the end of the day if it feels cornered, it will try to defend itself. Let it run free and wild. But if you’re worried it might hurt you or you don’t want it around, don’t try to handle it yourself. Call the experts at Bio-Ken, and they’ll arrange to collect it.
I challenge you to face your fears and visit this center when you’re in or around Watamu, Kenya and maybe even, pet a snake. There’s nothing to fear but fear itself.