My interest in snakes was sparked by watching NTV’s Wild Talk program, where Bio ken snake farm was featured in a discussion on reptile conservation and saving snakes in Kenya. After 13 years, I finally got the chance to visit the farm, which was an informative and exciting experience. My visit completely changed my perception of snakes, and I hope this article will do the same for you.
Snakes have an undeservedly bad reputation in African cultures and are often perceived as cold, creepy, scary, and sometimes even associated with witchcraft. These beliefs and myths have made people act harshly towards snakes, creating an unsafe situation for both themselves and the snakes.
Bio Ken Snake farm
The Bio Ken Snake Farm, founded in 1980 by James Ashe and his wife, is a hepatology research centre in Watamu in Kilifi county on the South Coast of Kenya. As the largest snake research centre in East Africa, it’s home to over 100 species of snakes, lizards, tortoises, and other reptiles. During my visit to the farm, I had the incredible opportunity to immerse myself in the world of snakes and nature fully.
The knowledgeable guides, also known as “Fundi Wa Nyoka,” taught us about the various species and the importance of protecting them and their habitat. They were highly skilled and patient, ensuring that we could safely interact with the snakes, including holding them and helping with feeding.
One of the farm’s most notable activities is venom extraction, a harmless process that involves gently massaging the glands on top of the snake’s head to extract a small amount of venom. The venom is then sent to South Africa for antivenom production and donated to people who cannot afford it through the James Ashe Antivenom Trust (JAAT).
The Bio Ken Snake farm also plays a vital role in snake conservation by regularly holding tours and seminars all around the country, creating more awareness about snakes. Additionally, the farm offers a free snake rescue service to homeowners or businesses in the region. The rescued snakes are released into the wild or returned to the farm for research and education.
What I learned
Not all snakes are venomous. Only a tiny percentage of venomous snakes can kill you, but since most of us cannot tell which snakes are venomous, you should always visit a hospital and call a specialist to remove the snake should you see one.
• Snakes are not cold and slimy!!
Snakeskin is dry and can be warm and soft, depending on the surrounding temperature. Snakeskin is very smooth and soft, similar to supple leather
• Snakes are not faster than humans
The fastest snake in the world is the black mamba, which can travel at around 12km/hr. Humans can easily run faster than this. Snakes soon tire, as rushing uses their stored energy. The likelihood that a snake will give a persistent chase is small.
• Some snakes give birth; some species produce their young in eggs, while others give birth to live young.
• Don’t attempt to kill a snake!
Attempting to kill a snake puts you in more danger; just like any other animal, the snake will attack when it feels threatened. When you encounter one, the best thing to do is to take three steps back and walk away and call a specialist or KWS to get it removed.
• Some snakes prey on other snakes only.
Some are nonvenomous and will hunt and kill other snakes through constriction and then swallow them whole.
So what could we do to help conserve and protect the snakes?
• Motivate other people to read up on snake conservation issues, respect wildlife, and be serious about protecting wildlife species and their habitat.
• Support organizations helping in the conservation of snakes.
• Visit the farm or other snake conservation centres to learn more about the snake
• Call the snake rescue team or KWS if you see a snake.
• Restore & Protect Snake Habitat
• Avoid Purchasing products made from snakes.
Here a few tips to preventing snake bites
• Wear boots and long pants when farming or hiking in areas with tall vegetation.
• Watch where you’re placing your feet, be extra aware of rocky, sunny areas, pockets of leaves, and logs.
• Do not touch or disturb a snake, even if it appears dead.
• Watch out when sitting down on a rock or a tree stump.
• Always look for concealed snakes before picking up rocks, sticks, or firewood.
• Never hike alone in remote areas.
• Always have someone with you who can assist in an emergency.
• Teach children to respect snakes and to leave them alone.
• Do Not wait for symptoms to appear before visiting a hospital.
• Do Not compress the bitten limb with a cord or tight bandage.
• Do Not attempt to extract or neutralize the venom.
• Do Not wash the area of the bite or try to suck out the venom, as it is essential to retain traces of venom for use with venom identification kits.
• Do Not incise or cut the bite. Stay calm and seek medical help immediately
Bio Ken Snamke farm contacts
Phone: 0729 403599
Location: Bio Ken Snake farm Watamu, Kilifi, County
Emergency Snakebite Phone Number: +254 718 290 324