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January 21, 2019

A dangerous friend

It was getting late after a hot day, I watched the sun setting fast. Suddenly, a large fat object was visible in the middle of the road. I stopped to look at it. Wow, it was a fairly large puff adder, a snake found in the park, but not often seen in the road.

Puff adders (Bitis arietans) are venomous snakes found in rocky grasslands over vast areas of Africa. A large specimen can measure up to 190cm (75in). This species is responsible for more fatalities than any other African snake. The venom has cytotoxic effects,  poisoning the blood cells. They normally appear to be sluggish but that is deceptive as their strike is very fast and aggressive.

In fact, their strike speed has actually been measured at less than 0.25 of a second. Puff adders are mostly nocturnal, and are one of the snakes in Africa that prey on vermin such as rodents. They perform an important and vital role in balancing the ecosystem.

How can a snake such as a puff adder be dangerous and yet be a friend to humans? Most humans have a natural fear of snakes. If only mankind knew the significant role that snakes play in reducing vermin such as rats. Snakes seriously reduce the possibility of diseases such as the black plague (black death), which killed as many as 200 million people in Eurasia in the 14th Century.

It is very unusual for a visitor to have an incident with a puff adder in the Nairobi park, KWS keeps the grass in picnic areas very short. It is always good to take care and know that although snakes can be dangerous, they can also be our friends.

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