Snakes are part of the rich biodiversity of the Centre

a boa constrictor in a stand of bamboo

Just the thought of snakes scares most people, with many admitting to have a genuine phobia towards this group of reptiles. Such fear has been widely fuelled by combinations of misconceptions, misinformation, religious beliefs and outright shared ignorance.
Here at the Centre snakes form part of the rich wildlife features (biodiversity) that inhabit the forest and are all protected. While we cannot prompt a new “love” for snakes, it is intended that this article series would clarify common misunderstandings and justify the Centre’s overall wildlife conservation effort, starting with its most loathed group. Firstly, it should be clear that all snakes can and do bite (as do most animals), although the greater majority of snakes are non-venomous, meaning that their bite does not contain the naturally produced protein toxin (either hemotoxic or neurotoxic) used for hunting and defence; nor do such nonvenomous species possess the hollow front teeth called fangs for injecting venom, but their bite can be painful and dangerous as it contains bacteria which can adversely affect the wound. While all snake bites are to be avoided, most snakes are generally nonaggressive, reclusive and would avoid contact with humans, hence it is the consensus of most experts that recorded attacks from snakes have often occurred when they felt threatened.
In the case of venomous species, venom is a resource budgeted by snakes to immobilise their prey specifically as they are limbless creatures (other snakes use specialised skills and constricting to catch prey). It is agreed that this so-called “budgeting” is necessary as venom can temporarily be depleted after “envenomation” (venom being expelled into the wound), which would result in subsequent “dry-bite” until venom is replenished. It is very important to note that the potency, dosage of each bite, protein composition and type of venom is dependent on a combination of factors including the species of snake, its age, its temperament and how long ago the snake used venom in defence or for hunting. The reaction to a bite is equally dependent of various factors, to be described in a future article. In Trinidad four species are known to be venomous, namely the Fer-de-Lance, the Bushmaster, the Common Coral and the Water Coral. These four are broken into two families, Pit Vipers and Coral Snakes, all of which should be avoided.