Snakes are mostly misunderstood, often maligned primarily out off ignorance. The big question how much do we know about snakes?

If we truly understood snakes, we as human beings would probably not fear them as much as we do. You cannot fear what you know but you can be afraid of what you don't understand. So fear is related to lack of knowledge.

In Africa, and other parts of the world this fear has given rise to myths and superstition. Certain ethnic groups believe that snakes are the oldest of all animals.  During a village tour I conducted for culture tourists, I was regaled with tales of snakes that suck cow teats for milk. 

In my present domicile, I have met grown men who swear that a certain kind of snake will pursue you right to your doorstep and into your house. I made every attempt to convince people that they must have stood between the snake and its burrow (hole in the ground) and when the snake rushed away for its safety, they thought it was coming after them in hot pursuit.

This served no purpose as the fear of snakes is so deeply ingrained in the human race.

To be able to overcome some of the believes related to snakes we need accurate information. Let us begin with this small introduction to snakes.


A snake is an elongated, legless carnivorous reptile with scales. It is exothermic and has a forked tongue.

There are approximately 3400 snake species in the world and only less than 300 species are venomous. Some lay eggs (oviparous) and some give birth to live young ones (viviparous). All snakes fall under the classification Serpentine.

There are five major families of snakes that we should be aware of.

Family Colubridae 

This is by far the largest family of snakes. Almost 1900 species fall under this one family. Nearly all of these are non-venomous except for the venomous Boomslang and the Vine Snake. The Boomslang is a back-fanged specimen whose venom is haematoxic. This venom affects blood cells and vessels of the prey or victim

Family Boidae 

The Boidaes has 40-45 individual species referred to as Boas. The largest and heaviest snake in the world, the Green Anaconda is a member of this family. All Boidaes are non-venomous but are powerful constrictors.

Family Elapidae

Elapids include a variety of venomous such as Cobras , Mambas, Coral snakes and Taipans. Elapids produce a neurotoxic venom which attacks the central nervous system of its prey or victim.

Family Pythonida

This family has some of the longest snakes in the world including the Reticulated Python of South-East Asia. The Ball Python which I appear holding in the photographs is a common species of this family and is favored by many people as a suitable pet snake.

Family Viperidae

This family includes Rattle Snakes, Vipers, Adders and other species. All viperidae species are venomous. Nearly all members of this family produce cytotoxic venom which affects tissue and pain swelling. It should be noted that certain snakes a have a combination of one or two types of venom's such as the Berg Adder.