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Understanding Kenya’s poisonous and non poisonous snakes

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snakes-kenyaTwelve per cent of the four families of snakes found in Kenya are venomous. This small number may not be alarming but knowing which snakes are dangerous and which ones are not may be the difference between life and death.

Children can be at high risk of snake bites. This is because they move around and play a lot, explained Jacob Mueki, a senior coordinator at Snake Park. He advises parents to keep compounds clean and short.

Despite this clean maintenance of a home, nothing beats knowing what snake you are dealing so that you know how to protect yourself.

Below are various types of snakes in Kenya, both venomous and non-venomous.

Puff Adder

An adult Puff Adder found in Kajiado   An adult Puff Adder in Nairobi

Known as one of Kenya's most dangerous, the big, fat, broad-headed, heavy-bodied snake has a pale line between its eyes. In low-altitude areas, the snake may reach 1.7m while in the highlands it averages 70cm-1.1m. It varies in colour being grey, brown or yellowish with a series of light and dark V-shapes along its back pointing towards its tail.

The Puff Adder is found almost everywhere in Kenya in all types of savanna and semi-desert. Along with its good camouflage, this is one of the reasons that make it dangerous. It also remains motionless when approached adding to its danger.

Its bite is characterized by blood blisters, tissue destruction, strong pain and swelling. Victims may recover from the bites but this often ends up in permanent tissue damage.

 

Black Mamba

A Black Mamba in Kenya  black-mamba-kenya2

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Found in medium to low altitude savanna, woodland and coastal bush, the Black Mamba is a large snake that can grow up to 3.2m but is usually 1.5-2.5m.

Its colour may be grey, almost white, olive, brown, or yellow brown with a paler underside. The Black Mamba has a long head with a barred body. Those found in dry countires are often heavily speckled towards the tail.

This type of snake is not aggressive and rarely bites. Its venom however is a strong neurotoxin and cardiotoxin which causes causing respiratory failure and death. A bite from this snake should be treated as a medical emergency.

The Black Mamba is found near the followinf towns: Found near the following towns; Mombasa, Watamu, Malindi, Voi, Mtito Andei, Mwingi, Kisumu.

Green Mamba

green-mamba-kenya

Coming from the family of Elapids, they are venomous. They are mostly found in the coastal areas of Kenya such as Kibwezi, Chylul Hills, Kitobo Forest in Taveta among other areas.

As the name suggests, the Green Mamba is usually green in colour with a scattering of yellow scales. Juveniles, an age category of snakes, are bluish-green towards the tail.

The snakes are not aggressive, rarely bite and move away from confrontation. Their venom is however a strong neurotoxin therefore if bitten one is advised to seek immediate medical intervention.

Jameson's Mamba

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Found mostly in western Kenya, specifically the Kakamega Forest. They can grow up to 2.6m. They are dull green above while the chin and throat are often yellow. Their head-scales are black-edged. The Kenyan specimen is known to have a black tail.

They are not aggressive but their venom is neurotoxic and several deaths have been recorded in Uganda.

Yellow bellied sea snake

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Mostly found in Pacific and Indian Oceans which in Kenya reads areas such as Kilifi, Watamu and Malindi; this type of snake is black on top and yellow below on its belly. It also has a black and white tail which flattens vertically.

It is not aggressive and its bites are virtually unknown but it is key to note that the venom of the Yellow bellied sea snake is toxic.

East African Garter Snake

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Small in nature and growing to a length of up to 65cm, it is white with narrow pink, pin-white or white bands which are occasionally orangey-yellow. Most adults retain their bands throughout their life while for others it fades to leave two white or eventually fades so that the snake is just black.

The East African Garter is found in isolated populations on the Taita Hills, Mt Sagalla, Mt Mbololo and Mt Marsabit. It is also found near various towns such as Nairobi, Wundanyi, Athi River-Lukenya, Kisumu among others.

Its bites are rare and no fatalities have been reported however a small dog was said to die quite fast and exhibit neurotoxic symptoms after a garter snake bit it.

James Ashe Spitting Cobra

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Known to sporadically appear at the Coast and dry part of Eastern and Northern Kenya, this type of snake can grow up to 2,7m. It is usually a shade of brown, grey or yellowy-brown. Its throat and underside are a darker brown in some areas while lighter in others often coming with cream or yellowish crossbars.

This type of snake spits venom in large quantities therefore spat on, eyes should be gently and thoroughly washed large amounts of water.

Bites by this snake cause swelling, necrosis-the death of a living and should be treated as a medical emergency.

Green Bush Viper

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At an average size of 40-60cm, this type of snake has a strong triangular head with strongly keeled scales. Those found in Kenya are usually green or yellow-green and become turquoise towards the tail. Yellow-tipped scales sometimes form a series of fine yellow crossbars on the snake. Its underside can sometimes be greenish-blue with yellow scattering. Younger categories of the snake such as juveniles may show dark V-shapes on the back

It is found mainly in Kakamega forest in western Kenya.

Not much is known about the toxicity of the Green Bush Viper's venom. Its bite has been known to cause deaths however with victims showing massive swelling and incoagulable blood.

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