Special

Snakes - Nature's Most Misunderstood Creatures

March 14, 2008

A snake is a creature that evokes fear in most people so much so that the mere thought of the slimy reptile sends shivers up their backs. Few know the significant role of snakes in maintaining and balancing the energy flows inside shade grown coffee.

Shade grown eco-friendly Indian coffee has many unique distinctions. The rare assemblages of flora and fauna in the coffee forests make it one of the most important biodiversity hotspots of the world. Lurking in the forest one can find a bizarre collection of snakes. The presence of different snake species speaks volumes about the fertility status of the coffee forests. In fact for hundreds of years snakes have acted as powerful symbols to the village folk in balancing the energy flows inside shade grown coffee forests.

Coffee farmers living in and around the forest corridor are known for the conservation of forest wealth. In the early days of farming, farmers had great respect for the forest resources and worked in close cooperation with nature. They were aware of the beneficial role snakes played in the coffee ecosystem, eating rodents and smaller prey. However, modern day practices of using powerful, result-oriented chemicals have put undue pressure on land and toxic chemicals have found their way into food chains.

The inborn fear among farmers regarding the toxic venom of snakes plays a key role in killing most snakes, irrespective of whether they are poisonous or nonpoisonous. An interesting fact is that only 150 out of 2000 species of snakes are poisonous.

The coffee forests provide a perfect micro habitat for the proliferation of various snake species. Three important species of venomous snakes, namely the spectacled cobra, Russell’s viper and common krait are commonly observed inside coffee forests and often come face-to-face with coffee farmers.

All the three snake species occupy a variety of habitats, from densely wooded forests to the open wetlands bordering the coffee farms. They are often found under the biomass or on coffee bushes. The fact of the matter is that these three species of snakes are known to use venom only as self-defense.

Various reasons such as expansion of coffee forests into lowlands and wet lands, loss of virgin forests due to new clearings, increasing biotic pressure, both from within the coffee mountain as well as from the fringes, indiscriminate use of pesticides, weedicides and chemical fertilizers, nitrate pollution of water sources and setting up of animal traps have hindered conservation and multiplication of snakes.

Conservation at Joe’s Sustainable Farm, Kirehully Estate

The translocation of poisonous snakes to safe habitats is a common practice for managing human snake conflict at Joe's eco-friendly coffee farm. Most importantly, when poisonous snakes are sighted on the farm, especially during the mating season, the staff and workers are brought to the site and enlightened on the importance of snakes in maintaining a healthy eco system.

The impact of this management has yielded tremendous response. Today, if any snake is sighted in the Kirehully village, word is sent to Joe’s farm so that the snake is either translocated to safer habitats if it is poisonous, or else simply allowed to go its way, if it is non-poisonous.

Due to the conservation efforts many coffee farmers are in a good position to identify the poisonous and non-poisonous snakes. This is especially true when it comes to the common rat snake and cobra. Both look alike and often the rat snake is mistaken as a cobra.

The rat snake is in fact longer and thinner with a pointed head and prominent eyes. The cobra has a more roundish head. The more information people have about snakes, the less they perceive them as threat.

Conclusion

The large number of diverse trees provides adequate shelter, shade and biomass for both prey and predator but the rise in logging inside the coffee forests has reduced the habitat for both prey and predator. The rate of deforestation is accelerating and there is a growing threat of further degradation and fragmentation of the coffee habitat. The resulting loss of habitat has badly affected the flora and fauna of the region.

The second important factor responsible for the declining snake population is the relentless use of pesticide and chemicals which has wiped out most of the prey species (frogs, toads, lizards, rodents, geckos).
Two interesting facts have come to light after two decades of work on coffee ecology. Firstly, snake species are decreasing at an alarming rate and secondly, the snake species surviving are the ones that belong to the non-poisonous species. Due to shrinking habitats, venomous snake populations are disappearing right in front of our eyes. Some rare species are in the fear of dying out.

The coffee forests are unique and we need an urgent action plan to protect the flora and fauna of the region. If nothing is done soon, some of the rare species could disappear from the face of the earth.

Dr Anand Titus and Geeta N Pereira
Dr. Anand Titus Pereira has Ph.D. in Microbiology. His wife, Geeta Nanaiah Pereira has a M.S. degree in Horticulture from the Oklahoma State University, U.S.A.
This Husband and Wife team own a model coffee farm on the foot hills of the Western Ghats in India. Incidentally, the Western Ghats is recognized the world over as one among the 18 hotspots of the world known for its biodiversity. Their ultimate goal is to protect this rare habitat. They have worked diligently on sustainable technologies for the past 15 years and have come out with various practical recommendations which are of great benefit to the coffee farmer’s world wide. They are regular contributors to INEEDCOFFEE.COM and periodically present lectures on the intrinsic value of shade grown coffee. They are committed in protecting the Planet from man made abuse.

Comment on this article

  • Ronit, Nagpur

    Wed, Jan 6 2016

    Snakes have an undeserved reputation for being evil and many people loathe them most people's have ophiphobia therefore most of the people unnecessarily killed them they feel that the snake will beat them but the fact is that venomous snakes do not unnecessarily bite humans. They might do so I'd threatened . I am 14 year old child through this comment , I want to aware the people who unnecessarily killed the snake , they don't aware that snake have a great role in ecosystem l thought that Dr anand Titus and geeta pereira doing great job

    Agree [1]

  • Rahman uppoodan, Malappuram,Kerala

    Mon, May 6 2013

    Dear Anand Sir/Geetha ma'm
    It is a very good article and giving awareness to protect wild life and mother Nature,
    I-would like to inform u that I used to rescue more than 4000 snakes from in and around malappuram district,I am helping forest department people by catch snakes and hand over to them,recently Kerala forest de,partment announced an award for this to me.if you want any help feel free to contact with me over the phone.my number is 919447133366
    Regards
    U.ARahman
    Facebook ID:-rahmanuppoodan@gmail.com

    Agree [2]

  • vivek colaco, field- view estate ,sundekere post, sakleshpur,

    Mon, Jan 28 2013

    Dear Anand and Geetha

    Thank you for your nice article on snakes. I usually get frightend of snakes I just cant come to know that how you get through with this articlles on snakes and other wild animals.

    Agree [3]

  • Snakes, Butterflies and Western Ghats, Kolhapur

    Sun, Apr 18 2010

    Kudos to both of you Anand Sir and Geeta Mam. I firmly believe that western ghats are the only hopes for securing water and biodiversity in India. I also keep on visiting Ghats and do a lot photography over there.

    Agree [3]

  • Kiran Yuvaraj, KIREHALLY-Sakleshpur

    Tue, Dec 15 2009

    Hi Anand sir..firstly thanks for ur great work on focusing light on wildlife.. my dad(raju-kirehalli) use to tell me about ur interest on wildlife..but i thought of meet u when i come to my native but it nt yt possible..but vivek culos-kirehalli told me to read articles abt wildlife,sakleshpur in this website..im vry delighted to knw many facts nd truths about our sarroundings ..very much thank you for ur works..so keep it up and write some more articles about plants(im very much intersted in plants) ..im regarly waiting for ur next atricles..

    Agree [5]

  • V.S.Shetty, Bantwal, Mangalore

    Sat, Nov 14 2009

    Really they have done many nature things to bring near to the viewers. So that viewers to be happy to see them all in one click. Very hard work done by both couple, Thanks daiji to give them to support/release their work.

    Agree [4]

  • victoria lopez, ocala,Florida

    Wed, Nov 4 2009

    That is the most coolest looking snake in the world.how can it camaflouge like that it looks like if the face is in the back dont you!

    Agree [4]

  • Umesh, Bangalore

    Fri, Jul 24 2009

    Anand & Geeta, beautiful & amazing couple, admire your perceptions of nature. Wish to meet you personally Nature lover Umesh

    Agree [5]

  • lily,

    Wed, Jun 24 2009

    Oh my god that is cool

    Agree [4]

  • Suma, Mangalore

    Mon, Jun 15 2009

    Hi Geetha and Anand Now I really know what you guys are up to. All this time all I saw or heard of you was what you guys told me which incidently was nothing. Abbu & Minnu have just this thing to say " how is this possible" as they go throu the article or rather see the photos. Any way I need to relocate holidays to the estate to let them see you guys at work. Fantastic photos and a very impressive article. Please let me know some more about my 2 unassuming dear friends.

    Agree [4]

  • sowmya, naravi

    Fri, Mar 27 2009

    All my life I've been scared of reptiles mainly snakes.But after seeing the awesome pictures of the snakes, I wonder whether they arereally beautiful and harmless.I appreciate you for your photography.Mainly I'm impressed by the picture of the Cobra on the ripened coffee seeds.

    Agree [4]

  • murali, chittoor

    Thu, Dec 11 2008

    Snakes are highly misunderstood creatures. They strike only on defence. Otherwise they are eco-friendly creatures.

    Agree [4]

  • R.selva kumar, CHENNAI/vandalur

    Wed, Dec 3 2008

    My friend is snakes, thank you for giving details,send me any snake images

    Agree [4]

  • Anita Fernandes, mangalore[kalpane]

    Tue, Sep 16 2008

    Geetha & Anand Great job-would like to see & read some more.... Thanks for information.

    Agree [4]

  • Kailas, Bangalore/Mangalore

    Sat, Sep 13 2008

    They are doing a great job in the preservation of these reptiles. Many do not know how important they are in protecting the nature. Man is killing indiscriminately without understanding them. HUMANS ARE MORE POISONOUS THAN SNAKES. GREAT WORK CARRY ON.

    Agree [3]

  • Dr.N. Earanna, bangalore

    Thu, Jun 26 2008

    Hi, Titus and Geetha It was a reverie in my mind that you were growing paddy with Azolla and BGA, but now I wondered that you also living with snakes and coffee. This is simply marvellous. Snakes are friendlier than terror humans. I thank your better half geetha.

    Agree [4]

  • david albuquerque, mangalore-capitanio

    Wed, Jun 25 2008

    Great job by Dr.Anand and Geeta thanks for information.

    Agree [4]

  • rakesh, sakleshpur

    Sun, Jun 8 2008

    Hi Anand,please sleep for sometime..I dont know how many sleepless nights you have been working on such kinda projects..& you have a wonderful friend who's helping you through all this.."Geetha".ALL THE BEST.

    Agree [4]

  • Allen Pais, Siddapur

    Mon, Apr 7 2008

    Anand if it was not for your & Geetha's hard work & amount of hours spent to create such an excellent article,all of us would have little to know about the actual environment necessity,Both of you have contributed a lot towards environment,

    We are all over whelmed here in Singapore specially reading all your article's in ineedcoffee.com,We are waiting for more article's from you.Both of you are indeed a Global requirement for the restoration environment in this present World of conflict,atrocities,Human right abuse etc etc.Wishing both of you all the best.

    Agree [3]

  • Ayres DCosta, Goa, and now Columbus, Ohio

    Fri, Mar 21 2008

    I am glad to note that you have found a way to live with snakes, which we have grown to believe are our natural enemy (see Biblical reference to Eve and snakes). Surely God had a purpose for snakes in this world. Thanks for your efforts to educate us and do something about our precious ecosystem.

    Agree [2]

  • Geetha Arockiam, Dallas, Texas

    Fri, Mar 21 2008

    Yeah, great pictures, can you hear us plead like Payal and especially Nihal, pleeeze be careful. Thanks for the informative articles. Keep up the good work!

    Agree [4]

  • Allen J Pais, Siddapur

    Fri, Mar 21 2008

    Anand & geetha Pereira are the Globel requirement for the restoration enviorment for the World.

    Agree [4]

  • Dr.Anand& Geeta, SAKLESHPUR

    Mon, Mar 17 2008

    Dear Prem Colaco, it was heartening to read your comments. We are inspired to learn that nature lovers like you care deeply about our fragile planet earth. Collectively, we can preserve the rich biodiversity of the Western Ghats by educating the citizens on the importance of conservation.

    Agree [3]

  • payal pereira, kirehully estate

    Sun, Mar 16 2008

    Dearest dad,pleeeeez take care & be careful.good luck in catching more snakes.

    Agree [4]

  • Naveen Frank, Sharjah / Mangalore

    Sun, Mar 16 2008

    I spent most of my cherished childhood summer holidays in the same coffee estate that Anand and Geetha are now managing. I recall the late Joe Pereira, father of Anand, had a ready stock of anti venom injections stocked in his refrigerator.

    The nearest hospital those days was a good one hour drive from the estate. But he never got a chance to use it once. There was never a single snake bite incident in that estate. I think we must agree with Drs Anand and Geetha that they are indeed friendly creatures and bite and attack only when provoked or to defend themselves.

    I hope Anand and Geetha, you could somehow convenience us Mangaloreans that it is the same with mosquitoes, cockroaches and rats !

    Agree [4]

  • Prem Colaco, Sakleshpur/Muscat,Sultanate of Oman

    Sun, Mar 16 2008

    Dr Titus & Dr Geetha, Excellent pictures I should say...The one taken on the robusta plant reminds me of coorg, having spent 23years during my Dads posting at being a Nature lover myself am very much with you to conserve the habitat.Please keep us posted on topics comprising more of biodiversity ,ecology & sustainable technologies to protect nature.Keep up the good work!

    Agree [4]

  • jimmy noronha, Bellore/Lucknow

    Sat, Mar 15 2008

    Now, Dr. Anand, would you please listen to me? I just finished my early morning walk and then wanted to know what's happening in my native place and I open the site and then my offer me my usual morning cup of coffee and you come out with a snake in the coffee beans!!

    You have no fear of snakes, but I have, I do like those lovely pictures of the snakes, as I did served some time in Virajpet and got a bit of this hang about coffee, but tell me if I were to be friendly with the snakes, how could I counter the poison if they happen to be unfriendly, as you know in friendship at times you do turn unfriendly, Mrs. Nanaiah Periera will agree with me, I am sure. Jimmy Lucknow

    Agree [3]

  • maisie, mangalore

    Sat, Mar 15 2008

    Awesome pictures of the snake . They makes one learnmore about snakes . It woud be nice if local remedies of snake bite were published. Congratulations for the article. Hope many will be inspired to preserve "Flora & Fauna".

    Agree [3]

  • Ashita Amora Lasrado, bangalore

    Fri, Mar 14 2008

    All my life I've been scared of reptiles mainly snakes.But after seeing the awesome pictures of the snakes, I wonder whether they arereally beautiful and harmless.I appreciate you for your photography.Mainly I'm impressed by the picture of the Cobra on the ripened coffee seeds.

    Agree [4]

  • Ashita Amora Lasrado, bangalore

    Sun, Mar 16 2008

    All my life i've been scared of reptiles mainly snakes.But after seeing the awesome pictures of the snakes,i wonder whether they really beautiful and harmless.I appreciate you for your photography.

    Agree [3]

  • Lawrence D Silva, Attur,Karkala/ Louisville,KY

    Fri, Mar 14 2008

    Great job by Dr.Anand and Geeta. The fear of snakes as its bite causes death in many cases not necessarily by its venom but of fear of death. The fear of death is because of anti venom searum has remained only in major cities and not for comman man... How to solve this problem ? Lawrence D'Silva B.Tech (Chem) (Study of flora and fauna in its bio diversity into remedial medical practices)

    Agree [1]

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