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The Snake Charmer

Swaziland is home to many different species of wild land animals. One such species is the black mamba snake.

This is one of the most fascinating snakes in the world, boasting venom potent enough to kill an adult person in less than an hour.

The attitude towards snakes in Swaziland has been that if you should come across a snake, do whatever you can to get it killed.

Fortunately, a lady by the name of Thea Litchka-Koen is changing perceptions and saving snakes, in particular the black mamba, from systemic annihilation.

Snakes have been vilified from time immemorial, religion has also added to the less than impressive reputation that snakes bear. The advantages of having these creatures are often forgotten or ignored. For purposes of this article, the one advantage of snakes that will be considered is the role they play in reducing the rodent population.

Studies have shown that rodents reproduce more during summer months when it is hot and wet, incidentally this is when snakes are more active in the wild. A high rodent population can spell disaster for the environment, in that pest control measures may contain toxic poisons that are detrimental to other animal species, plants, soil and water sources. An alternative is found in nature in the form of snakes, these creatures are natural pest exterminators.

Thea resides in the hottest part of Swaziland, which also happens to be the area with the highest black mamba concentration in the country. Realising that snakes are killed at an alarming rate, she has set up an initiative where she voluntarily captures snakes from private homes and releases them back into the wild. For her work she has been dubbed “the white witch” (“white” because of her race) by locals who believe that she posses supernatural powers that enable her to handle snakes without getting bitten.

The environmental impact of her work will probably never be accurately measured, nevertheless one cannot deny that her efforts go a long way into keeping pesticides out of the environment. Government support or partnership with Thea in her endeavors to maintain a healthy snake population is necessary as Thea works on a voluntary basis, and may not be able to continue doing what she does.

Let government do all it can to inform its subjects on the importance of keeping a balanced food chain, for the good of our environment.

Image: Wildlife Pictures Online

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