snakes in senegal

pasted below is some information collected by my friend Lauren Haar on snakes in Senegal:

Here are excerpts from the paper my snake phd friend sent me…  in case you want to know what you’re up against.  Northern Senegal apparently has the same types of snakes, but they’re a less dense population.


From 1976 to 1999, we conducted a prospective study of overall and cause-specific mortality among the population of 42 villages of south-eastern Senegal. Of 4,228 deaths registered during this period, 26 were brought on by snakebites, 4 by invertebrate stings and 8 by other wild or domestic animals. The average annual mortality rate from snakebite was 14 deaths per 100,000 population. Among persons aged 1 year or more, 0.9% (26/2,880) of deaths were caused by snakebite and this cause represented 28% (26/94) of the total number of deaths by accident. We also investigated the snake fauna of the area. Of 1,280 snakes belonging to 34 species that were collected, one-third were dangerous and the proportion of Viperidae, Elapidae and Atractaspididae was 23%, 11% and 0.6%, respectively. The saw-scaled viper Echis ocellatus was the most abundant species (13.6%). Other venomous species were Causus maculatus (6.5%), Naja katiensis (5.5%), Bitis arietans (2.7%), Elapsoidea trapei (2.4%), Naja nigricollis (1.2%), Naja melanoleuca (1.1%), Atractaspis aterrima (0.4%), Dendroaspis polylepis (0.3%) and Naja haje (0.1%).


In order to complete an exploratory study on the risk of death due to snakebite in a rural zone of South-Eastern Senegal, we have carried out a survey to estimate the incidence of snakebites in the same population. The study made on a sample of almost 600 subjects showed an annual incidence of 677 bites per 100.000 inhabitants, that is one of the most important rate ever reported in the world until now. Based on these results and data collected previously on deaths due to snakebites in this same population, we provide an estimate of snakebite case fatality rate of 2.1% in this area of Senegal.


I had lunch with the snake man, which was one of the most informative lunches I’ve had in a hwile.  He was really passionate about snakes…  Eerily passionate.  But here’s a bit of what he said..


 he said that viperidae (which are vipers if you couldn’t guess) we have in the states, and they’re usually pretty shy.  They hunt at night and use heat sensing pitt organs to get food.  so watch your stove.


Elapidae are the mambas and coral snakes, those are the ones he said you’d probably see if you saw them at all.  The mambas are most common and they’ll be in trees or curled up on the ground by trees.  they’re really fast and really poisonous and aggressive.  He was not a big fan of mambas.  He said learn what they look like and avoid them if you can.  I think most of them look like cobras.


You’re most likely to see spotted adders or green adders while you’re there. They are out all day and are small. These snakes attack more people than the rest of them, mostly because they’re small and really active.  They eat frogs and live underground usually.  When it rains they hunt so they’re more likely to bite when it’s the rainy season. Apparently there’s also some sort of parasite which is killing them off.  So they are probably fairly grumpy.


Ok there was a lot more snakage he talked about, but I don’t remember a lot of it. Here’s the takehome message.


Black mambas, adders and sawscale vipers or something like that are the big 3 to watch for.  Controling rodent populations, turning off stoves or keeping them off the ground and away from your bed, checking before putting on shoes or clothes, and do the bed check before getting under covers.  Most snakes won’t come after you, with the exception of the mamba because it’s nasty. If you do see snakes, either back away slowly in a curved pattern, or distract them by throwing something that makes a vibration on the ground away from yourself.


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