Every 16th of July, year after year, World Snake Day is held to celebrate the diverse and oft-maligned group of animals known as snakes. With over three thousand species across the globe, snakes can be found on every continent except Antarctica. This group of animals, categorized in the suborder Serpentes, first emerged at least in the Late Cretaceous, although some scientists propose that snakes first appeared much earlier in the Jurassic. Their closest relatives are lizards, with both groups together known as squamates.
Contemporary snakes range in size from the 32-foot-long Reticulated python to the 4-inch Barbados threadsnake although the prehistoric Titanoboa is estimated to have reached 42 feet in length.
Of the thousands of species of snake, only around 600 are venomous, and only a third of those are potent enough to pose a serious threat to human health. This means that a mere 7% of snakes worldwide have that dreaded deadly bite .
So long as snakes are given respectful distance, humans have little to fear from them, but many animals we consider pests should fear them quite a lot as they are considered a form of natural pest control. For instance, the presence of Timber rattlesnakes in an area drives down the rodent population, bringing with them the transmission of the Lyme disease that they carry . Despite this usefulness, many species of snakes are threatened. Mongooses, introduced as an invasive and environmentally destructive form of pest control, have devastated island populations, such as the Saint Lucia racer, which has less than 20 individuals in the wild . Habitat loss is also a significant threat to snake populations, such as the previously mentioned Timber rattlesnake. This species is locally extinct in Maine and Rhode Island, and is considered endangered in ten other states, including Connecticut . This population decline is largely due to the loss of their woodland habitat, as well as extermination campaigns by fearful settlers. This habitat loss has driven around 100 species of snake to be classified as endangered by the IUCN .
Here at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, our snakes can be found in both the Kathy Brady Education Center and the Rainforest Building.
Emerald Tree Boa
Kathy Brady Education Center Ambassadors
Eastern Rat Snake
Ambassador Animals- These animals are not visible to the public. Instead, they are handled by our education department staff for programs and outreach, which helps to support our zoo’s mission in education and conservation.