If you’re scared of snakes, watch this - Andrew Whitworth
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Having excellent communication and education about how to deal with and identify different snake species is critical to reduce conflict and incidents that can be avoided. Also, key to reducing conflict and saving lives of both people and snakes is having effective treatments and remedies to snake bites readily available, especially in remote and tropical regions where there are lots of people and snakes living in close proximity.
However, the greatest threat to vipers, as with many wildlife species around the world, is the loss of, and fragmentation of their habitat. The increasing need for human space to live and grow food means that fewer wild and suitable landscapes are left for nature to thrive. Add to this habitat loss and persecution, the impact of a rapidly changing climate, then the threat to wild species, including vipers, is more severe.
And while you might question the importance of an animal such as a viper to people, many wild species have important roles within their ecosystems, even necessities to human wellbeing, that we often overlook.
The pit-vipers for example are usually specialized to feed on and control the populations of rodents, animals that if left uncontrolled, can devastate and ruin the seeds and crops of farmers, and in some cases be responsible for spreading serious diseases. Rattlesnakes, a special type of viper, have even been shown to be an important secondary disperser of seeds. The rodents that they eat often contain seeds, that can then germinate inside the gut of the snake, and then be ‘pooped’ out in a different location. This is called secondary dispersal – an important mechanism that keep natural landscapes healthy.
Fortunately, efforts to stem the loss of nature and halting climate change are underway. The 30x30 initiative for example is a global coalition to protect at least 30% of the planet's land and ocean by 2030. As of today (2021), only an estimated 15% of the world's land and 7% of the ocean have some degree of protection, and so there is a long way to go. Although many scientists question whether 30% will be enough, this is a strong benchmark to aim for.
Such efforts aim to provide enough quality habitat for species like vipers to have space to live and halt the rate of climate change in such a way that many species can survive and adapt to the rate of change. While much of the models and predictions have a degree of uncertainty, investing in and working with nature is our best strategy to give wild species, nature, and ourselves an opportunity to adapt and co-exist for future generations on Earth.
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