So today is World Snake Day. Which is quite an amusing thought when you live in New Zealand, where there are no snakes. OK, that’s not exactly true – we have snakes, but not of the terrestrial variety – a few sea snakes have been known to laze around our waters, if somewhat irregularly.

The frightening Dispholidus jellytypus, one of New Zealand’s few indigenous snakes. Best advice when you come across one is to eat it before it eats you!
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So why don’t we have any land snakes in New Zealand? After all, eons ago, when the New Zealand land mass first broke away from Australia, mammals and snakes were already sufficiently distributed that in all likelihood the island of New Zealand started out with its fair share of snakes.

It turns out that over many millions of years, as the climate changed and the world went through the most recent ice age, the snakes on the island, as well as most mammals, were unable to survive, and they became extinct. While numerous animal species have since been reintroduced to New Zealand, and various species of birds have returned, snakes were kept out, maintaining our current snake-free habitat. Similarly, many other island countries such as Hawaii, Ireland, Greenland and Antarctica are also snake-free.

To be honest, I am quite happy with the situation as is – like Indiana Jones, I’m not a great fan of the slimy suborder of Serpentes. Not that I don’t find them fascinating, but after numerous close encounters of the slithering kind, while hiking and travelling in Africa, I just prefer my current situation of having a significant body of water between me and them.

Here’s to all the snake lovers out there – I hope you have a great World Snake Day, wherever you are. Me, I think I’ll be snacking on some jelly snakes to celebrate.


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