Written by Syuhada Sapno
Photos by Syuhada Sapno
Mind you, this guide is suitable for Malaysian cities where we have lesser population of venomous snakes as compared to other countries worldwide.
Snakes are tertiary consumers, which means they are predators that feed on smaller animals like insects, rodents, and birds. They would make a great gardener. About half of common snakes found in Malaysian cities, at least in Kuala Lumpur, are non-venomous snakes. Even the venomous Sumatran spitting cobra (Naja sumatrana) would warn you by expanding its hood out as a sign for you to back away. If they’re continued to be provoked by you E.g. Trying to jab them with a stick then they will strike. Cobras have manners too.
Unless provoked, snakes are totally not dangerous. They are harmless and are more afraid of us than we are of them. Non-venomous snakes will be more likely to slither away, unless it’s a giant reticulated python. They are a little slower.
So put your penyapu down from shoo-ing them away and let them save some of your energy in managing your yard. A great way to welcome snakes to your garden is to create a space for them to visit, feed, and/or even live with you.
Making your garden snake-friendly.
The target is to allow them to help tend your garden by feeding on animals like rodents, lizards, skinks, frogs, and small birds. Kinda like making your garden a cafe. Here are some of the things you can do for your legless gardeners:
1. Increase biodiversity in your garden
Increasing the diversity of plants, this will attract a variety of wildlife in your garden. By doing so it encourages a more balanced ecosystem ranging from plants as producers, to its primary consumers like grasshoppers, to secondary consumers like frogs and geckos, and finally to tertiary consumers like our dearest snakes and raptors. Besides that, this also provides a corridor for snakes to move around. Here is a generalized list of some common urban snakes and what it feeds on:
|Common snakes in Kuala Lumpur||Favoured prey of snakes|
|Common wolf snake (Lycodon capucinus)||House geckos, lizards, skinks|
|Reticulated python (Malayopython reticulatus)||Rats, birds, civet, primates|
|*Sumatran spitting cobra (Naja sumatrana)||Rodents, frogs, other snakes, lizards|
|Painted bronzeback (Dendrelaphis pictus)||Lizards and frogs|
|**Oriental vine snake (Ahaetulla prasina)||Lizards and frogs|
|**Paradise tree snake (Chrysopelea paradisi)||Lizards and bats|
2. Provide a refuge area or microhabitat
The simplest way to describe a microhabitat is a habitat but smaller in spatial extent. Some species are active in daytime, while others are active at night. Habitats favoured by snakes are like dark crevices of trees, abandoned buildings, drains, and cooling environment like piles of logs, metals, and walls. Build up some rock piles, logs, metal sheets or plywoods. These are suitable places for snakes to get shelter as it is a dark and cool spot for them to rest.
3. Give snakes some signs
Give snakes some signs before starting any activities in your garden like mowing, pruning, or moving things around. As a reptile, snakes need to regulate their body temperature externally. During mid-day, they will be out to bask. They are also capable of detecting vibrations and ‘smell’ with their tongue. So make some noises like clapping your hands, stomping the ground, or use a stick to knock your raised beds, metal piles or wall. These acts will trigger snakes and they will slither away. This practice will allow you to have predators to control populations of frogs and other small animals and co-exist with snakes.
4. Step aside, pesticides!
Let’s face the fact that purchasing chemical pesticides to deter pests in your garden is a waste of time, money and energy. No matter how much chemicals are sprinkled around the garden, as long as it provides a good source of food for some animals they will always come back. Although targeted pesticides are not aimed for snakes E.g. slug baits, snakes feed on these animals. Hence, indirectly ingesting the pesticide.
Take this gardening opportunity to co-exist with the remaining nature striving in your backyard. Just remember, snakes barely even bother about a person unless they feel threatened. Here is a meme I made to conclude this guide:
Fun fact As snakes grow, they shed their skin. This process is known as ecdysis. One of the reasons why they do this is to get rid of parasites.
Dhanhyaa. (2019, August 27). Venomous or Not? Here’s a Handy List of Snakes Commonly Found in Malaysian Houses. Cilisos. Retrieved from https://cilisos.my/venomous-or-not-heres-a-handy-list-of-snakes-commonly-found-in-malaysian-houses/
Dawe, J. (2017, June 19). These 3 Snakes are your Garden’s Best Friends. Eartheasy. Retrieved from https://learn.eartheasy.com/articles/these-3-snakes-are-your-gardens-best-friends/
Ecology Asia https://www.ecologyasia.com/verts/snakes.htm