Snakes play a critical role in maintaining the ecological balance, acting as a link in the food chain. They are irreplaceable.
Snakes occur in various sizes, with a diverse prey preference – insects, birds, amphibians, reptiles, small and large mammals, etc. Apart from Squamates (scaled reptiles, including snakes), we have no other Class in our Animal Kingdom with such an elaborate prey base. Therefore, a healthy population of snakes is a prerequisite to have a healthy, well-balanced population of other animals.
Snakes form a staple diet of other predators – predatory birds, felines, canids, etc. Hence, their healthy population is critical to ensuring a sustainable population of tertiary consumers.
As biological pest controllers
Rodents are responsible for revenue losses to the tune of several hundred crores of rupees each year because they damage standing crops and devour grains. In India, it is estimated (P. Neelanarayan. ILEIA Newsletter, 1995) that we lose 7 to 8 million tonnes of food grains every year due to rodents, costing over 700 hundred crores rupees. Most common snakes are specialist rodent eaters, actively hunting them, even from within their burrows, thereby keeping their population under check.
As a source of life-saving biological compounds & medicine
Snake venoms are complex mixtures of bioactive molecules, which have helped in the discovery of life-saving drugs like Captopril, tirofiban, eptifibatide, etc. Anti-snake venin serum to treat snakebite is also manufactured from raw venom.
As model organisms
With many advances in the fields of genetics, evolutionary biology, etc., snakes help us understand ecology, biogeography, evolutionary relationships & our earth’s history.
Without these animals, our very own existence may be jeopardized.