Snake Saviors

NGOs on a Mission to Protect Serpents

Colombia is rich with snakes, home to at least six separate species and hundreds of subspecies, of which approximately thirty-four are exclusive to the nation. Ranging from the small and innocuous to the all-awe-inspiring, Colombia was once home to the largest snake to ever roam the earth, the so-called titan boa. Due to its varied topography, which includes rainforest, coastlines and savannas, Colombia provides the ideal habitat for a variety of different snake types.

Thanks to this variety of habitats there are dozens of different snakes lurking in unlikely places. While many species are not harmful to humans, care should be taken as some types are incredibly venomous and highly dangerous.

NGOs in Colombia play a vital role in preserving snake populations and habitats through various initiatives. They conduct research to understand snake ecology, implement habitat restoration projects and raise awareness about the importance of snake conservation. By collaborating with local communities, government agencies and other stakeholders, these organizations work to mitigate threats such as habitat loss, poaching and human-wildlife conflict.

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(barba amarilla)

Identifying Characteristics:
  • Adults can grow 75-125cms/30-49” in length.
  • Look for a series of trapezoids across the body.
  • Coloration is usually olive, grey, or brown. They have light-colored bellies, mostly white or cream.
  • These snakes have golden irises and black tongues.

Fer-de-lance translates to spearhead in French. It is the most dangerous snake in Central and South America and causes more human deaths than any other reptile.

On average, a fer-de-lance injects 105 mg of venom in one bite, although a venom yield of up to 310 mg has been recorded while milking them. The fatal dose for a human is 50 mg.

Coloration is usually olive, grey, or brown. They have light-coloured bellies, commonly white or cream. These snakes have golden irises and black tongues.

Young People’s Trust is actively preserving habitats for all kinds of snakes and similar reptiles. This is a charity that encourages young people’s understanding of the environment. It aims to give youngsters (and an increasing number of adults) clear and balanced information on a wide range of environmental issues, including climate change, plastic pollution, deforestation and endangered species.

Boa constrictor

Identifying Characteristics:
  • These snakes grow 400 cm/157” long on average.
  • Females are longer and wider than males.
  • Coloration depends on their habitat. They can be varying shades of tan, brown, green and even yellow or red.
  • They have distinctive geometric patterns with ovals, diamonds, bands and stripes.

The Boa Constrictor is so famous it does not need a common name. Instead, they are readily remembered by their scientific name, Boa Constrictor. Hailing from the humid tropics, this heavyweight snake can be spotted in trees and burrows.

The Boa Constrictor is an ambush predator that can strike with blinding speed. It particularly enjoys feasting on monkeys and wild boars. This snake is also a remarkable swimmer, so they are often seen near rivers or streams. At least eight boa species are found in Colombia, including the boa constrictor, tree boa, rainbow boa and the anaconda, the largest of boas.

Boas have the widest geographical range of Colombia’s native snakes and can thrive in several different environments, including rainforest, woodland, grassland and semi-desert habitats. Boas are non-venomous. They consume their prey, which also include bats, birds and any mammal that they can fit in their mouth, by constriction. They swallow prey head-first to allow limbs and fur to fold back neatly.

The famous anaconda is a type of constrictor snake of the same lineage as the boas and it is the heaviest of them all. It is endemic to the rivers of the South American tropics, usually found in the Amazon and Orinoco basins.

Although there is no information on the conservation status of anacondas, there are threats that are greatly reducing their populations. These threats include hunting, fear – derived from people’s belief that anacondas are dangerous, habitat loss and contamination.

An excellent NGO that supports not just reptiles is The Nature Conservancy, where you can donate or volunteer.

Coral Snake
(Micrurus nigrocinctus)

Identifying Characteristics:
  • Adults are 65-115 cm/26-45” long.
  • Their pattern is two or maybe three colors with black, yellow and red banding.
  • The body exhibits smooth scales with a rounded head and their eyes have round pupils.

The Coral Snake is mainly found in lowland forests. It is a terrestrial snake that often resides in burrows, fallen leaves, or under logs. This species is nocturnal, but may at times be found at dusk or dawn or after rainfall.

Their diet consists mainly of other snakes, amphibians, small lizards and invertebrates.

Although this snake is not considered to be aggressive, if it finds itself threatened or if accidentally stepped on, it will not hesitate to bite.

This species is highly venomous. Its venom has a strong neurotoxin that causes weakness and paralysis in victims. The Coral snake has to chew on their victim to inject the venom to its fullest potential. As a result of this, most bites on humans are mild and do not result in death.

Colombian Herpetological Society (Sociedad Herpetológica Colombiana)
This organization focuses on the study and conservation of reptiles and amphibians in Colombia, including snakes. They conduct research, organize educational programs and advocate for the protection of snake species and their habitats.

Eyelash Viper
(Bothriechis schlegelii)

Identifying Characteristics:
  • Adults are generally 55-82 cm/22-32” long.
  • Their heads are broad and triangular.

Coloration depends on habitat. These include bright yellow, green, orange, or pink and also dark speckles dotted all over the body.

Look for this small venomous snake in Colombian forests and woodlands.

Eyelash vipers are resourceful creatures to hydrate, they drink the water droplets that gather on leavesIn addition, they use their tails to hold onto branches, thus skilfully positioning themselves to hunt rodents, lizards and small birds at night.

Eyelash Vipers are generally docile but will strike in defense if threatened. They are moderately venomous.

Colombian Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Alliance work to conserve amphibians and reptiles, including snakes, through research, conservation projects and community engagement. They collaborate with local communities and government agencies to address threats to snake populations and promote their conservation.

Neotropical Rattlesnake
(Crotalus durissus)

Identifying Characteristics:
  • Adults are typically 150 cm/59” long on average.
  • There is a prominent stripe at the base of their heads, intersecting each eye.
  • Scales protrude from their body.

They usually appear in shades of brown and grey. Sometimes patterns of diamonds and triangles form across their upper body. Bellies are yellowish or white.

Neotropical Rattlesnakes in Colombia are residents of grasslands and tropical forests.

Also found in drier areas if a shortage of prey drives them to find food. These snakes are most active at dusk, stalking rodents and other reptiles. They are equipped with heat-sensing pits below their eyes to track down prey.
A Neotropical Rattlesnake can move with remarkable speed however, its first instinct is not to attack. As a warning, it makes a rattling sound with its tail or raises its forebody into a defensive striking posture.
These rattlesnakes are dangerously venomous.

Humbolt Institute
This foundation focuses on environmental conservation in Colombia, including the protection of snake species and their habitats. They implement conservation projects, conduct research and engage local communities in efforts to safeguard snake populations and promote biodiversity conservation.

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