Blog

Living with snakes in Bali

8 November 2021 - by Ron Lilley Bali Snake Patrol 

Indonesian snake in Bali

LIVING IN BALI… wildlife encounters.

As a tropical island, Bali was originally covered in ‘tropical forest, which was home to a rich variety of wildlife. With the arrival of humans a few thousand years ago, much of the forest was removed, and land was converted to farmland and human settlements. This process continues until today, and notably in the south of the island, although land conversion and habitat destruction is widespread throughout the island as the original centers of habitation have become increasingly overcrowded.

Many people view Bali as a tropical paradise, and move to the island to experience the beaches, mountains, and rice field views. They try to make their gardens look like mini jungles, with thick tropical vegetation and pools of water. At the same time, the places where animals could live unseen and find plenty of food and hiding places are disappearing under housing and other development. Deprived of original habitat, snakes and other wild animals are moving into suburban and urban areas, where they can find alternative sources of food, fresh water, and shelter.

House and garden in Bali

Many people like to have ‘open’ style houses and unobstructed rice field views to go with their ‘jungley’ gardens. Inevitably, they will encounter snakes and other seemingly threatening wildlife, which they had frequently not bargained for when moving here. Wild monkeys that have become used to humans, may suddenly appear in a residence, causing all sorts of mayhem! The addition of domestic pets, and in particular) dogs that have no experience of tropical wildlife, cats that will hunt anything that moves, and caged birds, rabbits, chickens and so on, increases the chances of wildlife encounters and conflict.

With a little forward planning, some research, and some basic awareness of what is around them, people can live harmoniously with snakes and other animals that share their spaces with them. 

Why do snakes come into houses?

  • Land clearance, development, habitat loss! Snakes do not want to interact with humans, or bite them or chase them, so, given the chance they will stay away from human habitation. Over time this is no longer an option for them in many areas.

  • Snakes need shelter, cool hiding places, and suitable areas for egg laying. In the dry season – snakes look for cool dark dry quiet places in which to shelter. In the wet season - Snake homes in the fields become flooded, and snakes seek high, dry ground.

  • Snakes also need water and food. Humans provide them with all of these things…  rats that live in the house roof and scavenge in the rubbish and in kitchens where food is stored, frogs and fish in ponds, and birds up in the trees and in cages, chickens, ducks, and pets such as cats, dogs, guinea pigs, and rabbits, these will all attract snakes!

Snakes are economically very important in keeping rat populations down, and farmers benefit greatly from their presence. However, immediate financial needs oblige people to hunt snakes for their skins, meat and traditional medicine. In addition, countless numbers of snakes are killed because of fear and ignorance, just because they are snakes, and regardless of whether they are potentially dangerous or not. Removal of most of the snakes in rural area can cause rat plagues, as may have happened here, especially in east Bali. This can have serious economic consequences especially for poor farming and fishing communities. 

Snake awareness

Snake awareness and snakeproofing 

So, here are a few things to keep you safe from snakes. In the open fields, a snake has plenty of room to escape, and will have no need to defend its self. Snakes do not chase people… it makes no sense for a small snake to try to catch a human or other animal that it cannot possibly eat! 

Moving awareness

  • Keep paths clear of vegetation so you can always see where you are stepping! Also cut back leaves and branches that obstruct your movement along a path!

  • Ideally, wear long trousers, long sleeved shirt, shoes or boots when walking in long grass of thick vegetation.

  • Always use a bright strong torch or flashlight when walking anywhere at night, to avoid stepping on snakes!  

Food needs awareness

  • Keep all food in sealed tubs or bins. Leave no rubbish or piles of wood, rocks, and tiles lying around.

  • Bowls of pet food will attract rats and monitor lizards (Biawak). Do not leave them outside! Seed falling from bird cages will attract rats, which in turn attracts snakes. Put trays under cages to catch seed and droppings.  

Hiding places awareness

  • When composting consider that snakes like to lay their eggs in compost heaps.  It is best to have compost in a closed bin that can be regularly raked through.

  • Try to keep things off the ground! Do not give snakes anything to hide under or in! Cut grass, trees and bushes so you can at least have clear areas, because snakes are less likely to sit or move in the open!

  • Keep garden path lights on at night, so you can see any snakes that might be sitting there. Lights will keep some nocturnal snakes away from your house!

Snakeproofing

  • Talcum powder sprinkled on a kitchen floor and left overnight will show the footprints of rats and the tracks of snakes and other animals!

  • Close gaps and holes under gates, doors, walls, drains, Pipes and drains that have water flowing through them can be closed with mesh to strop rats and snakes moving through them, but still allow water flow.

  • Consider using baited rat traps – there are breakback traps, and live traps available from many shops! I advise against glue traps, as they trap other animals too, and a glued snake can be very dangerous! Poison bated traps cause the poisoned rat to crawl away, often to an inaccessible part of the house, where it dies and rots, the bad smell making a place uninhabitable, sometimes for weeks!  Keep all rat traps well out of reach of children and pets!

  • Snake repellents do not work. Popular so-called snake repellents include salt/garam, sulphur/belerang, palm fibre (ijuk), gasoline, kerosene, mothballs, perfume, plants, electronic snake repellers, and commercial snake repellent preparations. None are effective!

If you do see a snake

Be proactive with snakebite

  •  Have a snakebite first aid kit handy.

  • Post emergency numbers, first aid instructions, medical centers, snake catchers.

  • Consider how to get a bitten person (or pet) to a medical center / vet clinic – by bike or car? People often choose to stay in houses in the middle of the rice fields where car access is impossible. It can create difficulties in an emergency!

  • Check with your nearest medical center that they can treat snakebite. Keep the number handy! Many medical centers will not treat snakebite. Antivenom is rarely available and is not generic-it is only good for treating bites from spitting cobras and banded kraits. There is no antivenom for treatment of bites from the other venomous snakes in Bali, although it is still better to go directly to a medical center where they can monitor the bite symptoms and treat in other ways.  

With any suspected snakebite    

  • Keep the patient as calm as possible. Sit them down and reassure them that treatment is possible and that they will be ok.

  • Do not give any medicines, food or drinks as these may cause vomiting.

  • Remove rings, bracelets jewelry and any other things that might constrict the area near the bite side.

  • Immobilize the limb with 2 splints (wood, bamboo, sticks, rolled up cardboard, etc.) to reduce the amount of movement as much as possible. The more still the patient can be, the slower the venom will spread.

  • Call ahead to the medical center to alert them to the arrival of a snakebite patient. Get the patient as quickly as possible without making them move unnecessarily. Using your own transport may be much quicker than waiting for an ambulance. Minutes count! 

  • Let hospital staff remove splints or bandages. Even if there is no antivenom, alternative supportive treatment is always better than doing nothing! Ask the staff to call Dr. Tri maharani, Indonesia’s top snakebite doctor (+62) (0)853 3403 0409.

  • Be prepared to stay at least 24-48 hours in hospital. Treatment can be very expensive! Keep all receipts and make sure you are insured. 

Advices to living with snakes in Bali

About Ron Lilley

I am Ron Lilley, and I have lived in Bali since 2003. Before that I lived and worked on other islands of Indonesia, mostly with Nature conservation NGOs. I have caught and looked after captive snakes for many years. I now run Ron Lilleys Bali Snake Patrol, which aims to rescue snakes from people, and people from snakes! My work includes snake capture, snake proofing advice, snake safety talks to schools businesses and the public, snake phobia reduction, information on keeping snakes and other small animals, and photo and film shoots with snakes. I rely on donations to continue my work, my costs include transport, tools, and equipment, food and enclosures for my captive snakes.

See “Ron Lilley’s Bali Snake Patrol” on Facebook! For snakeproofing advice, snake removal, snakebite advice, talks to schools & public, photoshoots • Email: rphlilley@yahoo.co.uk • Mobile H/P and WhatsApp +62 (0)813 3849 6700. 

Other useful contacts:

  • Local Snake catchers Ayala - Denpasar: +62 812-9188-8765

  • Corey - Canggu: +62 857 37063120

  • Dr. Herbert - Jimbaran: +62 853-3307-7787

  • Santosh - Sanur: +62 812-8658-5466

  • Anas (Naz) - Sanur: +62 812-3626-5386

  •  Pak Gusti - Ubud: +62 822-3617-7249

  • Lisa - Tanah Lot: +46 73 150 61 75

  • Pak Heri - Amlapura: 082 138 767 007

  • Fire brigade - Pemadam Kebakaran: 113     

Share
Reviews

No reviews yet

Be the first to leave a review

Product review
Name*
Email*
Verify that the input is correct
Rate it
Comment Message*
 

 

Also read