Humans are masters in misinterpreting and misjudging. Especially if it comes to snakes and other reptiles. Some people don’t see anything in reptile eyes or faces. They even say they look into death eyes. Eyes of coldblooded killer machines. Most people also just want to note their negative behavior. Recognize offensive defense of reptiles as aggressive threat. Even so called experts or reptile lovers misinterpret it quite often.
Snakes got already killed as prey from other apex predators long time before the rise of humanity. Since our existence the horror really began. They didn’t get just killed. They also got humiliated. People saw always enemies, if not bad ghosts or the devil in them. Especially limbless snakes had never many options to save themselves from enemy attacks. If they see us terrifying human creatures , adrenaline is pumping through the entire body. Imagine how you would feel, if you look in the eye of death. It’s probably like our breathtaking adrenaline kick during free fall, but without joy.
I rescued cobras, they appeared relaxed like animals, who had never any bad encounters with humans. They didn’t show the hood, they didn’t hiss. No visual signs of defense. I was really tempted, to pet them with bare hands. No worries! I didn’t do it. Most wild animals get nervous or even scared, because they’re naturally not used to get handled. Especially not in the way, how some self called “snake lovers” would do it. They find snakes in the jungle, catch it, and grab it around the neck to shoot some crappy images, if not even selfies. Is it really necessary? For safe removal of large pythons…- well, yes. But I always refuse to do it, and get bitten once or twice until they calm down. For wound examination, treatment or research…- yes of course. But even for closer examination I usually prefer sedation. And how about selfie posing for the holiday adventure album? No go! Even if some snakes seem to be relaxed in a neck grip, it doesn’t mean they’re not scared to death. Sometimes they freeze by fear. As soon they have a chance to escape, they will take it. Possibly with one bite to get rid of us.
My old friend Yago, a Green Iguana. He grew up in captivity, and actually enjoyed climbing on my shoulder, or sitting with me on the sofa sometimes. He recognized and accepted me as his owner. But did he enjoy to get stroked? No, he actually didn’t. Closing eyes was more a behavior, as we know it from kids. They think the horror will go away, if they don’t see it. I’m sure some tame reptiles may enjoy it. In case of my old Iguana it meant “I hope that weird feeling comes to an end soon.” Often he stopped me by shaking his head, and flaring his gill.
If you still can’t imagine the way, how reptiles think or feel, when they get grabbed and hurled around, try to handle or pet an animal, from what you think you know and understand it. How about a stray dog, who never had any positive contact with humans? An animal that got just humiliated, kicked or beaten by humans before, will sometimes even take the opportunity to hurt or kill a human, if he comes too close… just like some snakes.
This image got shared around the world. An abused dog, who got stroked for the very first time. A snake unfortunately can’t show facial expressions like this. But it surely feels in a similar way.
Not many humans have this kind of understanding, to imagine how other creatures feel. It’s called empathy! But what do we expect of humanity? Many people don’t even have this empathy for other humans. How could they possibly imagine, how animals feel. Especially animals without fur and minor facial expression, like snakes. But real nature and animal lovers are at least open for empathy. If they learn how to recognize behavior of different animals, they will most likely evolve and improve this precious skill. And then it’s not difficult to understand our hissing intruder.
I’m glad, that so many people of this kind read my blog. I hope I can convince more people, to feel empathy like you!