El Niño drives dreaded snakes out of habitat

El Niño drives dreaded snakes out of habitat
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THE surge in the number of cobra sightings in Cebu may be related to the ongoing El Niño phenomenon, climate change, and human interference with the natural habitat, according to the Department of Health Central Visayas (DOH 7).

Shelbay Blanco of the DOH 7 health emergency management services pointed out that snakes often seek cooler places when exposed to extreme hot weather.

Cobras, with their heightened sensitivity to temperature changes, may venture outside their usual habitats during periods of intensified heat.

Extreme warmth could drive these cold-blooded snakes to explore alternative environments with cooler or more suitable temperatures.

“With more provinces being affected by drought, we are also expecting and anticipating that more snakes will come out,” Blanco said in mix Cebuano and English, adding that not only cobras are affected with the ongoing weather phenomenon but also other types of snakes.

El Niño is a natural climate pattern characterized by warmer sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific resulting in below-normal rainfall.

Meanwhile, climate change is the long-term shift in the Earth’s weather patterns, primarily caused by human activities releasing greenhouse gases.

Earlier, Alfredo Quiblat Jr., chief of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) Mactan, said the El Niño phenomenon, which has been classified as “strong,” is expected to affect parts of the country, including Cebu until the first half of 2024.

Quiblat forecasts an increased likelihood of below-normal rainfall in various parts of the country, including Visayas, with dry conditions expected in Cebu from February onward.

By March, the region may be in the midst of a dry spell, and Quiblat anticipates an intensification of the phenomenon, leading to a drought in May.

Public health experts convened in a press conference on Thursday, Feb. 01, 2024 at DOH 7 office in Cebu City to address the public concerns arising from the escalating number of cobra encounters in recent months.

Apart from climatic factors, habitat disruption emerged as a crucial element contributing to the increased snake activity. This includes deforestation.

“As they say, ‘what we do comes back to us.’ We are experiencing it now,” Quiblat said.

Last Tuesday, Jan. 29, Carlo Babiera, an ecosystems management specialist at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Central Visayas, said the mating season of king cobras typically occurs between January and April. He said this could have influenced the recent sightings.

Barbiera also said the encroachment of human settlements into natural habitats has disrupted ecosystems, pushing snakes out of their accustomed territories to search for food in other places, including residential areas infested with rodents.

Beethoven Bongon, toxicologist at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, urged the public to always clean their surroundings as a preventive measure to reduce the attractiveness of homes to rats.

“Those snakes, not talking about climate, will go to areas where their prey is, and their usual prey is rats. If your house is clean and free of rats, there’s less chance,” he said.


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