Does the title say it all, are there snakes in New Zealand? The short answer is NO, there are no native species of snakes living in the New Zealand wilderness. Read along for the more complicated and longer answer.
Sea snakes in New Zealand: Poisonous and rare
While it is true that New Zealand does not have native land snakes, it has sea snakes that can travel long distances, even all the way from Australia and the smaller islands of the South Pacific. The yellow-bellied sea snake and banded sea krait are both poisonous and potentially dangerous to humans and animals. The majority of sea snakes or the Elapidae family are poisonous. A close relative of the sea snake would be the more commonly known Cobra. The scientific name of the banded sea krait is Laticauda colubrina and the yellow-bellied is called Pelamis platurus. Luckily both sea snake species are very rare, and it is not likely you will encounter either of them in nature in New Zealand.
Protection of local wildlife: Authorities take strict action against snakes
Because New Zealand has never had a snake population, the local wildlife would be very vulnerable to them. That is the reason why the authorities are very strict about snakes and proceed to eliminate the threat as soon as possible. Sometimes snakes find their way into New Zealand accidentally in ships or container transports, and the officials are generally quick to take action in such cases. New Zealand has lost more than one-third of its native bird species since the introduction of humans to the island, so this might explain the extreme measures taken against foreign fauna.
Absence of native snakes: Historical and environmental factors
In ancient times when New Zealand was joined with Australia, there probably existed some snakes or similar creatures, but the change in temperatures and several ice ages made sure that the snakes in modern-day New Zealand had to chance to survive. This would have taken place around 85 million years ago, which is a pretty long time ago considering that New Zealand has been inhabited by humans only about 700 years. In general, snakes do survive in colder climates, or they might hibernate during the colder months.
All in all, it is pretty remarkable that New Zealand does not have native snake populations, because neighbouring Australia has all of the top 10 most dangerous snakes in the world.
Venomous sea snakes: Potential danger to humans
Venomous sea snakes found in New Zealand waters can pose a potential danger to humans. These snakes are capable of delivering venomous bites, which can be potentially fatal if not treated promptly. The yellow-bellied sea snake and banded sea krait are two venomous sea snakes found in New Zealand waters. Both snakes are highly venomous and can cause serious harm to humans.
Precautions to avoid sea snakes: Staying informed and taking appropriate measures
To avoid potential encounters with venomous sea snakes, it is important to take precautions when swimming, diving or fishing in areas where these snakes are present. Staying away from known habitats of sea snakes, wearing protective clothing such as wetsuits or gloves, and avoiding swimming in areas where sea snakes have been sighted can help reduce the risk of encountering these snakes. If you do come across a venomous sea snake, it is important to avoid touching it and seek immediate medical attention if bitten.
In summary, while New Zealand does not have native land snakes, it is important to be aware of the potential dangers posed by venomous sea snakes in the country’s waters. By taking appropriate precautions and being informed about the risks, individuals can reduce their chances of encountering venomous sea snakes and minimize the potential harm they may cause.