The relationship between people and snakes in eastern Minas Gerais, southeastern Brazil

Mário Ribeiro de Moura Henrique Caldeira Costa Vinícius de Avelar São-Pedro Vitor Dias Fernandes Renato Neves Feio About the authors

The popular knowledge about snakes, including the practices adopted in cases of snakebite, was analysed in this ethnozoological study performed in Araponga region and vicinities of Serra do Brigadeiro (Brigadeiro Mountain Range), Atlantic Forest of Minas Gerais state, southeastern Brazil. Between August and November 2008, interviews were conducted with 50 residents of rural areas of Araponga, and 20 employees of the Serra do Brigadeiro State Park (PESB). In relation to social and cultural profile, these two groups differed only on the level of education (higher among the park staff), with the same distributions for age and religion. There was also a lower level of education among older individuals, a possible reflection of improvements in the social conditions in that region, which would have provided greater access to schools in recent decades. In general, both groups demonstrated adequate knowledge about prevention and procedures in cases of snakebite (78.2% reported seeking medical attention in case of snakebite). The use of folk medicine for treatment of snakebite proved to be a practice falling into disuse, reported by approximately 21% of respondents. Most respondents (57.14%) said they did not know the difference between a poisonous and a non-poisonous snake, and 66.67% showed adequate knowledge of the season when snake encounters are more likely to happen. The "Araponga" group was more hostile concerning to possible encounters with snakes, with 43% of people saying they would kill the animal, against 5% in the "PESB" group. The educational level of the respondents was decisive in determining the kind of attitude taken against snakes, and those with higher levels of education showed to be the less hostile ones. People with lower educational levels were more likely to consider all snakes as dangerous, and they also proved to be more hostile to these animals. More contact with scientific and environmental education activities seems to have been decisive for the higher tolerance to snakes by the "PESB" group. The implementation of activities of environmental education for the population of Araponga can increase the awareness of the importance of snakes, instructing those who still consider them intrinsically harmful.

ethnozoology; education; Serpentes; Serra do Brigadeiro; rural communities


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