Located at Gora in Karu local government area in Nasarawa State, about 40 kilometres from the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) along the Abuja-Keffi expressway, the Tukur & Tukur Snakes Farm evokes both the curiosity and imagination of passersby and visitors. The reason is not far-fetched as the snake is generally regarded as man’s sworn enemy only meant to be killed at first sight; which makes keeping it as pet or for whatever reason unthinkable to many.
The Tukur & Tukur Snakes Farm is the first of its kind in this part of the globe and has got people stopping by the farm to satisfy their curiosity, with the number of visitors increasing meteorically each passing day.
As if to make matters even more perplexing than it is already, the snake farm has an expansive children’s playground fitted with amazing playing equipment and many wonder which kind of parents would take their children to a snake farm to catch some fun, especially when the snake showroom is located only a hundred metres from the playground.
A visit to the farm will, however, dispel every fear and replace it with awe and admiration at how graceful and picturesque the colorful creatures are, especially watching them move majestically in seamless traffic behind their fortified glass cages.
Unlike in the United States or China where a wide variety of snakes is often farmed for the purpose of research and the collection of venom for the creation of antivenom, the Gora snake farm is primarily a tourist attraction, says the farm manager, Kabir Abdulmalik.
Abdulmalik said although the farm previously had over 13 species of snakes, it currently has only three due to the insecurity in Borno State from where they got most of their supplies, especially pythons.
The most common type of python on the farm is the spotted python. This snake has an irregular, blotched pattern. The background colour is cream to yellowish brown with ragged-edge blotches of dark brown that merge to form wavy streaks.
The blotches have ragged edges because the dark colour occurs only in complete scales. In terms of it size, which is one factor that evokes fear in humans, Abdulmalik said it ranges between 5-10 metres long.
He said the spotted python, mostly found around the Sambisa Forest, can adapt to most types of habitats but prefers rocky hillsides and outcrops with crevices and caves. They feed on small mammals, including rats, toads, and insectivorous bats.
One curious feature about it is that it breeds through laying of eggs, unlike most species which give birth to their young ones. It can also lay as many as 15 eggs.
Despite its intimidating size, however, it does not bite but swallows its prey and so cannot be housed in the same cage with a much smaller species called Kasa, which is predominantly found around Nasarawa State because the venomous Kasa would bite it to death.
On the farm, the very aggressive and venomous species, like the cobra and black mamba, are housed together while the non-aggressive and non-poisonous ones are kept together.
In order to ensure a stable diet for the snakes, various species of rats are also reared on the farm and fed to the snakes. Frogs are also sourced from the wild as alternative menu.
Abdulmalik explained that the farm also provides members of the public with services ranging from snake evacuation from homes, offices and business premises to treatment of snake bites.
He noted that most of their supplies came from hunters and were for tourism purposes, but they are occasionally sold to members of the public on demand.
He further stated that snake farming for tourist attraction was the first step towards the opening of a comprehensive zoo with more species of reptiles and other animals, adding that the farm also has a collection of various types of ostriches and peacocks new to this part of the world.
The snake farm, a subsidiary which has stolen the limelight from Tukur & Tukur Farms Ltd, is only a recreational aspect of the agricultural conglomerate which is into farming of Chinese vegetables, fish farming, general crop production and tractor hiring.
Seated on a 20-hectare piece of land, the farm reportedly owned by the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai, has over 50 staffers in its employ. It has branches in Kaduna and other northern states.
This piece was first published in Leadership Newspaper of Sep 16, 2015.