Nairobi Snake Park
By Maina Kiarie
The Nairobi Snake Park is located adjacent to the Nairobi National Museum at Museum Hill, approximately 10 minutes drive from the city centre. It was opened to the public in January 1961 with Jonathan Leakey as the first curator.
Live snakes were first exhibited at the Coryndon museum entrance on experimental basis in 1958. The snakes on display included: Rhinoceros Horned Viper, Boomslang, Garter snake, Gaboon Viper and the very rare Storms Water Cobra. In the following year, 1959, plans for the construction of a snake park surrounded by botanical gardens were put in motion.
With funds provided by the War Memorial Committee construction of the snake park was completed in 1960. At the time of construction the snake park was intended to provide a research facility on reptiles and breeding of snakes. Later it transformed into a shelter for rescued reptiles and amphibians.
In the 1950s most of the snake casts on the exhibitions were made from specimens donated by Mr C.J.P. Ionides. In 1954 alone, he donated 266 snakes, 205 lizards and 34 amphibians, and over the years donated some very rare species including an adult Storms’ Water Cobra from Lake Victoria.
Mr Leakey served as Curator of the Snake Park from January 1960 to November 1961. In 1962 Mr C. Webb took over and served until his death in 1964, at which time Mr J.O.P. Ashe took over. In August 2008 the Snake Park was closed to the public for renovations and re-opened in 2009.
The Snake Park exhibits different types of snakes, as the name suggests but also an aquarium with different species of fish (both marine and fresh water), crocodiles, alligators, birds, lizards, monitor lizards, turtles and tortoises.
The Snake Park offers rescue and rehabilitation services for reptiles, and disseminates information on aquarium fishes and reptiles. The snake park is a ‘live exhibition’ in that the ‘exhibits’ are alive unlike the ones in the museum itself.