Game (wildlife) farming

Means the rearing of wildlife in an enclosed and controlled environment for wildlife conservation, trade and recreation.

The Tenth Schedule of the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, (WCMA) 2013 lists wild animal and plants that may be game farmed.

Sessional Paper Number 1 of 2020 outlines the National Wildlife Policy. The policy aims to offer social, economic and conservation incentives to landowners who have wildlife on their land from game farming, game ranching and wildlife conservancies. 

The WCMA makes provision for both non-consumptive (wildlife-based tourism, commercial photography and filming, educational purposes and research purposes) and consumptive (game farming) wildlife use.

License requirements

Snake keeping for ecotourism and breeding for trade requires a license from KWS and must be undertaken in compliance to terms and conditions under the license.

Failure to provide for the welfare needs of wildlife in a game farm and to account for species types and numbers in the game farm can result in revocation of the license.

Snake farms and snake parks

There are a number of facilities at the coast which have been licensed to keep snakes for ecotourism. Eldoret Nature and Cultural Centre (POA Place) and various facilities of the National Museums of Kenya around the country keep snakes for ecotourism and conservation.

The Institute of Primate Research- National Museums of Kenya in collaboration with KWS and other partners, is in the process of establishing a serpentarium and snake venom research centre. This centre aims to research in and find solutions in snake bites in Kenya.


Snake keeping is specialized and it requires personnel who have snake husbandry skills, specific infrastructure, provision for safety measures and health care for the snakes

  1. License application process
  1. Preparation and submission of a management/business plan for the operation shall be filed with the Director General- KWS through the respective Area Warden. The management/business plan shall detail future adjustments in the operation(s).
  2. A strategic environmental, cultural, economic and social impact assessment license under the Environmental Management and Coordination Act, 2015 shall be submitted together with the application.
  3. The management/business plan should be comprehensive to include all technical, financial and marketing aspects. The plan must indicate the proposed location of the operation, the intended purpose of the operation, list of species to be utilized, the intended source of the initial stock and at least a 5-year projection for the operation. A standard form will be issued to the prospective applicant
  4. To qualify for registration, the list provided of species in (iii) above should include a minimum of 10 species of snakes
  5. A proper feeding plan depending on the species
  6. Where the access and use of snakes is for venom extraction for research, trade and antivenom development, additional requirements for Prior Informed Consent, Mutually Agreed Terms and Material and Material Transfer Agreements shall be entered with between KWS and the concerned snake farmers and their collaborating stakeholders.
  1. Farm design
  1. Clear signs indicating names of snakes.
  2. Marked footpaths for visitors' safety
  3. The size of the snake box should depend on the size of the snake.  All boxes should be kept clean and have a water container and some form of flooring.  Each cage should be designed to ensure that it is of good sanitation, rectangular in shape and with an opening on top for safety. For climbing snakes, some small branches to mimic their habitat should be provided in the facility.  Boxes with poisonous snakes should be padlocked and have a form of partition to ensure safety of workers and less or no stress to the snakes.
  4. Open pens should have a water pond and be kept clean.
  1. Personnel skills
  1. All the personnel should be well conversant with practical reptile husbandry.
  2. The personnel should include a qualified member with academic biological background on snakes.
  3. The farmers and/or their engaged personnel should have good knowledge of basic research and herpetological specimens collection skills.
  4. Experience regarding handling of specific taxa e.g. poisonous snakes and carrying out other tasks like venom milking will be mandatory.
  5. Close supervision for on-job training in reptile biology, venom milking, snakebite management and specific husbandry should be offered by experienced and qualified keepers to newly recruited staff for a minimum of one year.
  6. Personnel must understand the conservation importance and status of the species kept.
  7. Guides should be presentable and should have good public relations.
  1. Safety measures
  1. First aid Kit and relevant snake bite serum. (2 mono-valent and 4 poly-valent serums) should be kept in a fridge at the facility and be available for inspection by the vet.
  2. Notice board and warning signage informing visitors not to annoy the animals, handle any snake without permission, and that children must always be accompanied by their parents or guardians  among other vital and safety information should be displayed
  3. Visitors should be protected from to poisonous snakes by ensuring that heavy gauge glass or double glass for the front part is used.


  1. Feeding and health care
  1. All snakes should be fed regularly, provided with clean water and appropriate housing.
  2. Health monitoring of all animals in captivity should be ensured.
  3. All newly acquired (with authority from KWS Licensing office) animals should be quarantined, inspected and treated for parasitic and other infections prior to inclusion in the main facility.
  4. Knowledge by the facility personnel of the different common and basic diseases and parasites affecting the housed animals is important.
  5. Appropriate disease control and prevention measures should be put in place e.g. by isolating any sick animals to avoid spread of infections.
  6. The enclosures, cages and pens should be cleaned regularly; for instance, crocodile’s pen drainage system should be well designed to prevent fouling of nest because this would be a health hazard.
  1. Records and Filing Returns
  1. Production records must be duly maintained with details such as breeding stock, recruitment, new acquisitions, mortalities, current stocking level and sales.
  2. All the records should be submitted on quarterly basis to the Director General- KWS though respective Area Warden.
  3. Records and activities of the operation shall be monitored by the respective KWS Area Warden. Regular inspections of the operations of the facility shall be conducted by KWS with technical support from the Wildlife Research and Training Institute and herpetologists from the National Museums of Kenya.



  1. The enclosures/cages should simulate the snake’s natural environment/habitat.


  1. Appropriate cage size is very important especially for breeding to avoid overcrowding. Cage size should be dependent on the species habits e.g. arboreal species like boomslang require large preferably walk-in cages.


  1. The cages should be relatively big for most of the species and supplied with substrate material


  1. Non-poisonous snakes e.g. sand & green bush snakes, need not be kept in cages but in open enclosures.


  1. The cage should be according to the acceptable standard or type. The cage material is very important for security and welfare of the species themselves. Use of wire mesh should be avoided as it can hurt the species.  Glass cages are more preferable.


  1. Cleanliness of cages/enclosures/pens is paramount.


  1. Living conditions- maintenance and care standards e.g. feeding, non-medical care and cleaning of holding cages should be well established. Frequency of cage cleaning should balance between the level of cleanliness necessary to prevent diseases and the amount of stress imposed by frequent handling and exposure of the animal to unfamiliar surrounding and bedding.


  1. Housing will vary depending on the biological needs of the species and the purpose of the operation. Normal housing should incorporate, as far as possible, those aspects of natural habitat deemed fit for the survival and well- being of the animal. The environment must include features such as natural materials, refuges, perches, and water baths. Natural foods, light and temperature should be duplicated as closely as possible.


  1. The holding cages should bear clear interpretation labels accurately specifying species names, habits, and warning for security.


  1. In the process of handling, distress to the animal shall be minimised or avoided altogether. Trained attendants shall be required to determine and use the least amount of restraint necessary and in a humane manner when attending to specimens in the operation.




Q & A

Q.         How large should breeding area be?

A.         It on Depends on the species in question. Big snakes will need a bigger space than small snakes.


Q.         What is required inside the breading farms

A.         The enclosures and cages should imitate the snake’s wild habitat conditions as much as much as is possible. Some snakes are arboreal, (e.g. green mambas, boomslang) staying on top of trees, others are burrowers, living under the soil (like sand boas) and others stay on the surface, e.g. puff adders.

Q.         Are there food requirements?

A.         Different snakes feed on different food items, e.g., arboreal ones mostly prefer birds, surface dwellers will feed on rats, lizards, etc. The snake farmer should have a proper feeding plan: e.g., breeding mice or chicken or rabbits for feeding the snakes. The feed shall not be captured from the wild.


Q. Can the license be revoked and if done why?

A.         A license can be revoked where the licensed operation fails to provide for the welfare needs of the snakes and to account for species types and numbers in the facility. Failure to comply with terms and conditions of the license will result in revocation of the license.


Q.         What are the penalties

A.         Various offences under the Wildlife Conservation and Management Act, 2013.

A person keeping, being in possession or dealing in snakes or snake products without a license issued by KWS shall be liable upon conviction to a fine of not less than one million Shillings or imprisonment for a term of not less than five years or to both such imprisonment and fine.

Any person who, for the purpose of obtaining a license knowingly or recklessly makes a statement or representation which is false in a material particular or knowingly or recklessly furnishes a document or information which is false in a material particular; or for any purpose in connection with this Act, knowingly or recklessly uses or furnishes a false, falsified or invalid license or permit or one is altered without authorization; or knowingly contravenes any condition or requirement of a license or permit, commits an offence and shall be liable upon conviction, to a fine of not less than two hundred thousand shillings or to imprisonment of not less than one year or to both such fine and imprisonment

A person who imports or exports a wildlife species, sells or offers for sale, delivers, transports, receives, carries, possesses without a permit issued by KWS shall be liable upon conviction for category A wildlife to a fine of not less than ten million shillings or to imprisonment for not less than five years and for other wildlife categories to a fine of not less than one million shillings or to imprisonment of not less than two years or to both such imprisonment and fine.


Q.         What are the conducive area and climates?

A.         Snakes are ectothermic and rely on external sources of heat for their metabolic activities. Thus, warmer regions are preferable for snake keeping.


Q.         How long does it take to get a snake permit?

A.         Where all requirements and conditions have been met, KWS will grant the permit within two days.


Q-         What snakes are considered the best for snake farming?

  • It depends on the objectives of the farmer. Is it to display for ecotourism or extraction of venom or breeding of live-bearing species for export of the young? However, generally one should choose the hardy species for captive keeping. Many cobra species like red spitting cobra, black necked spitting cobra, Egyptian cobra do well in different regions. Also puff adder and other Vipers, black mamba, sand snakes, green tree snakes.