I went on the snake awareness and handling course with African snake bite institute at Heia Safari Lodge with Johan Marais as the instructor. One would ask why one want to do this; well I did it because it is a passion of mine and I for one, do not like it when people kill this beautiful animals of our planet, when they found it in their gardens at home. It also helps to keep one safe when on holiday when one has an encounter with a snake.
The bible say in Genesis 3:14 “And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou [art] cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:” We can say many things about this, but we must assume this is only used as metaphor. We normally say it rains cats and dogs, but not literally. God created everything on earth and He said it was all good and He loved it all. He created snake, it was Satan that used its body to mislead the snake, we must not argue every time now that snake are evil and we must kill it when we see it.
It was a cold Saturday morning, but I went with excitement in my heart. I have been meaning to do this for a very long time. Everyone has arrived, and we started the day of with snake awareness. You are shown picture of snakes and the types of snake fans they have. You also look at where the certain types of snakes are allocated and which snakes are common. What was interesting for me was how to tell day and night snakes apart. The different types of colour variation of the snakes around some parts of South Africa are shown to you.
Afterwards all the different types of venom are being discussed, followed by snake bite treatment. You get hemotoxic venom from the Boom and Vine snake, neurotoxic venom from the Mamba’s and cytotoxic venom from the Rinkhals. 10ml of anti-venom cost about R2000, with a serious bite one needs around 200ml. But snakes do not like to misuse their venom, so at times if you lucky, you get dry bites which mean the snake do not inject any venom into the human body. Other times they inject so little venom, that no anti-venom is necessary. There is a myth that anti-venom is dangerous and kills people, but it is not true, if you have an allergic reaction towards it, it takes a week or two to get over it and then you are fine. It is in most cases the secondary infections that cause the most injuries, except for the venomous snakes where you need to get to hospital as soon as possible for treatment. To get back on bytes, the snake that causes the most snake bites in South Africa is the Mozambiek spitting cobra, the snake that causes the most deaths is the Cape cobra, and the snake with the longest fans is the Gaboon adder. A snake to avoid at all cost have to be the stiletto snake since there is no safe way to handle one properly because of their outside fans.
With treatment it is very easy, when one is in the city, and gets bitten, try to keep the person as calm as possible and take the person to the hospital with a trauma centre closest to you. When one is far from help, it gets a bit tricky, it is still best to keep the person calm, one can use a pressure bandage to put on the bite, but it is not a must, the best will be to use a BVM and help the person to breathe, since it will be hard after a couple of hours to breathe when all the organs stop working and get the person to medical help. It is not necessary to use anti-venom all the time, most doctors will rather start to treat the systems as suppose to the type of snake that bit the person. For the hobbyist that breed snakes, try and stay away from exotic venomous snakes, since we do not have their venom in South Africa and it is very expensive to import it.
Then we wrote a small test of the day with all the theory we had covered, followed by a lunch break. After lunch the real fun started with the catching of the snakes. The snake’s we got first-hand experience of on the day was the Puff Adder, Snouted cobra, Forrest cobra and Boom snake. Everyone gets a turn to catch one and put it safely away in a bucket with snake tongs, and then gets a chance to use a snake hook if one wants to, I prefer the hook and find it must easier.
It was a fun day in the cold, which I reckon all must try once. In the end Johan gave all a poster of the venomous snake we get in South Africa, he also had a photographer on the day that took pictures of us while catching the snakes. Below are 2 photos of the snakes of the day that I photographed and under it is the photos of me taken by the photographer.