Part 1...Yikes...We attended a full-day venomous snake handling course...Scary, but highly educational...

Puff Adders are commonly seen in Marloth Park.
"Sighting of the Day in the Bush"
On Saturday morning, before leaving for the full-day Venomous Snake Capture and Handling Course, we had a total of 22 visitors in the yard including 13 kudus, 6 warthogs and 3 bushbucks.  In order to be on time for our classes, we had to leave while they were still there.
On Saturday, we headed to the Marloth Park Municipality Offices boardroom at Henk van Rooyen Park to attend the Venomous Snake Capture and Handling Course being offered by highly qualified and experienced snake handler, Chris Hobkirk of Lowveld Venom Supplier and his staff.
This is an example of a nonvenomous snake mimicking the venomous Puff Adder.  It is a baby Rhombic (common ) Egg Eater, harmless, not a Puff Adder. 
The event was beautifully orchestrated by Marloth Park Honorary Ranger Sandra Miler Dill-Franzen who coincidentally lives two doors down the road from us.  A few days earlier we'd dropped off payment for our participation in the course at a cost of ZAR 950 (US $80.55) per person.  There were a total of 18 trainees.
When placing a snake into a container, it's imperative the container includes newspaper or some type of scraps which may prevent the snake from "jumping out."  When they see they have a place to hide, they may be more cooperative.
Why did we choose to take this course?  We weren't necessarily considering becoming officially certified volunteer snake handlers who take calls to remove snakes from resident's homes. 

Chris is an excellent presenter both in content and in interspersing humor to keep the audience engaged.  The five hours we spent in the classroom learning the information and taking a test (no results yet) flew by.  With my short attention span, I was pleasantly surprised by the easy flow of the interesting information.
However, based on our long-term stay in Africa, we felt such an education would prove to be highly beneficial in the event we encountered snakes while we're on the continent.
Chris showed this slide as an illustration that there are countless varieties of venom.
Four years ago while in Marloth Park for three months, we had a face-to-face encounter with a venomous Mozambique Spitting Cobra as shown in this post.
Chris's company, Lowveld Venom Suppliers is involved in many aspects of snake handling, including milking the venom to be used in manufacturing antivenom.
After attending this important course, we now realize we handled that snake encounter on the veranda in a dangerous manner, particularly me, who bent down to take photos, not realizing it was a spitting snake. Whew!  We sure dodged a bullet!  Lesson learned!
Bottled water, snacks and lunch were provided throughout the day.  Since I had prepared a meal for our dinner that night, we chose not to eat anything.
That doesn't mean we can't take photos of snakes that "visit" but at least now we know how to identify them.  We would have proceeded with considerably more caution had we known. Knowledge is everything, as we all well know
I was one of only two females in the classroom.
One of the most frightening aspects for most tourists coming to Africa is their fear of snakes and insects. We both have the fear of insects under control and are able to identify many venomous insects we may encounter.  The goal here in Africa is not to kill insects, all of which play a vital role in the ecosystem.
As usual, Tom read every word of the "hold harmless" agreement we both had to sign in order to participate in the course.
Snakes, on the other hand, may terrify visitors to the point they won't hesitate to drive over them on the road or... kill them when found in or near their holiday homes.  This human behavior can result in loss of life if handled carelessly or incorrectly.
Tom, preparing to capture a Puff Adder, one of the most dangerous snakes in Africa."The Puff Adder (Bitis arietans) is a venomous viper snake species found in African savannah and grasslands. The species is probably the most common and widespread snake in the continent.  When disturbed the snake will coil into a defensive S-shaped posture and hiss loudly, hence its common name "Puff adder". This is used as a warning signal, it's best not to ignore it, you really don't want to find out why. "
Snakes, like all other creatures in the wild, play a valuable role in nature and regardless of their ability to protect themselves using their deadly toxins in the process, this wonderful course opened our eyes to understand that snakes are not intentionally seeking to bite humans, a misconception many may possess.
Although Puff Adders have a reputation for moving slowly, generally they won't bite unless agitated as is the case with most venomous snakes.  Often people are bitten from accidentally stepping on them or encountering them unexpectedly...or foolishly trying to handle them without proper knowledge.
In Chris's detailed classroom course, that kept us inside in air-conditioned comfort until 2:00 pm (with periodic breaks and an included lunch), we learned more about snakes than we ever imagined possible in one day.  The snake-handling portion of the course was conducted outdoors on the grounds from 2:00 to 4:00 pm. 
Chris handling another highly venomous snake, the Boomslang.  Males are green and females are brown.  However, it's nearly impossible to determine the sex of most other snakes when both genders are typically identical in appearance. "The Boomslang (Dispholidus typus) is an extremely dangerous, venomous snake species found in sub-Saharan Africa in the central and southern regions of the continent. The boomslang is most abundant in Botswana, Swaziland, Namibia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, but the species has been reported as far north as southern Chad and Nigeria, and as far east as eastern Guinea."  However, they are found here in South Africa as well.
Not only did we learn about the anatomy of a variety of snakes, we learned about the various types of toxins which include: neurotoxic - nerve acting venom; cytotoxic - cell destroying venom; haemotoxic - blood acting venom.
Tom and Jim stood contemplated their next "capture."  To the far right is our new friend Pat who was overseeing a voter registration booth in the background.
Any bites from venomous snakes (or sprays from spitting cobras) may be deadly, especially without immediate medical care.  Chris explained that recently, a victim of a black mamba snake bite was dead in five minutes.  However, many have survived with medical care initiated within 30 minutes of the bite.

Chris shared a first-hand story when years ago, he was bitten by a Jameson's Mamba and lives to share the story after utilizing his fast thinking and diverse knowledge to steer him in the direction of a successful recovery coupled with exceptional medical care.  But, this isn't always the case.
All of these bins contained crumpled newspapers and were clearly labeled as to the type of snake.  The first two he showed us were not venomous but one must assume all snakes are venomous.  Some non-venomous snakes will "imitate" venomous snakes in appearance and behavior in an attempt to ward off predators.  Clever snakes!
Are we less fearful of snakes after the course?  In some ways, yes, especially in realizing snakes generally are fearful of us and just want to be left alone.  More on this in tomorrow's post including what we learned to do in the event of encountering a venomous snake and, when being bitten, much of which is entirely different than many of us may have assumed. 

We'll share the various types of antivenom and their potential effects, both good and bad.  Plus, we have a shocking video we made of a black mamba!  Please check back!

German proverb:  "Look before you leap, for snakes among sweet flowers do creep."


Photo from one year ago today, March 12, 2017:
View of Sydney from the ship on disembarkation day.  We were headed to drop off our bags and head to immigration to deal with our "illegal" status.  For more, please click here.


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