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March 2021 1st edition

Be aware of snakes this summer

Written by Allison Cooper

With summer in full swing, it’s time to be even more aware of snakes. Collen Lengwasa, a snake remover trained by the African Snakebite Institute, handling a rinkhals.

“They are commonly seen in summer, especially after heavy rains,” says African Snakebite Institute (ASI) Manager Ashley Kemp.

“This is because some snakes are flooded from their shelters and many species feed on frogs – an abundant food source in the rainy season,” she adds.

Although largely misunderstood and feared, snakes try to avoid humans and only strike out to bite if they can’t escape.

The main snakebite season is in the warm summer months, from November to April.

“Snakes are attracted to dark and neglected areas and will take refuge under sheets of corrugated iron, building rubble, firewood, grass heaps, rock piles and rubbish tips. Most snakes feed on lizards, rodents, frogs and toads and will be attracted to gardens where these creatures live.

ASI has over 600 snake removers across the country listed on its free app, ASI Snakes, which can be downloaded from its website (www.africansnakebiteinstitute.com).

If GPS is activated on your phone, the app will give you a list of snake removers in your area; how far away they are and their phone number. The app also has several other useful features, such as snake profiles, posters, a list of hospitals near you and first aid information for a snakebite.

“If you see a snake, keep children and pets away. If the snake is in the house and you are comfortable with the idea, throw a towel over it and wait for the snake remover. The snake normally stays curled up under the towel until uncovered. Always keep an eye on the snake, as this will help the remover to easily locate it,” says Kemp.

What to do if you see a snake:

  • Don’t try to kill it. The closer you get, the greater the chance of being bitten.
  • Don’t pick up snakes by hand.
  • Don’t touch it if it looks dead. Many snakes pretend to be dead when they are scared.

If you are bitten, keep calm and go to a hospital as soon as possible. If you can do so safely, take a photograph of the snake. Do not try to catch it, you will be bitten again.

“A number of snakebites occur in the early evening and victims are bitten when standing on the snake. If walking around at night, wear closed shoes and use a torch to light the way,” says Kemp.

For more information about snakes and snakebites, visit www.africansnakebiteinstitute.com