Presenter: Francois Swart (NWP&TB Honorary Officer)

 by Viv Thomé – NWP&TB Honorary Officer

 Title of course:  Snake Awareness, Snake Identification, Snake Bite First Aid & Snake Handling.

This course is an absolute must for everyone who travels to the bush or lives in an area where you are likely to encounter snakes.

Although I had done a course on snakes/reptiles, I had no idea what to do if confronted with a snake or how to assist a member of the public in our various Parks where we undertake our duties should they have an unwanted snake in their campsite or other accommodation.

Francois held the course at his office premises in Centurion and six HOs attended with Peter Gordon-Cumming assisting Francois most admirably!  We all grabbed a cup of coffee and a rusk and sat around the boardroom table for the theory part of the course for most of the morning.  Francois is highly-qualified and knowledgeable, as well as experienced and we learned so much, with the course being conducted in a “conversational” style, which was excellent.  Everyone asked questions as we went along and we learned all about types of snakes, where they can be found, which ones are venomous, treatment of snake bites and a lot more.  Quite an eye-opener for me!

We had a lunch-break outdoors in the sunshine, chatting about what we had learned during the morning’s theory.

Then began the serious business of learning how to handle snakes safely, and at the same time, taking into consideration that the snakes were not unduly placed under any stress.

Francois had provided four snakes for us to “practice with” for the afternoon.

The first was a non-venomous Brown House Snake which provided an opportunity for everyone to hold the snake and feel what the skin feels like. Secondly was a Taiwanese Rat Snake – non-venomous.  We each had a turn “handling” this snake with a snake hook stick around the front part of the snake’s body and one hand which was used for holding the snake’s tail end.  I was surprised at the “cool” feeling of the snake’s skin and also at the weight of the snake – it was deceptively heavy.

Brown House snake Boaedon capensis                          Taiwanese Rat Snake Orthriophis taeniurus

The next snake was a Puff Adder!  We all got through the handling very well with the expert instructions from Francois, standing by at all times, using two hook sticks in this case to support the body of this snake, which is fairly thick.

Puff Adder Bitis arietans

Last but not least was a huge Snouted Cobra who after the first catch practised tonic immobility also known as thanatosis, playing “dead”.

Only one of us got the chance to handle it and Francois then decided to put it in its plastic container to prevent stress.  It promptly “came back to life” when released in Dinokeng Game Reserve the next day!

Releasing the Snouted Cobra Naja annulifera

What a huge learning curve for us all – thank you so very much, Francois, for an exceptional and professional course and for being so accommodating in teaching the Honorary Officers a very necessary skill!  We are all inspired and will be purchasing our “hook sticks”!

Handling snakes the right way

This is how you do it

OK Let me try

I’ve Got You                                                                      Up You Come                                                        and In You Go


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