Snake Country: Getting to know the neighbours.
Very shortly, I might be on my way upcountry – about a 5 hour drive – to conduct a snake awareness course with groups of company employees, who work mainly in-field. I say ‘might’ because there’s a problem.
In order for me to ply my trade and get paid, apart from my BBBEEEEE status, the client requires accreditation for what I do. This might sound simple, but there are no SETA’s for snake handlers, leading to a genuine Catch-22 situation. Accreditation requires a peer review, and my peers would naturally be other snake handlers, but as they also can’t be accredited, they can’t review my credentials. As I said, I might be on my way.
Clem Sunter used the term ‘scenario planning’ and that’s about all there is to snake awareness. You see a snake, then – like a good Boer – you make a plan. The bulk of the population would make the obvious one, which is to run over anyone who gets in the way as they head for the hills; the small minority left standing would probably be those who don’t understand the situation, and they, out of necessity, are the ones who ultimately become snake handlers.
In my years of telephonic counselling for ophidiophobes who find themselves trapped in awkward situations with snakes, I have yet to hear of one who has failed in the task of getting the snake to leave the immediate area without too much fuss. So far, we haven’t lost a kid, relative or pet in the process. But how does one design a snake awareness protocol for people who are in a sense ‘trapped’ on a toilet seat in an outside loo when the snake pops its head over the parapet? What about the ‘snake in the car’ scenario that sometimes crops up – slightly different techniques required for cars in motion on the freeway, and those parked in the garage – or the most commonly encountered, the ‘it’s in there somewhere’ scenario that requires of the snake handler, an intimate knowledge of antique furniture removal and the internal workings of redundant household appliances.
I hesitate, as always, to exaggerate, but there are myriad different scenarios that could crop up, so to write a comprehensive thesis on snake handling would require considerable patience, as would the frantic leafing through of such a tome every time a snake is encountered.
I’ve just returned from Cape Town where I was working in a different environment – workwise and socially – during which time I had at least a dozen calls for snake removals, all from the Westville area. It seems that Westville is the place to be if you’re a Mozambique cobra or a Night adder, but it highlights the fact that snakes become very active as autumn looms and they stock up on provisions for the coming winter. Something else I’ll need to put in my thesis.
© pat mckrill. 2016