Snake Country

Getting to know the neighbours
Working toward a stress-free co-existence with snakes

Forestry worker with inHlangwana

Forestry worker with inHlangwana

Our environment is constantly under threat, and I always get pleasure from hearing of the ever-growing efforts made by small bands of people, in educating others on the consequences of poor or non-existent environmental management. The spreading growth of local area Conservancies is a case in point, and it’s often been suggested to me that I should take to Social Networking via Facebook to increase the spread of the good news. I hate to say this, but having seen what goes across the airwaves much of the time, I’d been avoiding it for as long as I could. Although it’s a great way to keep in touch with friends and relatives, you can also open yourself up to every freak, degenerate and psychopath (take your pick) with access to a computer and lots of time on their hands. You might think that’s over the top, but I recently became the target of a group of ‘instant experts’, reminding me why I’d hesitated to climb on the FB merry-go-round.

Now for my off-season rant.
I was speaking to members of a small conservancy in the Pinetown area, and in getting the message across to my audience, some of whom were guides who would be taking visitors for walks in the conservancy, I used as always, common local species to demonstrate their behavior, and the vast discrepancy between reality and perception in terms of what snakes do or do not do. Over 40 odd bite-free years of educating people about snakes, I’ve often introduced one of our most even-tempered snakes, the night adder, which although venomous and worthy of respect as with all snakes, is not so to the extent that death will ensue from a bite if it were to happen. A photograph of one of the rangers holding a night adder was published on Facebook later the same day, and I’m told that soon thereafter, I came in for all manner of verbal abuse from those who apparently have nothing better to do than look for something to criticise. I was told that if a child were to get bitten following one of my talks, there could be legal implications. As I’m in the business of educating people, I am at pains to remind my audience (of all ages) that they must not at any stage go from the talk and pick up the next snake they see, but by the same token, neither should they feel it necessary to flee into the hills screaming at the top of their lungs, to live in mortal fear of snakes thereafter. My detractors seemed to ignore the fact that many of them entertain – as opposed to educate – at kid’s parties, with snakes (inevitably draping big non-indigenous constrictors around the kid’s necks) but see no problem with that. We’ll never keep our environment alive, if we refuse to learn – open-mindedly -about it.

© pat mckrill. 2015 herpet@eastcoast.co.za Cell: 0833036958