‘Snakes won’t chase you’

Conflict between snakes and people in urban areas is a problem Windhoek shares with many cities around the world. Surrounded by farms and nature, the capital has a high prevalence of snakes in and around residences and industrial sites. But, says Namibia’s snake whisperer and catcher, a snake will never...

16 November 2018 | Health

Henriette Lamprecht - “On the contrary, snakes are shy animals that will only attack in self-defence,” says Francois Theart. He has made it his mission to educate and bust myths on his slithery friends.

Francois is the man behind Snakes of Namibia and has been removing snakes from urban areas in Windhoek since 2012. In 2015 a partnership was formed with the Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust) to better understand the conflict between snakes and humans in Namibia.

Part of this research project involved obtaining a research permit to guide protocol for the capturing and relocation of snakes in Namibia, as well as determining the root cause of human-snake conflict.

According to data collected between August 2015 and August 2018, 500 snakes of 23 different species were removed from homes, gardens and industrial sites in Windhoek.

“Snakes don’t chase people and normally don’t move in pairs,” Francois explains.

“If a snake is killed, his mate won’t come looking for him. Snake ‘repellents’ like Jeyes Fluid and garlic and geraniums will not keep them away!”

It is also “highly unlikely” that a person will die within seconds or minutes after a snake bite.

“Antivenom is the only medium and way to successfully treat a poisonous snake bite. To cut or suck a snake bite won’t help,” he warns.

With “snake season” in full swing, Francois advises to steer clear of building rubble.

“Things like rock gardens, compost heaps and bird cages serve as food sources and hideouts, and should therefore be avoided if possible.”

Also steer clear of using dense bushes and creepers around the house – especially against walls and close to open windows.

Keep any grass around the house short and areas under low-hanging bushes and shrubs clean to eliminate suitable hiding places for snakes.”

If you’re living on a plot or farm, Francois warns against keeping small livestock, especially chickens, close to home.

As many snakes are active after sundown, rather wear closed shoes and take a torch with on your walkabout after dark.

“Look where you’re going and make sure you’re walking on rocks and logs, rather than around it. “Picking up wood for your braai at sundown or at night is never a good idea!”

Don’t get your hands into places, holes and hideouts where a snake may have found a home.

Even the tiniest scratch of a dead snake’s tooth can still inject venom.

“Some snakes, like the Anchieta’s cobra, play dead when they feel threatened, and will bite the moment it gets the chance.”

Francois warns never to try and catch or kill a snake.

“You will without a doubt get bitten if you try!”

If you love the outdoors, rather wear a jean made of thick material, as well as hiking boots covering your ankles. Protect your eyes against spitting cobras by wearing sunglasses. (Facebook: Snakes of Namibia; [email protected]; [email protected])

An estimated 50,000 people are killed every year by snakes. The most venomous snake in the world is the Inland Taipan.. It can kill a human being in under 45 minutes. More than 80% of those bitten by the Inland Taipan die.

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