Nature Conservation department teaches staff and students about snakes

Sicelo Sibiya, without a mask, telling a student how to deal with snakes

Human development continues to affect the environment where other species live. In some cases, the encroachment into where other species live leads to a collision between human beings and species that are losing their natural habitat. Some of the species affected by human development are snakes.

It was for this reason that the Department of Nature Conservation had a snake awareness campaign on Wednesday, 1 September 2021 on the main campus of Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT). Sithembile Nkosi, a Lecturer in the department, said the event was meant to inform staff and students that it was important to understand the role played by snakes in the ecosystem. Nkosi said snakes were not just a nuisance that needed to be eliminated. She said like every other player in the ecosystem, snakes were part of the food chain. Some are prey to other species, like eagles and other snakes.  Others are predators. They provide a balance in the ecosystem. They keep the numbers of rats in check.

As for MUT, Nkosi said the University is built alongside a stream and forest, which makes for a good habitat for a variety of snakes. As a result, staff have often encountered snakes in their offices and cars. She advised that staff report to professional snake handlers if they find snakes in their offices. She encouraged staff to look carefully at the colour and shape of the snake so they can describe it if they need to. Nkosi also requested staff to keep their car windows closed, and to be on the lookout for snakes.

We need to find ways to co-exist with snakes; this can only happen successfully if people have enough knowledge about snakes, added Nkosi.

To drive the message home, the department brought in professional snake handlers, Sicelo Sibiya and Sabelo Gumede. The two professionals showed staff and students how to deal with snakes. Sibiya also gave a lecture on snakes. He told staff and students how snakes behave, and what staff and students needed to do when encountering a snake.

Staff and students got a chance to touch and hold snakes, under the supervision of the professionals. The professionals brought a ball python, puff adder and a cobra.