You can’t preserve and look after what you don’t understand! This is one of the driving philosophies of the Department of Nature conservation, said Prof Peter Small, HOD. It is for this reason that Sithembile Nkosi, a lecturer in the department, organised a demonstration of snake handling.
A professional snake handler, Sicelo Dumezulu, Director, Snake Pharm SA, said his main job was to dispel all the myths about the snakes. “The myths only serve cultural purposes. They emphasize how dangerous snakes are. Not all snakes are dangerous. Also, you need to know how to behave if you are confronted by a dangerous snake like a black imamba. You need to relax, and gently take a step back. Don’t make any fast movement; the snake is faster than you. It will think you are fighting it, and strike.” Sicelo advised that people should keep their surroundings clean, to keep snakes away.
Sicelo also dispelled the belief that a second dose of snake venom counteracts the first one. It only makes things worse, he said. Sithembile said they wanted their students to get a first-hand experience of snakes from the experts so their view would change, and be in-line with what nature conservation was about.