Snake Education Updates from South Africa

As many of you know, Save The Snakes has a program in South Africa dedicated to snake education and conservation to mitigate human-snake conflict, currently led by Hiral Naik. Due to Covid-19 related delays, the project has had a slow start, but the team are now actively working on the ground!

To create a local presence in Hoedspruit for our education and outreach projects, Save The Snakes and the Hoedspruit Reptile Centre have created the Snake Education and Community Awareness Program (SECAP). SECAP aims to work with learners, community members and healthcare workers to mitigate human-snake conflict and reduce the number of snakebites that occur in the Hoedspruit area.

There are currently 5 main projects:
• Schools Project: educating learners at schools in the area and create a positive attitude towards snakes.
• Communities Project: focuses on educating members of various rural communities in the area about snakes and conducting additional outreach projects to create valuable partnerships.
• Healthcare Worker’s Project: working with local hospitals and clinics to ensure healthcare workers are better equipped with dealing with snakebite.
• Antivenom Bank: providing antivenom to individuals or to hospitals and clinics when they have been bitten by a snake.
• Snake Relocation Training: working with identified leaders in rural communities to become snake handlers and learn to safely rescue and relocate snakes. The SECAP School’s Project has kicked off to a great start. The team has visited two schools so far and have received some fantastic engagement from the learners and teachers. Hoedspruit High School’s Grade 12 (age 17-18) class and Southern Cross School’s Grade 7 (age 12-13) class welcomed the SECAP team with open arms. Both groups received a presentation by Hiral Naik (Save The Snakes) and a snake demonstration by Chris Cooke (Hoedspruit Reptile Centre). The talks highlighted the importance of snakes and what to do and what not to do if bitten by a snake. The snake demonstration focused on three important snakes, each of which have different venom types: puff adder (cytotoxic venom), boomslang (hemotoxic venom) and snouted cobra (neurotoxic venom). The main focus of the demonstrations was to show learners the behaviour of each of these snakes and their reluctance to bite.

The team successfully provided talks to 80 learners and collected valuable information from pre-talk surveys. While many learners said they were scared of snakes, they were mostly all open to learning more about snakes. This emphasises the need and value of our education projects and the importance in cultivating an appreciation for snakes from their role as ecosystem balancers to the beautiful animals that they are. Of all the learners that were present at the talk and demonstration, 99% said they want to learn more about snakes. This is exciting news as the team have so much more exciting content to share about snakes!

As the ball has started rolling, the next few weeks and months hold some exciting snake adventures for the team. Stay tuned for exciting updates from the SECAP team and show your support by visiting our Facebook page.

Partial funding for this project has been received from an education grant from the International Herpetological Symposium and the Belton Mouras, Jr. and Dolores Ramirez Mouras Charitable Fund of the Sacramento Region Community Foundation.

Please donate today to help us continue to fund Hiral’s snake conservation project in South Africa. Save The Snakes depends on the assistance of generous people like you to help fund international snake conservation efforts. Thank you for your support.