Through the Save The Snakes Support Grant Program, Save The Snakes supported Mirthe Aarts and Dr. Monica Bond in 2021 to increase awareness about snakes in Tanzania. Their team aims to develop and distribute educational materials throughout rural Tanzania to teach school children about snake ecology and the challenges of living with snakes—including how to avoid conflicts and what to do when bitten.
Saving People, Saving Snakes in Tanzania
East Africa supports more than 420 species of reptiles, and many are endemic, especially in the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania. Tanzania supports a diverse variety of snakes, including some of the world’s most venomous species such as black mambas, cobras, and puff adders. Many Tanzanians are bitten by snakes, especially in rural areas but dangers of snakebites are largely neglected by public health agencies and non-governmental organizations. There is a great need for community education about snakes so that people can identify a venomous snake, and appreciate their role in their environment, but also understand how to avoid conflicts with snakes, and what to do if a person is bitten. In Tanzania, schools are often focal points for local communities.
Since 1995, the Tanzanian Ministry of Education and Vocational Training’s Environmental Education Strategy has emphasized the importance of environmental education at all levels within school curricula. The official policies of the Environmental Education Strategy highlight teaching that includes active participation and cooperation with local residents through community activities. There is currently a lack of snake education programs in schools in Tanzania, but such school-based programs have great promise as a means to disseminate critical information into the local communities about snakes, their important role in the environment, how to identify them, how to avoid being bitten, and what to do when bitten. Such information could mean a “win-win” strategy to help snakes and people.
Given that many people in Tanzania fear snakes, are not able to identify the beautiful creatures living in their backyards, the fact that snake bites are a serious problem in rural areas, and the limited amount of information that is available to local communities on how to deal with snakes when encountered, we propose to develop a package of innovative materials to teach school children about snake ecology and the challenges of living with snakes—including how to avoid conflicts and what to do when bitten—that will inspire action to protect both people and snakes.
Aims and Objectives:
The program will be called “Saving People, Saving Snakes.” and will be implemented in the Manyara region of Tanzania. The education package will be designed using colorful, eye-catching illustrations and creative games and hands-on activities in the Swahili language. The package will consist of the following materials: a visually beautiful and engaging poster, a coloring book that teaches children to identify snakes, a snake memory game, a guessing game called “Which Snake Am I?”, a dramatic play for children to perform, a “Dos and Don’ts” activity, making snake art with local materials such as leaves, bingo with snakes and discussion questions. Our trained education officers will visit schools to implement the lessons and conduct hands- on activities for deeper learning. Lessons are implemented both in the classroom and in after-school wildlife clubs known as “Malihai Clubs”. We will evaluate the program’s components, and outcomes by questionnaires and use this information to determine how it may be adapted to improve success.
The Saving People, Saving Snakes education program focuses on all snake species in the local environment of the school we work in. This means that will adapt the program’s activities based on the location of the schools. The project aims to teach schoolchildren how to identify the venomous and non-venomous snakes in their location. In general, this means we focus on the venomous species such as black mamba, cobra’s, puff adders and the non-venomous species such as pythons, green bush snakes and brown house snakes.
For effective behavioral change to occur within the field of environmental education, there is increasing recognition of the importance of evaluations to assess program effectiveness. We will not assess our success based solely on the number of schools and students participating, although this will be one metric. As an integral part of the program we will design and implement a rigorous scientific impact evaluation to determine how the intervention (i.e. Saving People, Saving Snakes education program) is reaching its primary goals by evaluating its characteristics, components, and outcomes and using this information to determine how it may be adapted to improve success. We will design a questionnaire that will collect student responses to gauge knowledge and attitudes about snakes before and after the students have participated in the snake education program. The questionnaire will be administered immediately before and immediately after the students experience the education program, and again several months afterward to determine whether the information was retained, and how behaviors might have been changed by the intervention.
Their team relocated an Ashe’s spitting cobra (Naja ashei). A rural family spotted the enormous snake in their compound and decided to call to have it relocated instead of killing it.
Support Snake Conservation
Mirthe Aarts and Dr. Monica Bond’s project are a recipient of the 2021 Save The Snakes Support Grant Program. Save The Snakes Support Grants are made possible because of the generosity of compassionate people and organizations who are inspired and dedicated to protect threatened snake populations and mitigate human-snake conflict around the world. Please donate today to help us continue to fund projects like their snake conservation project in Tanzania. Thank you for your support.