Don’t catch wild snakes!


On Saturday, we were greeted with a bit of a surprise. Our clinic volunteers were approached by some Fisantekraal residents who wanted to sell these three snakes – a juvenile Cape Cobra, a Rhomboid Egg Eater, and a Mole Snake – to us which they had found that morning in the bush and put in a plastic fish bowl. We advised the gentlemen that it is illegal and dangerous, and that we do not buy animals, and they sensibly agreed to hand them over to us. 
Thank you VERY much to the Cape Reptile Institute’s Kobus Smit who swiftly answered our call for help. He checked the little critters over, then safely relocated them back into the wild (far away from humans), where they belong. We are so grateful for your expert assistance!

These snakes were probably sluggish from the morning cold, which is why they were easy to catch. By the time they got to us, it was warmer and they were plenty lively… If left together, they would almost certainly have started fighting; Cape Cobras are known to kill and eat other snakes.

1. FAW does not buy animals. It goes against everything we stand for. We are happy to help the people in our area of operation with rehoming animals that they are no longer able to keep but we will not be part of the pet trade nor the illegal wild-animal trade.

2. NEVER pick up any snake if you are not 100% sure what it is and you are trained to handle snakes. We don’t know if the men were aware that one of these snakes was a Cape Cobra but juveniles are as dangerous as adults so they are extremely lucky that they weren’t bitten. Even the mole snake, although not venomous, can give a really painful bite which tends to get infected due to the amount of bacteria in their mouths. 

3. It is illegal to take snakes out of the wild. It is illegal to buy, sell, or keep snakes without a permit.

4. It is cruel to kidnap wild animals and keep them in captivity – yes, snakes deserve respect and a happy life too, not just fluffy animals.

5. No matter how docile a snake seems, NEVER assume that it is safe to approach or handle it, not even if it looks dead. Some species, such as Puff Adders, actually feign death as a way to catch their prey and, when people approach, they can strike extremely fast.

6. Do not assume that, because it is a baby snake, it is harmless. The reality is that 90% of the snakes in SA are not deadly. Some, like mole snakes (one of the snakes brought in) are not venomous but they can give you a nasty bite. Others, like the Rhomboid Egg Eater, are completely harmless. But some, like the Cape Cobra, have venom from the moment they hatch so, whether they are a day old or a year old, they are already dangerous.

7. We urge people not to hurt or kill snakes out of fear. These animals perform a valuable service in keeping vermin that plague humans under control. Moreover, it is when people are trying to kill snakes that they are often bitten. If you have a snake on your property, leave it alone. Most snakes will just slither away because they really do not want to tangle with you. If you are concerned about a venomous snake (maybe you have children or animals that you fear may come into contact with it) or you are worried that your dog may hurt a snake, contact a local snake handler to remove and relocate it.

The Cape Reptile Institute Blouberg Snake Rescue, and African Snakebite Institute have many contacts to help and they even offer snake-handling courses for people who would like to know more. ASI also has a great free app which you can download for identifying snakes. Find a snake removal expert here: Snake Removals.

Spring is peak snake season – they come out to soak up the sun. Be aware that you may encounter them so that you are prepared and, thus, less likely to panic.

The bottom line, for all snakes, is: LEAVE THEM ALONE. Snakes do not want to interact with us. If you give them a few minutes, most snakes will quickly get away.

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