Safety from serpents, Newsline

Cape Town – HIS interest in antivenom and snakebite treatment has become a big part of his life.

Arno Naude, 59, runs a company called Snake Bite Assist, which helps to avoid snake-human conflicts and deals with the consequences in the event of accidents. They also help people who keep snakes as pets to make sure they are looked after correctly.

“It started because people wanted to know how to identify snakes, find out what the venom could do to them, and how to safely remove them if they did become a problem. More people are realising that needlessly killing snakes is wrong and they play an important role in the ecology,” he said.

These courses were originally aimed at people who keep snakes, as they are often called first when someone finds one.

Naude said from there it moved to field guides and eventually security personnel on construction sites, solar farms and mines. “The exams also differ, as I need to know I can leave the venue knowing that the students have adequate knowledge to be safe around dangerous snakes. These courses are presented all around South Africa and even in neighbouring countries.”

Meanwhile, snake handler Davine Sansom said the golden rule is to keep your eyes on the snake at all times and call a qualified handler.

“If you happen to come across a snake in your garden, stand at least four metres away and back off slowly. If found in your bedroom, close the door and put a towel at the bottom of the door, go outside and close windows,” she said.

Cape Town is home to three venomous snakes, the boomslang, cape cobra and puff adder.

“Boomslangs are the most venomous snake in Africa but are very shy and reluctant to bite. The cape cobra has a highly venomous neurotoxic venom and will not hesitate to bite, while the puff adder has cytotoxic venom which causes necrosis,” she said.

If in need of a snake handler, call Sansom at 072 809 89081.

All it takes is a few seconds.

Rico Pentz, 36, was bitten by a female puff adder in his house in Raithby on July 12, 2018.

The father of three, who runs Helderberg Wildlife Rescue, received a call about an injured puff adder lying on the side of the road.

Her jaw was broken and he decided to take her to a reptile vet. This was followed by rehabilitation at his house as she needed to be fed through a tube.

One morning, while Pentz was cleaning the enclosure, he lost focus when his phone rang and looked away for a few seconds to see who was calling. He was bitten below his thumb. He was rushed to Mediclinic Vergelegen Hospital as he knew the bite from the snake was a full venom.

Once stabilised, he was transferred to Hottentots Holland Hospital in Somerset West.

“I have been bitten many times by non-venomous snakes, but as for the puff adder, well, the initial bite itself, I can’t remember what that felt like.

“However, the venom effects feel like your arm is stuck in a pit of fire. The doctor who first saw me said if I had come 10 minutes later I would have died,” he said.

Pentz, who is originally from Pretoria, was in hospital for a month as doctors needed to wait for the swelling to go down before stitching him up. They had to make several cuts, and cut away some skin and tissue.

“They also had to do a bandage change every day, which made the pain a million times worse. It was by far the worst pain and experience I have ever had in my life. What I learnt from this experience was to never be on a phone while working with venomous snakes. Always be 200% focused on the snake,” he said.

It took more than a year for his hand and arm to heal completely.

“I am still limited in some ways when it comes to movement. If I pick up something heavy or use my hand for physical work, pain kicks in.

“Other than that, my health is perfect and my arm and hand look like a combination of Wolverine and Deadpool,” he added.

Weekend Argus