The past year delivered challenges as well as opportunities to many of us and for those of us that braved new ventures, it has been quite a year. Many of you have followed our efforts in South Africa, our Snake Education and Awareness Program (SECAP), as we have made great progress despite the challenges. Throughout this year, our team members have educated over 250 learners and over 50 community members while indirectly educating many other members of the public. The engagement sessions included a talk highlighting the importance of snakes and what to do and what not to do if bitten by a snake, interactions with a non-venomous snake and a snake demonstration. 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.
Through our pre-talk surveys, we have collected interesting and valuable information about the perceptions of learners towards snakes. The most interesting of which show that both rural schools that we visited, indicated that between 35-45% of the learners were not scared of snakes and about 40% said that were scared of snakes. However, at least 30% of the learners in both schools indicated that they kill snakes when they see them. This shows that within rural communities, even though learners may have a positive attitude towards snakes, they are more likely to kill snakes. This is likely because in rural communities, within the older generations, they primary consensus is to kill snakes as soon as you see them. Among all the schools that we visited, an average of 77% of the learners indicated that they would like to learn more about snakes. Clearly there is much more education work to do and with that in mind, our team is excited to do so much more in the years to come. We have also worked closely with healthcare workers and set up an Antivenom Bank at the Hoedspruit Reptile Centre.
SECAP is growing tremendously and will be reaching new and exciting audiences in 2022. The education and outreach in rural communities to mitigate human-snake conflict and snakebite occurrences is crucial to be able to make a difference in snake conservation. Through SECAP, we are learning about people’s perceptions and the importance of building valuable relationships with people to ensure that they see the value of snakes in our environment. We look forward to bringing you more updates and content so stay tuned on our Facebook page.
Partial funding for this project has been received from an education grant from the International Herpetological Symposium, Roger Conant – Grants in Herpetology, Rufford’s Foundation and the Belton Mouras, Jr. and Dolores Ramirez Mouras Charitable Fund of the Sacramento Region Community Foundation. We greatly appreciate the support from these funders and donors in 2021.
You can donate to our project to help us continue our snake conservation efforts in Hoedspruit. Thank you for your support.