So Spring is almost here and there has already been some snake activity with a lot of reports from across South Africa of snakes being seen and caught / removed.

We removed our first catch of the season as well. We found two Snouted Cobras in a manhole. Luckily no one was injured, including the snakes and the snakes have been safely relocated.

Winter Reptile Weekend – KZN

We are pleased to announce that we will be hosting a Winter Reptile Weekend. 

What this entails is back to back courses. Here are the details:

Saturday 23 August 2014 we will be hosting a Snake Identification and Bite Treatment Course, as well as a Venomous Snake Handling Course.

This course covers all the venomous snakes as well as semi-venomous snakes in RSA and was the first of it’s kind and has been presented since 1999. You will be taught how to identify them from other snakes, what venom they possess, their distribution, habitat and how to treat their bites. You will receive all the necessary course material on the day. You will be shown images of all the dangerous snakes and snake bite studies. You will write exams after the course and successful candidates will later receive certificates.

Immediately after this will be the snake handling course. This course has been attended by zoo staff, field guides, game rangers, herpetologist and hobbyist. All of them rate this course, as one of their most valuable skills learnt to date. This course is aimed at people that come into contact with snakes and other reptiles in the field or for people wanting to learn more on how to handle snakes and reptiles in a responsible and safe manner. The course is both theory and practical and each candidate will have the opportunity to handle a non-venomous and venomous snakes.

You will be lectured on the various methods of handling venomous snakes as well as shown in practical demonstrations. Safe husbandry practises when venomous snakes are concerned is also discussed and explained as well as various equipment is demonstrated.

The safe handling of venomous snakes in captivity is also included. You will be lectured on the do’s and don’ts, as well as the golden rules. All candidates must sign indemnification forms and minors need their parents / guardians permission and signature.

This course is run under strict supervision, and two snake wranglers are present at all times during practical assessment.

This is a must for all serious herpetologists!

Successful candidates will receive certificates.

Coffee, tea, sandwiches and a light lunch are included.

Costs : R800 per person
Venue: New Germany Nature Reserve.
Time: 08:30 till approximately 16:00pm

Sunday 24 August 2014 we will be hosting a Reptile Husbandry Course.

This course covers the following topics:

General Husbandry, caging, heating, breeding, assist feeding ……..
Health care, including tubing, medicating etc …
Breeding, probing, pop sexing, incubation and some personal breeding tips!

Successful candidates will receive certificates.

Coffee, tea, sandwiches and a light lunch are included.

Costs : R800 per person
Venue: New Germany Nature Reserve.
Time: 08:30 till approximately 12:00pm (Thereafter the ARK braai will be taking place).

Should you wish to attend both days, the costs will be R1 500 per person.

Limited seats are available so book early to avoid disappointment.

Contact me at courses@snakebiteassist.co.za

Puffadder bite – 1 week later

One week later and the puffadder bite patient has made a remarkable recovery.

Little Nico Smit was discharged from hospital on the 10th April 2013. His finger was still discoloured and 3 blisters had formed. Within a few days of being discharged, the blisters had disappeared and only 3 small red spots remained. This has now decreased to 2 red spots a week after the bite.

The patient’s finger has become itchy, but this is due to healing as it cannot be allergies towards the venom due to the time that has lapsed.

Patient is due for a follow up visit at the hospital on Wednesday.

Puffadder bite

On Sunday, 7th April 2013, at about 8:00 pm we received a call from a doctor who had a patient which was bitten by a Puffadder earlier that day. We went to see the patient and advised the doctor about his treatment.

On arrival we learnt that the patient was only 1 year and 9 months old. He was playing in a sandpit with his sister when he got bitten by what was identified and confirmed as a small Puffadder (Bitis arietans) . The bite occurred at about 9:50 am in Vaalwater, Limpopo. The parents then started phoning around to find a hospital with antivenom and trained staff. It was decided to drive through to Pretoria which is about a two hour drive.

The patient was transported to a private hospital where he received only three vials of antivenom. It would seem that the hospital did not have sufficient stock of anti-venom. Normally the child would have received between five and eight vials.

By this stage the swelling had reached his elbow and the digits were a dark blue/purple colour. The patient was then transferred to a government hospital that evening where he is being cared for at the moment.

No further anti-venom was given even though supply at the state hospital was generous, due to the lapse in time and the physical presentation of the bite. He only had one puncture wound and seemed to have only received a small dose of venom.

The finger was inflamed, but the tip was still pink, indicating blood circulation to the tip of the finger was not compromised. There was some petechiae between his fingers and on the back on the hand. The hand was swollen and the arm had swollen till just below the elbow in the 10 hours post bite. His blood seemed to be clotting within normal time. Minimal haemorrhaging at the site of the bite was promising.

The parents and doctor were instructed to ensure the patient has lots of fluids to ensure the kidneys are being flushed. Until then this had been a low priority and the child was slightly dehydrated. They were asked to monitor that the patient is passing urine and that it is not discoloured, which would indicate the kidneys may not be functioning properly. Initially we suggested a slight elevation for the hand but the child was not impeded by the swelling and was moving it around freely. Approximately 2 hours later we also requested that they try to get the patient to flex his hand as the movement will increase the chances of a faster recovery. He was given a few basic exercises to do.

The next evening we visited the patient again. The swelling had gone down on his forearm and only the hand was still swollen. The bite site was still very red and inflamed. His fluid intake is good and urine output was brisk. His general condition was very good. Some ecchymoses (red bruising) on his mid forearm is visible but none in the elbow or armpit areas as normally observed. He is mobile and should be discharged soon if he continues to recover this quickly.

Green Mamba bite


Today a friend who works at a nature reserve received a bite from a Green Mamba. He was rushed to the closest hospital. Arno was contacted by his father who said that his son could not call as he had blurred vision and could not see the numbers. Arno was very concerned and had arranged an emergency helicopter to transfer the patient to Pretoria should it be required.

When the patient’s father arrived at the ICU his son was feeling a lot better with only some swelling on his hand. He spoke to the doctor as well and gave Arno’s number to the doctor, requesting that Arno be contacted should his condition change. The doctor then replied that he knows Arno and that he received his medical training on snake bite from Arno and is following his protocol.

The patient will be held in the ICU unit for observation.

We wish the patient a speedy recovery.

Botswana Spitting Cobra Bite


Got a call from the UK just now. The persons relative in Botswana was bitten by a Spitting Cobra and the treatment has been less than the minimum standard. Within 7 minutes I had two units alerted. The private hospital had a surgeon on call that specializes in snake bite and the state hospital had prepared for him and had a surgical team available for assessment if he arrives.