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Struik Nature

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News from the African Snakebite Institute: Johan Marais Explains How to Identify Mildly-venomous Snakes

Johan Marais is an internationally respected herpetologist and author of several books on snakes in southern Africa, including Snakes and Snakebite in Southern Africa and A Complete Guide to the Snakes of Southern Africa.

Snakes and Snakebite in Southern AfricaSlange and Slangbyt in Suider-AfrikaA Complete Guide to the Snakes of Southern Africa'n Volledige Gids tot die Slange van Suider-Afrika

 
Marais also runs the African Snakebite Institute (ASI), through which he offers training courses, corporate talks and demonstrations, environmental impact assessments and reptile safaris. In the latest ASI newsletter Marais focusses on mildly-venomous snakes:

“Of the 173-odd different types of snakes in Southern Africa the vast majority of species are either harmless or mildly venomous. Only nineteen snake species are considered deadly,” the snake expert writes. Examples include the Common Night Adder, the Stiletto Snake, the Berg Adder, the Many-horned Adder and the Horned Adder.

Read the ASI newsletter to find out more about these snakes, including photos to help you identify them and tips on what to do when you come across one:

While the venom of most mildly-venomous snakes like the Herald snake, Eastern Tiger snake, the various Sand and Grass snakes and the Skaapsteker has virtually no effect on humans, twenty nine snakes that are not considered deadly have rather potent venom that could cause a great deal of discomfort or even hospitalisation. Sadly many of these snakes are listed as ‘mildly venomous’ on various internet sites. This is certainly not always the case.

The Common or Rhombic Night Adder is a good example. It is abundant where it occurs in the wetter eastern parts of the country and is a frog specialist, feeding largely on toads. Gardens with water features lure frogs and the Night Adder follows. Its venom is often described as mildly cytotoxic that will cause some pain and a bit of swelling. This may be the case in some bites but not always. We see some particularly bad bites, especially on children and dogs. Night Adder venom is potent enough to kill small dogs and I recently saw a case where a Maltese Poodle was bitten on a paw and its front leg had to be amputated the following day.

ASI offers many helpful tools on their website, including downloadable posters and links to resources on snakes. Have a look:

Dangerous Snakes of Southern Africa

 

 

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