A study of snakes

A closer look at human animal conflict

20 August 2018 | Environment

Unfortunately we don’t have information on the issue in other parts of the country - Francois Theart, snake wrangler.

Yolanda Nel – A collaboration between the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) and a well-known snake wrangler aims to gather data on human-animal conflict with the focus on snakes.

“There is not much current data or information available on reptiles in the country,” says Dr Morgan Hauptfleisch, senior lecturer of ecology at NUST about this research.

This study gives the team an opportunity to gather information about the different types of snake species and also provides insight as to where they are located and in what season of the year the reptiles move to the city. “We also want to look at what attracts them to town and how we can minimize conflict without killing them,” he added.

The team is making assumptions based on the number of snakes in the capital, through the number of calls made to snake wrangler, Francois Theart. What is already known is that through data already obtained, half the respondents didn’t know of Theart’s service. “There may be many more snakes in Windhoek that we just don’t know about,” he says.

According to Theart, the study done in Windhoek forms a baseline. “Unfortunately we don’t have information on the issue in other parts of the country,” he said. It can however open doors for students currently helping with the research to go out and gain more insight in other areas.

When asked where he releases the snakes, Theart responded in gest, “In my ex-girlfriend’s garden!” In all seriousness though, the snakes that are removed from resident’s homes are released some 15km outside of the city. These snakes will also be tracked to see if this is a viable option to manage the snakes and if they do come back into the city.

According to Hauptfleisch, there are many people who claim they are snake wranglers, “but we don’t know where they release the snakes or if they keep them”.

He said that any person who manages snakes should have a permit and to keep mind of ethical considerations. “It often opens the door to illegal trade,” he added.

The research team is currently working under US animal handling procedures as Namibia doesn’t have its own guidelines.

Earlier this week, 440 residents had already filled in the research survey. Residents who have had any interactions with snakes in the capital, are encouraged to fill in the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/3Z88BZK.