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Expect more snakes in KZN as heavy rains set in

James de Villiers , Business Insider SA
 Nov 13, 2019, 04:21 PM
  • A reptile curator in Durban said that recent rains in the area will see an increase in snake activity. 
  • He said there are many snakes who live underground who are forced to the surface as the water level rises. 
  • The best thing to do is to contact a professional to have the snake removed to avoid getting bitten, the curator said. 
  • For more stories go to the Business Insider South Africa homepage.

Heavy rains in parts of KwaZulu-Natal over the past few days will likely bring increased snake activity in the area, a Durban-based reptile curator said. 

The heavy rains have flooded homes, washed away roads and damaged public infrastructure, TimesLive reported.

On Tuesday afternoon, a tornado ripped through New Hanover, Pietermaritzburg, killing two people, and injuring twenty.

EWN reported that the South African Weather Service anticipates that the rains will continue until Friday.

Also read: Tornadoes in South Africa are likely to grow more common – as thunderstorms grow more severe

James Wittstock, Reptile Curator for Crocworld Conservation Centre in Durban, said there are several snake species that live just below the ground, which emerge after rains.

“With the rain comes the smaller fossorial species which are snakes that spend most of their time beneath the surface of the ground,”  Wittstock said. 

“As the water levels rise, the oxygen levels diminish and these snakes are forced to leave their subterranean homes. While most of these are harmless to humans, there are certain species that could be potentially dangerous.”

He said commonly found fossorial snakes in KwaZulu-Natal are the Bibron's Blind Snake – which is harmless - and the Southern Stiletto snake which has a potent cytotoxic venom. 

The Southern Stiletto is also known as the Bibrons Burrowing Asp or Side Stabbing Adder, and is a small species of snake reaching lengths of about 40 to 50 cm with a small, flat head. 

The dark coloured snake, when threatened, arches its neck with its head facing the ground and they will readily bite if they feel threatened, Wittstock said. 

“A bite from a Southern Stiletto Snake is very painful and causes moderate-to-severe swelling in most cases.” 

“If left untreated, it could lead to the loss of a limb or digit as the venom breaks down the tissue cells surrounding the bite.” 

Wittstock said the heavy rains will also cause the more commonly seen terrestrial species to seek refuge – often in and around homes. 

“This is generally because they are seeking warmth and food. It is not uncommon for snakes to be found in the roofs of houses, where it is dry and they can hunt rats and geckos.”

He said if a snake is encountered, the best thing to do is keep an eye on the animal from a safe distance, while calling a professional to come and retrieve the snake. 

“Attempting to capture or kill the snake is both unnecessary and incredibly dangerous as it is when most bites occur.”

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