Pushed out by the high water levels, creatures that normally hide out are now being spotted all over the place but, residents of KwaZulu-Natal are warned to watch out for several dreadful specie of snakes living just below the ground‚ which are likely to emerge after the heavy rains along the coast
The past weekend has been marked with record breaking rains for the people of KwaZulu-Natal with several areas noting more than 100mm in just two days. Though this is a much-needed relief for the drought-stricken province, residents are warned to look out for the emergence of certain ground-dwelling snakes notably a venomous one called the Stiletto.
Martin Rodrigues‚ the manager of the Crocworld Conservation Centre explained that though most of these snakes are harmless to humans‚ residents should be on the look out for the likes of Southern Stiletto Snakes‚ also known as the Bibrons Burrowing Asp or Side Stabbing Adder.
“Although their bite is not deadly‚ they have a potent cytotoxic venom so the bite is very painful and causes moderate to severe swelling in most cases‚ and may lead to the loss of a limb or digit as the venom breaks down the tissue cells surrounding the bite,” he added.
These fossorial species are forced to leave their subterranean homes when the ground becomes saturated, as the oxygen levels diminish.
Describing the size and looks of this particular specie of snakes, Rodrigues said they as relatively small‚ averaging 30 to 40 centimetres in length‚ although it has been known to get as long as 70 centimetres and that they are most likely to be encountered in the evening when the species has heightened activity‚ particularly from the onset of dusk until two to three hours later.
“The southern stiletto snake is common throughout most of KwaZulu-Natal and is responsible for numerous bites on humans every year,” he continued.
“The reason this snake is responsible for so many bites is possibly because they are mistaken for a harmless species. This is because of their small size and inconspicuous appearance.”
It can be identified by its purple-brown to black colour with a creamy white‚ dark brown or black underbelly. It has a unique appearance with a characteristically small head and small‚ inconspicuous looking eyes. The tail ends abruptly and has a sharp asp which is a modified scale at the tip of the tail.
He said, in addition to the innocuous form, the southern stiletto snake cannot be held safely behind the head because its fangs are positioned horizontally, facing towards the back of the upper jaw.
“If someone attempts to hold the snake behind the head, it simply twists its head sideways, piercing a finger with its fang; this snake will only leave one puncture wound per bite and not two as one would usually expect from a venomous snake.”
Snakes in the warmer parts of KwaZulu-Natal are active all through the year, however‚ in the cooler regions‚ activity may decrease during the winter period with activity increasing substantially towards the onset of summer.
Rodrigues urged residents who encounter any snake matching the stiletto snake’s appearance and behaviour not to attempt to touch or kill it as this is when bites are most likely to occur. Instead, he suggested, keep a watchful eye on the snake from a safe distance of 3m or more and call for assistance.