Juvenile Cape Cobra (Naja nivea) Picture: Willem Van Zyl
Juvenile Cape Cobra (Naja nivea) Picture: Willem Van Zyl

WATCH: This snake catcher doesn't just save people, but reptiles too

By Beautiful News South Africa Time of article published Jan 1, 2020

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Most people stiffen at the sight of a beady-eyed, slithering snake. Not Willem Van Zyl. When speaking about the different species, his voice reflects a calm usually reserved for benign creatures. This is because Van Zyl knows snakes don’t pose a threat if people know how to handle them. 

As cities expand into their natural habitats, the scaly reptiles appear more regularly in residential spaces. While panic is understandable, putting yourself or the snake in harm’s way isn’t the only option. 

“There are ways to deal with snakes that don’t need to involve death or danger,” Van Zyl says.  

The professional snake handler rescues venomous and non-venomous species from people’s homes. When Van Zyl responds to a call, he arrives with his snake hook, containers, and the most powerful anti-venom – education. Because the fear snakes conjure poses a serious threat to their well-being, Van Zyl gives talks on how to approach further interactions with the creatures. 

To spread easy-to-understand information on conservation, he also posts videos online detailing the particular species and the protocols of every rescue. 

Based in Cape Town, part of Van Zyl’s efforts include relocating venomous snakes to bushy areas a few kilometres out of the city. They play the role of both predator and prey in the ecosystem, so their safety is vital. If a single snake is hurt or killed out of reactionary fear, the disastrous effect on the food chain doubles. 

“Nature has a delicate balance that we need to try and maintain,” Van Zyl says. 


For many, confronting these symbols of danger is often out of the question. By placing himself in the middle, Van Zyl shows that education is the answer. 

“There’s always time to learn more about our world,” he says.

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