Simon Keys and Siouxsie Gillett say they encounter numerous clients who have an irrational fear of snakes. Picture: supplied.
Simon Keys and Siouxsie Gillett say they encounter numerous clients who have an irrational fear of snakes. Picture: supplied.

Holidaying in Durban? Here’s how to survive snake season

By Travel Reporter Time of article published Nov 19, 2021

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The Snakes in the City TV series team has been hard at work saving snakes in the greater Durban area. Their antics have been well documented on National Geographic Wild for the past seven years.

Dealing with dangerous snakes is one thing, but the human factor is quite another. Simon Keys and Siouxsie Gillett say they encounter numerous clients who have an irrational fear of snakes. Part of the mission of the show is to try and “convert” them by allaying fears and dispelling myths about snakes.

“It’s called ophidiophobia. It’s quite remarkable that people living in this lush tropical climate aren’t aware of how many snakes they are literally living next to. Yet when faced with a snake in their garden, home or workplace, they’re petrified out of their wits. We have to empathise with them and try to help them to get over this fear," said Keys.

Gillett said snakes got a bad rap in everything from cultural myths and beliefs to children’s stories and even in film.

“That brave adventuring character Indiana Jones got all icky when faced with a tomb full of them. Parents also play a role in passing this fear down generations. Snakes aren’t cuddly or fluffy. People often assume that a snake’s skin is slimy – which pushes them further down the likeable scale,” said Gillett.

When the duo capture a snake, there’s a great opportunity to let clients touch and interact with the snake. “I would say we are able to ’convert’ people 75% of the time,” said Gillett. “It’s truly remarkable seeing the realisation that these creatures are quite beautiful and for the most part just want to keep to themselves.”

They said most snakes are not dangerous and were doing far more good than bad in our ecosystem.

“They are an important part of the food chain. Snakes for example are able to control rat populations very efficiently.

“People often kill snakes in reaction to this fear, but this is devastating to ecosystems and the environment. Every creature and plant has a role to play on this planet, and so people should be thinking more holistically,” they explained.

Keys said currently there is more water around after our recent rain, contributing to more frogs that are breeding, which increases snake activity because there is more food.

This contributes to more human encounters.

So, what do you do when you are on holiday and encounter one?

“Keep your eyes open! And don’t be scared. Snakes will always try to avoid you first. But they are more active when it’s warm and wet, so stay alert and watch where you walk.

“Flooding also flushes snakes out of hiding places. People should watch out for log piles, building rubble, old tyres, under houses or sheds, places where snakes could go to keep dry,” said Gillett.

They are available to capture and relocate snakes free of charge while filming the series. The caller, with permission and depending on the conditions of the call-out, could be on the TV series. Call 063 234 6932.

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