Now that the rainy season is here and there may be rising of floodwaters, look out for snakes but do not kill them.
This was the warning given to members of the public by the Emperor Valley Zoo’s education officer Shenelle Osborne.
Snakes are a type of reptile that is not too loved by the ordinary person and it can be labelled as a major phobia for some people in life. What better time for one to be educated about these slithery creatures on the runner up to World Snake Day.
World Snake Day is celebrated on July 16 annually worldwide, however, the Emperor Valley Zoo in St Ann’s is in the process of seeking to project knowledge and awareness of snakes to children and adults for the next month.
The awareness is needed now more than ever following last week’s incident with the famous Mustard the snake at the zoo.
Osborne said snake education, accompanied by an open mind, will reveal another side and perception of snakes that may even be mind-blowing to some and can probably just turn that fear into bravery/likeness.
During a visit to the zoo, Guardian Media was told that there are 47 species of snakes in T&T, four of which are venomous.
Osborne warned that with the rains and rising floodwaters, snakes are washed up onto people’s properties.
However, she warned not to kill them as they help keep the rat and mice population down.
So what should you do if you encounter a snake in your house or in your yard?
Osborne replied: “Stay calm. Leave them alone. Watch them, not necessarily to keep your eyes focused on them all the time, but just keep watch over them to make sure that they are there or if they are moving, where they are going.
“Do not kill them. Do not go close to them because you may not know what type of snakes they are so if they do not slither away or if you are too afraid to move them out, call us at the zoo and we will come to rescue them. Remember these snakes are disoriented and would be looking for safe spots. They would be afraid of humans too but they mean no harm,” she added.
Osborne explained that in a week the zoo receives countless calls from people to rescue snakes and caimans. “It’s too many calls to record but we rescue them and bring them back to the zoo and check out their health. Once they are healthy they are released back into the wild, safe and sound.”
Zookeeper Walter Bonyun, who was bitten by Mustard last week, said he was bitten numerous times by different species of snakes over the 27 years he has been working at the zoo.
He gave this advice on what to do if bitten by a snake, “Make sure the wound is free from bacteria. Use an alcohol-based substance and clean the wound. Snakes carry bacteria in their saliva that causes an infection that may be bad. The teeth of snakes are very smooth and don’t rupture tissues and rip out the flesh which is something you don’t have to worry about too.”
If a venomous snake bites you, go to the hospital immediately as there are antidotes available at the Sangre Grande Hospital and the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mount Hope.
Anyone who may encounter a snake or caiman can call the zoo’s hotline at 800-4ZOO.