Be prepared for snake encounters

2018-11-23 16:44
The African Snakebite Institute (ASI) has released a free app with information on snake types, first aid for snakebites, and snake removal. Photo: Samantha Lee

The African Snakebite Institute (ASI) has released a free app with information on snake types, first aid for snakebites, and snake removal. Photo: Samantha Lee

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A new app brings information to your fingertips, should a snake slither across your path.
The African Snakebite Institute (ASI) has released a free app with information on snake types, first aid for snakebites, and snake removal.

First aid for snakebites is problematic, largely because of all the myths and incorrect or outdated information doing the rounds, ASI manager Ashley Kemp says.

The African Snakebite Institute is a training provider of snake awareness and venomous snake handling courses and the largest supplier of quality snake handling equipment on the continent.
While sound advice is given in books like Snakes and Snakebite in Southern Africa, few people have access to such publications.

“In light of the above, internationally renowned herpetologist and author, Johan Marais of the African Snakebite Institute, put together a free app that covers the essentials of first aid treatment for snakebite. The advice is concise, accurate and simple to follow and understand. It also includes emergency contact numbers for snakebite incidences,” the organisation says in a statement.

Kemp says: “We run a very popular Facebook page (African Snakebite Institute) as well as the Facebook group, Snakes of South Africa. Between the two we have over 190 000 followers. These both serve as fantastic platforms to educate the public about snakes. There is a huge amount of myth and superstition surrounding snakes, and it’s great to see that people are interested in knowing more about them, their behaviour, how to identify them, what to do if someone is bitten, and how to remove them from unwanted places safely. We hoped the app would give a greater number of people the chance to educate themselves about these misunderstood creatures.”

The medical treatment of snakebites is also covered and gives medical doctors quick and easy access to the published snakebite treatment protocols. These publications cover the diagnosis and treatment of snakebites including the use of antivenom.

For unwanted snakes in houses, gardens and business premises the app lists over 450 snake removers.

Should anyone encounter a snake and need it identified, a feature allows anyone to quickly submit a photograph for positive identification.

The app also has snake profiles of common snakes in Southern Africa – each profile has four colour photographs, a distribution map and a short section on a snake species to assist with identification.

“We’re hoping the app will aid in snake education, to make people aware of their presence and their role in the ecosystem. Education is the only way to change people’s perceptions and by providing a free app, with all the features ASI Snakes has, we believe we can help with snake conservation.”

The app is a free download, and once accessed the first time, the information will stay accessible on your phone – “even if you don’t have an internet connection whilst out in the bush”, Kemp says.

“The response to the app has been phenomenal – we’re currently sitting with 19700 downloads since the app was released in July. And the feedback has been really great,” she adds.

To download the app, visit


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