Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
SNAKES are increasingly invading homes in Bulawayo as the rains have disturbed their habitats, forcing them to seek refuge elsewhere.
Experts say the country is in the snake season as the reptiles are looking for new habitats after their nests get flooded by the rains.
Several residents, particularly in eastern suburbs such as Matsheumhlope, Waterford and Killarney among other areas, have come out on social media platforms revealing that snakes have invaded their homes.
One resident said in the past month, her family killed two snakes that had invaded her home. The development has left many people asking: What do we do to repel them and how to save lives in the event that someone is bitten by a snake?
A snake catcher, Mr Simon Shoriwa, has advice for Bulawayo residents.
“The problem with people is that they keep a lot of junk in their yards. When there is junk, there are going to be rats and rats attract snakes. And with the rains, the ground has become too wet and snakes are not comfortable in the holes and they seek dry ground like cabins and houses. Also, prey species are becoming abundant like frogs and rats during the rainy season, so the snakes start hunting,” said Mr Shoriwa.
“When rats get into your home, snakes will also follow their scent. For those doing chicken projects, when they feed their chickens, rats will come for the leftovers and snakes will come for the rats.”
He said to ward off snakes from homes, residents should cut tall grass and remove junk which snakes can hide in.
Mr Shoriwa said snake repellents may not be effective if there are items that still attract snakes.
He said while most people might not be able to identify the snake that would have bitten them, they should immediately seek medical treatment. Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) spokesperson Mr Tinashe Farawo said there are repellent pills and chemicals to help turn snakes away.
“We are in the snake season, they will be looking for habitats and food like your rodents, rats, frogs and other things. People must also clean their yards so that snakes will not have habitats because if they find a hiding place they will come. If it doesn’t have anywhere to hide, it will not come,” said Mr Farawo.
“If you deal with those two you will address the problem of having snakes invading your homes. There are also some repellent pills and chemicals that they can use to scare away the snakes.”
Bulawayo provincial medical director Dr Maphios Siamuchembu said a victim of a snake bite should present themselves to a hospital where they will be attended to by a doctor as soon as possible.
“We notice that when people are bitten by a snake, they try to stop the blood flow, but this is dangerous they must not do that.
The first aid they can do to a person who has been bitten by a snake is to wash the wound thoroughly using water and soap and immediately go to their health facilities, and ideally to a hospital where they will be seen by a doctor,” said Siamuchembu.
He said sometimes an antivenom is not recommended.
“An antivenom is an expensive medicine; it is not always readily available even in the private sector. Secondly, the antivenom is in itself dangerous because it gives dangerous reactions to the patient. In most cases, the doctors will not give an antivenom because the antivenom proves to be more dangerous than the snake bite itself,” he said.
Acting Mpilo Central Hospital chief executive officer Professor Solwayo Ngwenya said members of the public should seek professional help when snakes invade their premises.
“Once a snake enters your home, you should evacuate the home. Otherwise call Zimparks or Fire Brigade or professional snake catches. Avoid the snake as a bite from, for example black mamba, will paralyse and kill you within 20 minutes. If you are unfortunately bitten by a snake, rush to the nearest emergency unit for immediate treatment,” said Prof Ngwenya.
“Snake antivenom is available at our local emergency departments. You will need not only snake antivenom, but monitoring in the hospital for some days. Above all, stay alert especially now in the hot season. Snakes are out hunting small meals like frogs.
And avoid being bitten, as despite all necessary treatments you may die depending on the type of snake that bites you.” – @nqotshili