“THE first thing to do if you're bitten by a snake is put the snake back down.”
Ranger Mick, of the Australian Reptile Park, paused for a moment to let his advice sink in.
Ranger Mick (aka Michael Tate) was holding a venomous snake while presenting a reptile show at the park, at Somersby, some time around 2009, if memory serves me.
I’m not sure about the date, and I can’t recall what type of snake that it was, but I am sure about two things: there was an uneasy ripple of laughter that filtered around the audience, and Ranger Mick suddenly had everybody's undivided attention.
The point Ranger Mick went on to make was that a high proportion of snake bite victims were trying to catch the snake, move the snake, or kill the snake, when they were bitten.
So his advice really was to keep your distance.
It was a message repeated this week, when the Australian Reptile Park's head of reptiles, Daniel Rumsey, urged locals to be vigilant when enjoying the great outdoors as the rising spring temperatures had been accompanied by an increase in snake activity.
“Spring is the season to be snake aware, not only for rural properties but also residential households, as snakes are out and active across all of Australia," Mr Rumsey said.
“Snakes don’t go out to harm humans, but if you get in their path or startle them, they will bite and it can be fatal.”
Australia is home to the world’s most venomous snakes.
Australia sees about 3000 snake bites occur each year, and around 300 victims receive antivenom.
On average, one or two bites prove fatal.
The Australian Reptile Park is the only zoo in Australia that milks venomous terrestrial snakes for their venom to help produce antivenom.
“While The Australian Reptile Park saves approximately 300 lives each year through our antivenom program in conjunction with BioCSL, experience tells us basic awareness and safety can also help save lives,” Mr Rumsey said.
“All households should keep grass areas around houses low and well maintained; also avoid piling up leftover wood from winter or accumulating stick piles.
“Tin sheets or any household items like these that are piled up, can draw in heat providing a perfect man-made habitat for snakes. These areas provide a safe house for snakes as they sit in stealth mode awaiting prey to feed, and if startled they will defend through biting.”
Basic first aid includes keeping the bite victim calm and immobile, applying a pressure-immobilisation bandage to the bite site on the entire limb, not just the bite area and seeking emergency medical assistance immediately by calling an ambulance or going directly to hospital.
The Australian Reptile Park houses over 250 of the world’s most venomous snakes.
The Australian species are milked fortnightly by the venom keepers, as part of the park’s venom program for the production of antivenom. Some of Australia’s deadliest snakes milked as a part of the program. They include taipans, eastern brown snakes, king brown snakes, tiger snakes, death adders, and black snakes.
- To book online tickets for the Australian Reptile Park, and for more information, visit reptilepark.com.au