Snakes in the class!

A group of students and staff from the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources Sciences recently, with much bravado and hidden fears, handled several reptiles in class, including a Black Mamba, a snake said to be amongst the most deadly in the world.

Their interaction with the scary creatures occurred during a workshop aimed at increasing awareness of the value and importance of reptiles and amphibians to the natural ecosystem and tourism economy of the country.

The event was organised by Associate Professor and Herpetologist, Jill Heaton, from the University of Nevada, USA. She delivered a series of workshops on reptile and amphibian research and taught capacity building to NUST staff and students as well as representatives of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism. The series of workshops entailed conveying the safe handling and removal of snakes. The demonstrations were conducted by Francios Theart, an expert who is also the founder of ‘Snakes of Namibia’ on Facebook. Previous workshop participants were also treated to a half-day field trip to Grossherzog Friedrichberg at Regenstein Estates where they saw the three Namibian endemic lizards, known as Herero Nama, Jordan’s Girdled and the Festive Gecko.

Heaton’s research in Namibia has to date contributed significantly to participants’ understanding of the ecology and biology of local reptile species.

A Senior Lecturer in the Department, Dr Morgan Hauptfleisch, said Namibia has a globally significant diversity of reptiles, but our understanding of their abundance, distribution and population health is limited. “Hopefully, the workshops have contributed to our ability to conserve reptiles and their habitats. In addition, they have also dispelled myths about snakes and explained the practical aspects of safe handling and translocation,” he said.

Heaton has presented workshops in Windhoek, Etosha, Keetmanshoop and Uis.

Date: 
Friday, February 19, 2016
for Month: 
February, 2016

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