New book dispels the myth that “The only good snake is a dead snake”

Challenging misinformation and raising awareness on snake conservation and safety in Zambia

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Author and Helping Hands in Snake Safety (HHISS) National Coordinator Marcel van Driel (third from right), with the FQM Trident Foundation Limited Team.

Snakes and snakebites have long been at the centre of many myths and legends in Zambian culture. The fear that these cold-blooded mesopredators elicit is however, largely based on incorrect notions about their nature and behaviour. This misinformation has unfortunately led to the endangerment of snakes and to life-threatening snakebite incidences.

Drawing on his vast wealth of experience on the often-neglected topic of snake conservation and safety, National Coordinator at Helping Hands in Snake Safety (HHISS) Marcel van Driel announced his latest publication: “Snakes and First Aid in Snakebites in Zambia” at a book launch on 26th August, 2022 that was hosted at the American Corner at NIPA.

The book, which was co-sponsored by First Quantum Minerals’ Trident Foundation along with Enviro-Flor Farm, aims to increase awareness of the significant role that snakes play in maintaining the biodiversity and balance within our natural ecosystems. This snake guide also provides instruction on life-saving snakebite treatments that can be administered in the event of a snakebite incident.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), snakebites are among some of the most neglected public health issues in tropical and subtropical countries like Zambia. Globally an estimated 2.7 million incidents of snakebite poisoning are recorded annually, 435,000 to 580,000 of which occur in Africa.

At the book launch, Guest of Honour Dr Alex Makupe, Director of Clinical Care at the Ministry of Health, highlighted the importance of disseminating the correct information about snakes and snakebites.

“Prompt first aid is very key in mitigating the effects of snakebites and there is need to sensitise the public on this important issue. This book therefore comes in handy to bridge the information gap starting with the community level, and it is my hope that we can start recording improved outcomes after snakebites,” he said.

“There is also need to update the various health programmes and curricula on snakebite management so that health practitioners are equipped with recent and evidence-based practices,” Dr Makupe added.

Trident Foundation, established with a mission to support social and ecological development around FQM Trident’s area of operation, partly sponsored the publication of this work because it aligns with its commitment to sensitising its communities on the positive impact that protecting biodiversity has on the environment.

“By advocating for protection of snakes through enhancement of community safety and effective response in case of a snakebite, it is possible that our communities shall drive wildlife conservation forward and upward,” remarked Trident Foundation representative David Squarre.

“It is our firm belief as Trident Foundation and our main sponsor, FQM Trident Limited, that this book will provide valuable knowledge about snakes and how to manage snakebites in Zambia.”

Dedicated to dispelling the common myths about snakes and to improving the treatment of snakebites in Zambia, this book is Mr van Driel’s latest addition to the work that he continues to do in and around communities in Zambia. Through HHISS and in partnership with organizations that share his vision of sustainable environmental development and proactive conservation, the author hopes to educate more people and raise community awareness on this issue.

Speaking on the process leading up to the publication of his book and on the support that made it possible, Mr van Driel said: “I would really love to express my sincere gratitude to the organizations that have funded this book and made it possible and that is, first of all, the Trident Foundation from the First Quantum mining company…and also the Enviro-Flor Farm.”

“What is important is that people understand that the sponsorship that made this book possible also ensures that all the proceeds of the book sales are going to enhance snake safety and that automatically means that 100% of all the sale money is going towards snakebite improvement in Zambia.”

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