When I moved to the Lowveld in 2003 my natural interest in reptiles quickly pushed me into the local ring of Herpers. There were a few really passionate individuals and the ever so common “Ego Wrangler”. All great characters none the less. There was a bit of Ad- hoc capture and removal of reptiles going on and I wanted some of it. My Position at the parks board allowed me to structure the capture and removal “clan” better to fit in more to our modern day conservation principles. Over the years to follow a natural progression developed where people who wanted to be involved in removing reptiles had to prove their competence and receive a permit to do so.
This slow progression allowed the true Herper’s their capture freedom as a volunteer with the backing of the Parks Board and eliminated the “Ego Wrangler” trying to make money out of the service. This together with the constant media coverage relating to reptiles in the Lowveld spread like wild fire. The public now had an easy way out when a Mozambique Spitting cobra was under the fridge. They could now simply reach for the cell phone instead of the shot gun, and it’s free!!
The group “Reptile Recovery” hatched into a network of volunteers who safely catch and remove unwanted reptiles throughout the Mpumalanga province. A testament to the success of this initiative is seen with the number of calls we receive a day in the summer months now in 2016 compared to 2004. We thought we were busy in 2004 with up to 5 calls a day, however in 2016 we can expect at least 8 to 15 call outs on any given day across the Lowveld..
This is also how the Venomous reptile Capture and Handling Course started. (View Our Course Info Pack) We had to start training farmers and workers to catch the snakes themselves to lighten the load of “in season” offenders. Not only that, but a practical solution had to be sought for the petrol price increases. We could not expect the Reptile Recovery volunteers to drive out to these volumes of call outs and still keep it a free service. Passion is one thing but surviving the modern day economy is the reality.