All creatures, great and small

By Dr Dean Sim 

 

Had I been paying attention to the message contained in the lines of that great old children’s hymn all those years ago, I may have avoided years of suffering. 11m referring, of course, to the skin-crawling revulsion many of us experience at the sight of Eve’s nemesis, the snake!

The weighty task of exposing my bigotry fell upon the slight shoulders of my 10 year old, Mathian. Out of the blue one day, much to my horror, he announced his heartfelt desire to keep a snake .Taking this to be an passing boyhood fancy, I reluctantly responded with a “we’ll see”, hoping to goodness that he would move on. He didn’t, and when I made the fateful mistake of letting Mat’s intentions slip in conversation with Lauren, my receptionist, my fate was sealed. With missionary zeal her husband Mark, a Nature Conservation Officer, set the wheels in motion. My polite protestations were no match for his evangelistic fervour. No sooner had I relented, and Jackie Fang (she does Slang Fu), the Natal Brown House Snake, had taken up residence in our home. “Yeah, right!” I thought as Mark assured me that Jackie was a great first choice (there’s to be more?) as she had “such a sweet personality”. Despite my serious misgivings about this whole venture, getting to know Jackie has freed my whole family (including Mavis, our Xhosa nanny) from our debilitating fear. I’m now a born again, card-carrying member of the Port Elizabeth Herpetological Society! Our family’s new-found fascination for creepy crawlies has exposed us to the pernicious consequences of this universal prejudice. The victims of this wanton persecution are now finding their way into the practice and found myself feeling really angry ( and sad ) recently at the sight of dying Red Lipped Herald who’s only crime “ was to dine on a frog in the presence of a domestic dog.

Snakes make really wonderful pets. They are inexpensive to keep and have a relatively long lifespan compared with other popular pets like hamsters and rabbits. A legally obtained snake comes with a valid free permit. Never capture a snake from the garden or the veld, as this is illegal. Nature Conservation officials warn that these snakes will be confiscated and the holder fined. These fines range from R300 to R1 500 per snake. If more than one snake is being held· and the fine exceeds R1 500, the person has, by law, to submit to arrest and the opening of a formal police charge docket. Legally-obtained snakes are ideal for youngsters who may not be ready for the huge responsibility of a dog or cat that will surely demand a lot more attention. They are low maintenance (they eat twice a month, and use the 100 at about the same frequency), will teach children from a young age to respect the law, and are an excellent way to implant in our children a sense of wonder and respect for life and all creatures, great and small. You may even convert a few adult “specists” in the process!

© Pet’s Health

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