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The Mambas and Forgotten Victims of Swaziland

September 14, 2017

Snakes, for most, are something evil and to be feared. They are not this cuddly cute little fur ball that everyone wants to hold, touch, love and even own.  There is one person in Swaziland that is trying to make a difference for one of the most feared snakes in Southern Africa, the Black Mamba.  

 

 Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis)

 

Through this the founder of the Swazi Antivenom Foundation (SAF), Thea Litschka Koen, is also trying to make a difference for the local people who have very little access to something that could be the difference between life and death, antivenom!  If every snake encountered was killed, there would be a huge imbalance in natural ecology.  Thea not only catches and relocates the snakes, she educates as many people as she can about the importance of snakes, and trains staff at clinics how to correctly deal with snake bites.

 

Below is by Swazi Antivenom Foundation

 

"Swazi Antivenom Foundation aims to raise funds to treat snake bite victims in Swaziland. Snakebite is a disease of circumstance and poverty. The majority of bites are received by the rural poor and often result in loss of life, limb or the ability to work because of life changing injury. Timely treatment with appropriate antivenom, along with modern medical care can prevent, reverse or at least minimise the major clinical aspects of snake envenoming. Sadly antivenoms are incredibly expensive when compared with the average incomes of the people most likely to require them. The country of Swaziland in southern Africa is particularly affected by snakebite. An abundance of dangerously venomous snakes and an overstretched medical budget manifest in a serious snakebite problem.

 

The Swazi Antivenom Foundation was set up to provide “hope and cure for snakebite victims in Swaziland”. Donations allow the purchase of polyvalent antivenom which can be used to treat bites from the most regularly encountered species, not least the black mamba and Mozambique spitting cobra. Money is also used to purchase other medical supplies essential for the treatment of snakebite. Each vial of antivenom costs £45 ($70). The organisation aims to create a bank of antivenom that can be supplied free of charge to victims of snakebite throughout the country, and plans to maintain emergency stocks in two locations so that antivenom can reach any patient who needs it by road within 2 hours.Antivenom is very expensive and unaffordable for most people in Swaziland. The cost to treat one mamba bite is about £650 ($1,000) — almost a year’s salary for many people. With a black mamba bite, paralysis can occur within 45 minutes and in Swaziland there are no hospitals with an ICU that has life support equipment. The closest hospital that is properly equipped to deal with snakebite is in South Africa, approximately 2.5 hours drive away. The border between the two countries is only open between 7am and 6pm, creating another obstacle for those who require immediate medical treatment in order to save their lives.

 

As well as providing free antivenom, the foundation visits schools, communities, companies and hospitals to educate people on the correct first-aid and medical treatment of snake bites. There is a desperate need to increase people’s knowledge of snakes: They need to identify and differentiate between venomous and non-venomous snakes and they must be taught what to do when they encounter a venomous snake. The foundation also provides free emergency call outs to people who need snakes removing from their property. They regularly visit schools, people’s homes and sugar cane plantations. All of the snakes are relocated away from human habitation and on a typical year this may number hundreds of snakes."

 

Read more about the work Thea and her husband, Clifton, does.

 

"HOPE FOR FORGOTTEN VICTIMS

 

There is such an incredible need for antivenom in most third world country, areas that are so remote, lack of knowledge and help.  Thea wrote, "I have always said that it's not possible to convince people to conserve and protect (snakes like the Black Mamba), if the outcome of snakebite is usually so tragic."

 

Photos below (c) Thea Litschka-Koen

 

Mduduzi was bitten by a Mozambique spitting cobra on both arms while he slept in the family bed. Without the intervention of Swazi Antivenom Foundation’s Thea Litschka-Koen he may have lost one arm, or may have died as a result of secondary infection

 

 

18 month old Ngwenya, another victim of a spitting cobra bite, had 2 and a half fingers amputated.

 

 

6 year old Busi suffered extensive tissue loss after being bitten by a Mozambique spitting cobra.

 

If you would like to get involved in this crucial cause please contact iRide4EW (i Ride 4 Endangered Wildlife)

 

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