We learn about snake safety from the Snake Bite Assist team who have dedicated themselves to educating us all about creatures so many are afraid of.

Snakes are terrifying for many of us, so the team at Snake Bite Assist have dedicated themselves to educating people on how to avoid being bitten by venomous snakes and how to keep certain snakes safely as pets. 

Director at Snake Bite Assist, Heidi Pfeifer and her daughter Charlene Gebhardt.

We visited Directors Arno Naude and Heidi Pfeifer to find out more about their work and meet their pets which include non-venomous Reticulated python, Ball python and Sinaloan milk snake as well as venomous variants. 

Arno estimates that he started with snakes from around 12 years of age. “As I grew older, I started getting calls from hospitals when someone was bitten by a snake and then I got more interested in the treatment of snake bites. This culminated in me eventually doing what I do, which is to train people so that we don’t have problems when people get bitten and that we can try and minimise the number of deaths.”

Heidi, who hails from Windhoek, Namibia has also had a long interest in snakes and reptiles. “I bumped into Arno and he’s pretty much taken my passion for reptiles to the next level where we’re helping people, breeding snakes and keeping people informed about what to do, and what not to do with snakes and snake bites.”    

Heidi keeps a venomous Gaboon adder as a pet, which pushes the limits of living on the edge. “I love Gaboon adders, just the sheer beauty of them… like the fact that when they lay in leaf litter, you can’t see them or spot them easily, and that they are venomous and can kill you. It gets your adrenaline flowing when you work with them,” she says.  

HeidI, together with her daughter Charlene have established a business that assists with snake bites and also relocates venomous snakes when people find them in their homes.

Like Heidi, paramedic Charlene Gebhardt has a passion for snakes which in her case started from a young age. “Growing up I was exposed to had snakes around in the house. We used to go on call-outs with my mom at a very young age, from around 10 years old, and that’s how I fell in love with snakes,” shares the enthusiast. 

Heidi's favourite snake to keep, the venomous Gaboon viper.

There’s something special about the thrill-seeking spirit that Heidi, Charlene and Arno share in their fascination with snakes.

For more information on the courses on handling and identify snakes, or bite treatment courses for field guides, keepers or hobbyists contact www.snakebiteassist.co.za