‘Dead’ rinkhals comes back to life – the dos and don’ts

Anthony Rochford handles a rinkhals.

Anthony Rochford handles a rinkhals.

Never play with snakes – even when you think they’re dead.

A Rynfield resident was at his plot in Putfontein, Benoni, recently when he heard the dogs bark.

Upon closer inspection, he saw a rinkhals, Benoni City Times reports.

READ MORE: WATCH: Mamba found under living room couch in Avoca

Not wanting to harm the serpent, he took the dogs and his children away from the area.

But before long, he said the snake was again in view of his young children.

He eventually hit the snake over the head with a wooden pole.

“I did not want to hurt the snake, but the children were playing there,” he said.

Thinking the snake was dead, he picked it up and used it to demonstrate to his eight-year-old daughter the body of the animal and the dos and don’t around snakes.

He exposed the fangs using his finger and wrapped the snake around his daughter’s arm.

“She said the snake was not dead because the eyes were moving.” But he was convinced the blows to the head sealed the fate of the snake.

After the exchange, he placed the serpent on a trailer.

Upon his return a few minutes later, the same snake was hooded on the ground.

The man said he couldn’t believe the snake had survived, saying the experience was scary.

“I never knew it played dead so well,” he told the City Times.

He said his daughter told him: “I told you, never play with snakes.”

What snakes you’re likely to encounter in Benoni

Anthony Rochford, a Benoni resident who has handled snakes for 40 years, said rinkhals are found in Benoni.

He said people and animals could also encounter the ‘skaapsteker’ and red lip (herald snake).

“But the venom of these snakes has virtually no effect on humans,” he said.

He said the rinkhals, however, is a ‘potentially deadly’ species.

“The venom is certainly far weaker than that of true cobras, mambas or puff adders,” said Rochford.

“It is easily identified by the white bands across the throat as well as its ability to rear up and spread a hood.

“Individuals from Gauteng are usually a dull grey/black colour and may grow to well over a metre.

“It is not particularly fast moving or aggressive and bites to humans are rare.”

Rochford’s tips to consider when bitten by a snake

• Don’t panic. This is not easy as to an uninformed person a snake bite is a major incident. Bear in mind that a fatality from a snake bite is a rare occurrence.

• Your best medical tool is your cellphone. Call emergency services and inform the nearest hospital while en route.

• Do not try to kill or catch the snake as this would risk further bites. If it can be done safely, take a photo of the snake for identification.

• Treat any snakebite as an emergency incident especially where children, old people or infirm adults are involved.

• Do not attempt to suction the bite area as this is generally ineffective and there is also a risk of secondary envenomation should the mouth have open wounds.

• For a mamba, cobra or rinkhals bite, a wide pressure bandage can be applied above the bite area to slow the progression of venom to the heart.

• Do not apply a tourniquet.

• Be prepared to administer CPR to the victim if necessary.

• Should any swelling be evident, remove tight clothing and jewellery.

• If possible keep the bite area below the heart.

• Do not give the victim anything to eat or drink, especially alcohol which will speed up the absorption of venom. Do not administer medication.

• The rinkhals can spit venom with reasonable accuracy up to about 8ft (2.3m).

• Venom on the skin is harmless but should be rinsed off immediately.

• Venom in the eyes causes instant irritation and should be washed out immediately to prevent secondary infection.

• Even bites from non-venomous snakes should be treated as a ‘dirty’ wound and cleaned thoroughly to prevent infection.

• If bitten by a rinkhals, you should have enough time to reach a hospital as the venom is not fast acting. If on foot and alone, walk, don’t run until you can reach assistance.

Where to seek help

Netcare Linmed Hospital pharmacy manager Melissa van der Merwe says the hospital does stock antivenom or sometimes called polyvalent antivenom (effective for more than one species of indigenous snake) which is effective against the following types of snake bites only:

• Puff adder.

• Gaboon adder.

• Rinkhals.

• Green mamba.

• Jamesons’s mamba.

• Cape cobra.

• Forest cobra.

• Snouted cobra – previously Egyptian cobra.

• Mozambique spitting cobra.

WATCH: Mamba found under living room couch in Avoca

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