The World Health Organisation (WHO) has categorised snakebite and human snake conflict as an unrecognised global epidemic. One Durban-based herpetologist, Cormac Price, is researching the behaviour of urban snakes and the interaction with humans in an effort to address this epidemic. He will share some of his findings as part of the Crocworld Conservation Centre monthly talk, taking place on Saturday, 8 February.
Getting to know Cormac
Having grown up in Dublin, Ireland with a passion for the ecology and conservation of reptiles and amphibians, Cormac went on to complete his BSc in Zoology at the University College Dublin, and his Master’s in Biodiversity and Conservation at Trinity College Dublin. This amphibian and reptilian passion led him to Indonesia and Nepal, before taking him to Durban where his research has continued.
He recently completed his PhD at the University of KwaZulu-Natal where he examined different aspects of the ecology of two species of freshwater terrapin – the serrated hinged terrapin (Pelusios sinuatus) and the marsh terrapin (Pelomedusa galeata) – under the supervision of Professor Colleen Downs.
Cormac now works closely with expert local herpetologist, and the founder and owner of KZN Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (www.kznamphibianreptileconservation.com), Nick Evans. The main focus of their work, based in Durban and surrounds, is to examine the ecology of the black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) and Mozambique spitting cobra (Naja mossambica).
A sneak preview of the talk
“It is estimated that 7 331 people die from snakebite envenomation annually in sub-Saharan Africa alone,” said Cormac, outlining his research. “Durban finds itself in a very unique position as a city with over 3.5 million resident citizens, and a stable population of both the world’s second longest venomous snake and a spitting cobra species – yet there have been no recorded human fatalities within the city since before 2015. This makes Durban an incredible research site as a way to understand the behaviour of urban snakes, how they avoid human confrontation, and how they and the people of Durban react when they come into contact with one another.”
During his talk, Cormac will highlight some of the initial findings on the urban ecology of the black mamba and Mozambique spitting cobra, while stressing the significance of both species in the remaining natural habitats in Durban.
“Our current research is vital to help keep snake-human conflict at an absolute minimum, and to protect the populations of both species and the habitats they reside in,” continued Cormac. “Internationally, Durban is an extremely important study site for urban reptile research and it could become a leading example to other cities with resident populations of potentially dangerous snake species.”
Martin Rodrigues, Manager of Crocworld Conservation Centre, said Cormac’s talk is set to outline valuable snake-related information as well as some really interesting facts about these snake species: “Every KwaZulu-Natal resident has either encountered one of these species, or knows someone close to them who has, yet the incident of fatalities has been non-existent the past few years. Cormac’s talk will not only explain this highly unusual phenomenon, but also shed some light on these often-misunderstood species.”
The cost of the tickets is R50 per person and includes entrance into the centre as well as an Early Bird Breakfast with tea or coffee. For more information or to make a booking, contact Morne van Zyl at the Fish Eagle Café on 083 658 7073 or email email@example.com. Alternatively, contact Martin Rodrigues on 078 484 1859 or Crocworld Conservation Centre on 039 976 1103.
To contact Cormac about his research or potential talks or collaborations, find him on Twitter at @C_MrPrice or email firstname.lastname@example.org.