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Selfies with Snakes!

The newly launched Rosetta/Nottingham Road Conservancy kicked off the New Year with two great talks by renowned snake expert, Pat McKrill. They were each a great success and we look forward to inviting Pat to talk to us again in the future.  Sarah Ellis compiled this report.

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The first talk was primarily aimed at farm staff and gardeners and proved to be a real hit. We had approximately 75 locals, staff and a few school kids attend a very informative and interactive lecture under the trees at the NRLA Hall grounds which had everyone spellbound.

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Before the talk I asked Pat how good his Zulu was and he replied that when he had a live snake in his hands, he always had 100% concentration from everyone and everyone understood everything he said, even if he wasn’t 100% fluent in Zulu and how right he was!

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Pat explained that snakes were very like us and were only interested in finding food (mostly rats and frogs), a house to live in (such as woodpiles and dark areas to hide in) and that they also spent time looking for boyfriends or girlfriends! He had a couple of harmless and slightly venomous local and exotic snakes in boxes which he held up for us all to see and he encouraged everyone to hold and touch them.

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This was something most of the audience were extremely reluctant, if not terrified, to do but by the end, quite a few people had had a turn holding and feeling a snake and had experienced their cool non-slimy skin.

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It was interesting to note that most of the older men in the audience couldn’t bring themselves to do this but that most of the younger members were happy to do so and that they all wanted to pose for cellphone photos of themselves with a snake to show their friends!

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The event even turned into a bit of a photo-shoot which was a very unexpected and positive spin-off from the talk as they delighted in talking about the “show and tell” sessions they would have later with their friends.

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Pat also demonstrated very successfully how snakes would never harm us unless they felt threatened. He released snakes onto the ground within a circle of people who stood absolutely still and they quietly slithered around looking for a gap to escape without harming anyone – an American Boa also calmly slithered over a seated lady while on its way!

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The message was loud and clear: if you see a snake, stand still and it will move off as we are too big to be considered dinner and PLEASE don’t kill it as they do an enormous amount of good eating (mostly) rats.

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After the talk at Rawdons that evening we all decided that Pat should have his own TV show – he was so entertaining and interesting with all his animated snake facts and anecdotes. We were fascinated by what he had to say and could have listened for hours – do you know that a lady snake can keep sperm for up to 4 years until she decides to “use” it? He showed us a red-lipped herald which was now full of eggs even though he had had her on her own for 3 years! This talk, which was also pleasingly attended by about 75 people, was obviously more detailed and interactive and also provided an opportunity for interested people to handle these misunderstood reptiles.

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This talk was funding by N3TC through the MCF Environmental Learning and Leadership programme.  Thank you Pat for a wonderful start to our monthly Conservancy talks!