As Durbanites shed their clothes, dive into swimming pools, and put their aircon on full tilt to beat the sun and heat, the City’s snakes are enjoying it in all their glory. For this is their busy time. Out of hibernation, they are relishing the tropical humidity, summer rains, dense coastal habitats, and plenty of delicious food, like the rats, mice, and frogs that it provides. And, of course, that means plenty of action for Simon Keys, Siouxsie Gillett and fellow snake catchers Neville Wolmarans, Jason Arnold, Byron Zimmerman, and Nick Evans. This team of Durban reptile heroes will feature in the hugely popular reality television series “Snake City as seen on National Geographic WILD”.
Filmed in Durban, “Snake City” has already notched up six seasons and has been flighted in 117 countries. The impact on human attitudes towards snakes has been profound. The series has resulted in more and more people phoning for a snake catcher, instead of simply killing the snake. While the show delivers the adrenaline-fuelled ride that makes for good television, it’s underlying purpose is to save the snakes that have so few human friends.
With over 2500 successful catches between them, Simon and Siouxsie are passionate about the planet’s creatures and simply love what they do. “We love helping snakes out, often saving them from certain death, but we also love working with the team to educate people through the captures,” says Simon. “Snakes play such an important role in the ecosystem, and people tend to forget that they do a great service to us by keeping rodent populations down. Creatures have a right to be on the planet, and we see our role as helping to educate people about this through the series. The more we as humans understand, the less afraid we become of something.”
“It seems that the series is really making a difference in people’s attitudes about snakes,” enthuses Siouxsie. “We really have two deadly snakes in South Africa – that’s the green and black mamba. To many people then, any black or green snake is seen as highly dangerous. I think by showcasing the difference in snakes, we have been able to make people see that a variety of harmless snakes do exist and there is no need to fear them as much as they do.”
Back in Surf City to film Snake City, the team is available to attend to calls from people in the greater Durban area, who have a snake that needs to be saved, removed and relocated. There is no charge for a call out, and the caller may even be lucky enough to end up on TV. The contact number, which has changed from previous seasons, is now 063 234 6932.