"Slang­man" and his slith­er­ing side­kicks

Vuk'uzenzele - - General - Galoome Shopane

SNAKES ARE AMONG the most feared and mis­un­der­stood of all an­i­mals, but a Mpumalanga-born man is de­ter­mined to change the myth that ‘the only good snake is a dead snake’.

With a pet boa con­stric­tor called Ce­cilia, it is lit­tle won­der Harry Baloyi (34) has earned the nick­name “Slang­man”.

Baloyi is com­mit­ted to chang­ing per­cep­tions about snakes and his job at the Bloem­fontein Zoo gives him the per­fect plat­form to do so.

Baloyi was in­tro­duced to rep­tiles by his grand­fa­ther who bred snakes and crocodiles.

“My fam­ily is part of a com­mu­nity that lives near the Kruger Na­tional Park and I be­came a stu­dent guider at around 13 years old.”

Baloyi has been bit­ten many times but says only three were sig­nif­i­cant be­cause the other bites came from “baby snakes who didn’t know what they were do­ing”.

“I have been bit­ten by a co­bra a puff adder and an African rock python but I’m still here and my love for snakes hasn’t changed,” he ex­plained.

As the tem­per­a­tures rise, snakes be­come more ac­tive. Baloyi ad­vises that if you are bit­ten by a snake, you should seek med­i­cal help as quickly as pos­si­ble. He strongly ad­vises against us­ing a tourni­quet (a tight, restrict­ing ban­dage or piece of cloth) to pre­vent blood flow be­cause the re­sult­ing con­cen­tra­tion of poi­son may lead to an am­pu­ta­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to Baloyi, Math, Sci­ence And Bi­ol­ogy are com­pul­sory sub­jects fif you want to be­come a her­petol­o­gist like him.

A her­petol­o­gist spe­cialises in the study of am­phib­ians which in­clude rep­tiles.

Work­ing with rep­tiles has taught Baloyi the im­por­tance of treat­ing an­i­mals in a hu­mane and re­spect­ful way.

Among his many achieve­ments, Baloyi was named the Best Rep­tile Keeper in 2008 by the Na­tional Zoo and he was the one who found the black mamba that was lost at Pre­to­ria Zoo in 2013.

Baloyi’s fu­ture plans in­clude run­ning an in­sti­tu­tion that pre­serves and breeds rep­tiles while teach­ing mem­bers of the pub­lic more about th­ese in­ter­est­ing but of­ten feared crea­tures.

He said that his love of snakes can be com­pared to his love for his chil­dren and he is cer­tain that cre­at­ing aware­ness about them is his God-given pur­pose.

“Peo­ple don’t re­alise that an­i­mals are be­ings cre­ated by God, hence they treat them with cru­elty. Snakes are not evil. They are part of the ecosys­tem; if they weren’t there, the ecosys­tem would be in­com­plete. Mice would run havoc and as hu­man be­ings, we would get very sick be­cause both hu­mans and rats are mam­mals and we can pass dis­eases eas­ily be­tween each other. So in essence, snakes help keep us safe,” he said.

Her­petol­o­gist Harry Baloyi with his pet Ce­cilia.

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