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Snap shots from 11th Oppenheimer Research Conference

The Oppenheimer Research Conference creates a platform for researchers and practitioners in conservation sustainability to share their knowledge to increase its impact. Here are a few snap shots of presentations.

Bryan Maritz: The ecology of snakebite in southern Africa: lessons from trapping studies

Keeping track of where and when snakes and people are likely to cross paths can save lives. “Snakebite is a huge global and African issue, but efforts to mitigate against the effects of snakebite have focused on the treatment of snakebite, and frequently ignored the prevention of snakebite,” says Bryan Maritz. “By studying the snakes themselves, our research begins to identify elements of snake biology that may make interactions with humans more or less likely,” he says.

The work of Maritz and his students shows that (1) Mozambique Spitting Cobras can occur at high population densities, resulting in frequent interactions with people, (2) foraging Cape Cobras don’t move around the landscape randomly, rather preferentially foraging in spaces with high resource availability, and (3) Bibron’s Stiletto Snakes show large variation in activity patterns (and thus the risk they pose to people) and that those patterns may be predictable.

He says that “These ideas are important because of (1) the huge public health challenge that snake envenomation has on the African people, and (2) because a representative and skilled research community is critical to the sustainability of any broad-scale efforts to mitigate against human-wildlife conflict (including snakebite).

Bryan Maritz is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology at the University of the Western Cape. Together with students and collaborators, he performs research on the ecology, evolution, and conservation of African reptiles, particularly snakes.

Yves Vanderhaeghen

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