Primary school students in Dorrigo have chalked up an extreme experience: coming face to face with the world’s most venomous snake.
During a one-hour education session they were within centimetres of the Fierce Snake, also (erroneously) known as the Inland Taipan.
The Fierce Snake, a shy, rarely seen snake from the desert regions of Central Australia, is acknowledged as having the most toxic venom of any snake, a hundred times more potent than the Asian Cobra.
The schoolchildren also encountered Eastern Browns and Tiger Snakes, which rate among the world’s most dangerous.
Australian pioneer snake breeder, catcher and educationalist, Bob Withey of Snake Tails, held students from Dorrigo Public and Mount St John’s Primary Schools spellbound.
The children pressed their noses against the glass security cages of the dangerous snakes, handled a far gentler python and also met various Australian lizards, skinks and turtles.
Mr Withey has been breeding reptiles for 60 years and educating Australians, especially young ones, for more than half that time.
He estimates he has brought his talk, which busts myths about snakes, teaches facts about reptiles and provides simple tips to avoid snake bite, to more than one million young Australians.
His main points were:
- All snakes are deaf and have very poor eyesight; most respond to movement
- A majority of snakes bites in Australia occur when people attempt to catch, kill or move them
- Snakes strike at humans as a last means of self defence
- You can avoid snake bites by avoiding snakes
- When confronted by a snake, stand still until the snake feels less threatened and moves away
During his myth-busting session, Mr Withey explained that snakes can’t outrun horses, humans can walk faster than snakes can crawl and snakes aren’t “slimy”.
He warned students that many school grounds attract Eastern Browns because food scraps abandoned by children attract mice and rats and these are favourite prey for Brown Snakes.
His presentation was spiced with anecdotes about his life with reptiles and hands-on meetings with many of his cold-blooded friends, including a 22-year-old Blue Tongue Lizard, more correctly identified as a skink.
Students and teachers rated Mr Withey’s presentation as “awesome”.