Reports of venomous snakes in gated communities of Dubai have been doing the rounds in the media and online forums over the last two weeks.
Parents are now a worried lot. Their children, already being on a summer lock-down because of the heat, now face a ban on garden time even after the sun has set.
Residents of the Emirates Living development Dubai were placed on high alert when two such venomous reptiles were found dead on a street in Al Hattan, Lakes Community. A resident who spotted the pair took a picture.
"The picture I saw was of the saw-scaled viper, which is deadly," says Reza Khan, wildlife and zoo specialist here in Dubai.
Immediately warnings went out to residents of the gated community, who were advised to keep an eye on their children playing, and not to take late night walks.
"The other day my son was playing in an open field. He picked up a tree branch, when suddenly another mother approached me to warn me of what she knew.
“She said that deadly vipers had been spotted, and that I should not let my child pick up anything found in the grass," says Kinana Homsi-Mardini from Syria.
However, the reality may seem less horrific.
Motaher Hossain, Pest Management Specialist of the Pest Control Section of Dubai Municipality says the Al Hattan snake was in fact a ‘Psammophis Schokari’, which is a mildly toxic to harmless species.
"This species is also called the sand or tree snake. It might harm other animals, but is harmless to human beings.
“It was this snake that was found in Al Hattan and it is the most common snake found in residential areas," Hossain says.
“There are about eight different species around us here in the UAE, but only two are deadly poisonous," he adds.
Last year a snake was found in a villa of the same community and several residents have reportedly spotted snakes in garden areas.
"Fatal encounters are rare," says Reza, "people should not be afraid.
“In the 30 years that I have worked in the field here, I have only heard of one fatal incident. And I have not heard of a venomous snake seen in residential areas before."
Keep the vipers at bay
Yet, snakes might make their way to the gardens of gated communities, as they are naturally on the move, looking for rodents, lizards and mice.
Especially gardens and trees are a likely habitat of the reptile, but less likely do they enter the house, explains Motaher.
"They usually avoid people. What might happen is that they crawl into a tree and enter an open window from a branch. To avoid this, people can cut off these branches.”
“Another way of making the creature unwelcome to the house is to be tidy. No rubbish should be left behind, and rodents and mice should be avoided," he advises.
Should a snake have found its way to your garden or home, stay calm.
"Do not play with it or try to chase it.
“You never know what snake you are dealing with, so it is best to avoid the encounter and call a pest control company," says Motaher.
In case a snake has bitten you, there are a do's and don’t's, according to the Pest Control Section:
- Stay calm
- Call an ambulance
- Take off any watch/bracelet on the same arm that is targeted
- Keep the bitten part of the body in vertical position and do not move it
- Clean the wound with a piece of cotton or tissue, but do not attach it to the wound
- Take a picture of the snake to present to the doctor, but without putting yourself to risk
- Take pain killers
- Put ice on the wound
- Suck out the poison
- Wash the wound with water
- Drink alcohol or caffeine