Reptile Rescue Incorporated.... How we manage,operate and provide service in Tasmania.
Ian Norton, Richard and Maria Novy, and Ian Davies established Reptile Rescue in 1999. With Assistance from DPIPWE, where it evolved into the entity that it is today. The executive, now chaired by Ian Norton, (Underwood) with executive members Maria Novy, (Hobart) Jane Guy, (Perth, Tasmania) Dr. Sue Woinarski, (Weymouth) Sylvia Norton, (Underwood) and Sally Wilson, (Launceston) continues to evolve.
Our Director of Operations and Coordinator is Chris Daly, (Hobart) who works in a voluntary capacity, along with Justin Kneebone, (also from Hobart) as his assistant. Justin is Chris Daly's deputy, and coordinates all southern snake awareness programs. Along with Maria Novy, this team services the display and training needs in the south of the state.
Reptile Rescue is a registered incorporated charity that relies on phone networking to coordinate errant snake relocation service provision, (via a statewide number) supported by a DPIPWE Resource Management corporate phone account, and funded by that agency. The phone accounts for approximately 85% of our running costs, and was commissioned to assist with snake management not previously managed by DPIPWE.
Park Rangers in the northwest of the state have undertaken training and will now manage their own snake relocation where they occur on their campsites within a National Park. It's hoped that this service provision will be rolled out statewide.
Many Local Government Councils throughout the state now support Reptile Rescue, either financially or by providing trained staff to service their municipality, We encourage more councils to come on board with this initiative, by providing training to further advance statewide snake management.
Reptile Rescue is primarily an errant snake relocation service, and as a charity, not for profit. However we do attract funds through our Snake Awareness, and Management training programs that operate statewide.
This funding pays our liability insurance obligations and sundry running expenses. All our callout operatives are stand alone contractors obligated to do the call whether they receive a remuneration donation or not, where payment isn't forthcoming, then Reptile Rescue compensates for that callout. We currently have over eighty trained operatives on the books; however approximately twenty are active statewide.
As contractors, all our operatives are obligated to be equipped and have a mobile phone at their own expense. Reptile Rescue funds their individual public liability insurance. Where there is a deficit in a region, Reptile Rescue will supply equipment; however ownership resides with Reptile Rescue until the operative is positioned to purchase his own. We continue to encourage recruitment, especially in regions that are currently un-serviced.
Reptile Rescue also stands ready to supply antivenom to regional medical facilities where the government fails us. We are obligated to do this under our risk management process through Workplace Standards, that agency has not mandated that directive; the decision was Reptile Rescue’s.
Reptile Rescue Inc. is a licensed research institute and has an active program that has been operating at our Wesley Vale site since 2000, and will continue for another 5-10 years. As a licensed institute we are interested in oversight of other researchers with similar projects that further the advancement of herpetological Science. The institute is under the oversight of DPIPWE Animal Ethics Committee.
Reptile Rescue is also a snake management service provider for government and the private sector. We have two of our executive, Maria Novy and myself Ian Norton, currently undertaking accreditation in Training and assessment to give us national training and assessment credentials.
Once funding requirements are met, any access funds are transferred to a fixed term scholarship account that is intended to financially support allied scientific research, or science scholars to advance the interests of herpetology Australia wide. this will operate via a recipient grant application and will be judged by an independent panel to ensure transparency.
In October Reptile Rescue will launch a state wide Snake awareness program to educate the Tasmanian community to the vagaries of living with snakes, including first aid preparedness. As part of this program, Reptile Rescue is negotiating with local media and service clubs to support this campaign.
The aim is to provide snakebite first aid kits to all National Parks, so that bushwalkers can borrow them when they sign in at the park. At the moment EPIRB's are available for hire, it's intended that bandage packs that can be worn on a belt, be handed out free of charge; however a deposit may be appropriate to ensure their return.
Reptile Rescue is receptive to national and perhaps international collaboration, and open to exploring partnerships with similar national service provision agencies/agency.
For any information on snake relocation, recruitment, training, Snake awareness programs, Displays, and advice on snakebite first aid, Our contact number statewide is: 0407 565 181
Fifty years working with snakes has taught me the value of pressure bandages and reliance of appropriately administered antivenom. Having had a few close encounters and witnessing several others, I have become instinctively aware of the impact and the necessary life saving clinical management, a requirement in response to effective snakebite.
A recent incident became a reality check for many of us, when Sal, one of Reptile Rescue’s most proficient snake wrangles, was bitten on the leg by a large tiger snake. Five minutes passed before she was aware that she had been bitten, and while first aid was being administered, became increasingly ill as she experienced systemic reactions to the venom.
Within 30 minutes while waiting for an ambulance Sal’s condition deteriorated at an alarming rate, indicating an intravenous bite, left untreated for much longer would have resulted in fatal consequences.
On arrival at the Launceston General Hospital, Sal was administered with 6,000 units, intravenously, of monovalent tiger snake antivenom, and when arrived at the LGH I advised of the necessity of a further 6,000 units after which Sal started to respond and was soon transferred from emergency to intensive care.
During the night Sal had another 18,000 units before her blood Coagulopathy normalised, which begs the question what would have happened had this incident occurred in a remote region of the state?
An important factor that must be considered is the first aid response and the implication that it has on clinical management. The majority of snakebite recipients present with no first aid applied. There is much work to be done in this regard.
So lets look at the systemic reaction to an envenomation. In most cases bites occur to the lower section of the limb, on the arm or leg, with bites to other parts of the body in the minority. In most cases the venom is transported via the lymphatic system, through the lymph nodes eventually hitting targets throughout the body by means of the circulatory system.
The venom is made up of four key components that attack a variety of targets, interrupting coagulopathy and blockading the neurological transmission of acetylcholine, vital to muscle function, at the neuromuscular junction. The heart is a muscle, if affected, can prove fatal.
Myolytic compounds that reach the presynaptic neuromuscular junction are not reversed when anti venom is administered and is an important factor in clinical management. Where first aid is delayed rhabdomyolysis can lead to a secondary cause of death
Rhabdomyolysis, loosely translated as muscle protein escaping into the circulatory system, can have a devastating effect on minor blood vessels. If cerebral, it can result in a stroke, and myoglobinuria or blood in urine is an indicator of possible tubular necrosis a precursor to renal failure and/or permanent kidney damage.
So getting back to Sal’s case study described earlier, clinical treatment becomes a life and death imperative when remotely separated from help, and becomes critically urgent where the bite is exacerbated by intravenous infusion.
With all this in mind it begs the question as to the rationale behind withdrawal of antivenom from Regional Medical Facilities. This decision alone places all the Reptile Rescue field operatives throughout the state at risk when relocating errant snakes from people’s properties. Add to this the dangers of snakebite to people on walking tracks in remote locations throughout the state, and the danger escalates. For decades anti venom has been stocked at medical centres around the state, and for good reason.
Whether it’s because of snake awareness programs educating people to be snake wise, incidents still occur. On average 300 people are treated for snakebite Australia wide and between 1-2% per annum here in Tasmania, the possible death of just one victim warrants a rethink of the distribution policy by hospital Bureaucrats wanting to centralize services.
Reptile Rescue Incorporated is a charity that has over eighty field operatives on the books; however as few as twenty reliably service the state.
As an organisation we are reliant on the benevolence of the community to run our snake awareness and training programs. However under workplace standards we have an obligation to ensure our people and the community in general are guaranteed appropriate medical treatment in the event of snakebite.
As an organisation we stand ready to maintain availability of antivenom at regional medical facilities where there are practitioners capable of administering clinical treatment, protocols and procedures.