In an average year, LGAQ staff make and answer 100,000 or so phone calls and receive more than 50,000 emails but prior to 2020, no one reported handling an enquiry about… handling snakes.
So, when the call came in August from Napranum Aboriginal Shire Council to say the community was experiencing greater than usual venomous snake activity, in particular with a couple of large coastal taipans – the world’s third most venomous snake – around its aged care and childcare centres, it created an unprecedented challenge.
Through discussions with other councils on the western side of Cape York, it became apparent the problem was in fact widespread and in need of swift attention, so Napranum approached the LGAQ to urgently organise snake handling and relocation training.
‘Ranger Dan’ Bamblett, owner of Hands on Wildlife, drove from Townsville – with his snakes – to the Napranum Community Hall to conduct the first course of its kind the LGAQ has carried out, covering snake identification, snake and reptile behaviour, zero-contact (safe use of hooks and tongs) handling techniques for venomous and non-venomous snakes and, of course, proper first aid treatment for snakebite.
The course is a pre-requisite for obtaining the Damage Mitigation Permit that is required to capture and re-locate snakes, and Hands on Wildlife is one of the Department of Environment and Science’s approved training providers.
Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council's Land Sea and Environment Manager, Scott Olds, said the training was outstanding.
"The training has changed our whole mindset on dealing with snakes; our understanding and our confidence in handling them. Everyone on our course felt it was the best thing they have ever done," Scott said.
It often takes remote councils coming together on a regional basis, to ensure adequate numbers and make training affordable, for workshops like this to be viable. In all, 20 participants – from hosts Napranum, Mapoon, Lockhart River and Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Councils and Weipa Town Authority – did the course and funding from the Indigenous VET Partnerships program, known as the Indigenous Capacity Building Program, was used to run it.
The need for more of this training is evident, with both 10-person sessions with Ranger Dan fully subscribed and eight participants making the 14-hour roundtrip from Kowanyama to take part.
Other First Nations councils have requested that the training be repeated in the new year.
Left: Shernel Banjo - Animal Control Officer, Kowanyama. Right: Aelan Victor - Parks and Gardens, Kowanyama.