Facing fears at snake-handling course

In a first for most, members of 2nd Health Battalion’s preventative medicine team conducted a venomous snake-handling and relocation course at Gallipoli Barracks, Brisbane, last month.

CAPTION: Privates Leah Gustafson and Sylvia Ng from 2nd Health Battalion hold an Olive Python during the venomous snake handling and relocation course at Gallipoli Barracks, Brisbane. Story and photo by Private Thomas de Weger.

Personnel were trained to safely assess, capture and relocate venomous and non-venomous snakes in a variety of environments.

Course instructor Euan Edwards, a wildlife professional for more than 25 years, from Elapid Environmental, commended the soldiers for their eagerness to learn and handle the serpents.

“I have been teaching this course to prevent med for three years now and it is always a delight,” Mr Edwards said.

“The Army trainees are often on the more cautious side when handling snakes, compared to civilians who occasionally aren’t cautious enough.”

Personnel were instructed on first aid, identification of common species and their behaviours, personal protective and snake-handling equipment.

Captain Alex Tweedale, an environmental health officer, said a lot of soldiers were anxious and apprehensive when faced with a snake at the beginning.

“As the course progressed the difference in members’ behaviours and attitude was astonishing,” she said.

“Everyone became more relaxed, confident and eager to get their hands on the snakes.”

In field and operational environments, preventative medicine teams can be called on to assess the level of threat and remove a snake if deemed appropriate.

“This capability reassures others and provides much needed advice, protection and safety,” Captain Tweedale said.

“All of the course participants hope to provide a greater capability to protect their fellow soldiers following the completion of this course.”


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