College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science (CAES)

Snakes are Hissss Passion

Mr Warren Schmidt, author of Reptiles & Amphibians of Southern Africa, has enjoyed a lifelong interest in reptiles and amphibians which led to him receiving an MSc degree summa cum laude in Ecological Sciences.

His thesis, supervised by Professor Colleen Downs, investigated snake population declines and conservation and provided a global synthesis and perspectives from Southern Africa based on long-term field observations.

‘I have spent many mornings searching for lizards and snakes while tripping over birders trying to catch their early worms,’ joked Schmidt. ‘I avoid generating peculiar looks of disbelief by pretending to be one of the many birders rather than a singular herper (or snake fancier)!’

Schmidt is particularly interested in the impact of anthropogenic changing land use, especially urban development, on reptiles.

Schmidt has worked as a curator of reptiles at the Transvaal Snake Park and farm manager at Kwena Gardens Crocodile Sanctuary, as well as a photographer, writer and photojournalist.

He registered for his MSc at UKZN as a GR7 candidate – a mature candidate deemed to have obtained a prior level of competence adequate for postgraduate studies. His sterling results indicate he was more than up to the challenge!

Words: Sally Frost

Photographs: Andile Andries Ndlovu and Supplied