Avatar photo

By Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor

Brave battle to the end: ‘Truly fearless’ WC snake handler succumbs to cobra bite

'Never seen such a reaction': Doctors were stunned that eight doses of antivenom could not save the life of snake handler Rico Pentz.

Respected Western Cape snake handler and wildlife rescuer Rico Pentz has tragically passed away on Monday after he was bitten by a snouted cobra on a call-out last week.

The 39-year-old Helderberg Wildlife Rescue and Animal Anti-Cruelty founder and father of three was rushed to the emergency unit at Mediclinic Vergelegen on Wednesday evening where he received eight doses of antivenom.

Snake handler Rico Pentz: No response to antivenom

Pentz’s mother, Rosa Steenkamp, told Netwerk24 that due to the risk of anaphylactic shock, hospital staff could not administer more antivenom although additional doses might have been required.

According to Steenkamp, Pentz showed no sign of responding to the antivenom.

“It seemed as if his body was not responding to the antidote. The doctors say they have never seen such a reaction.”

Rico Pentz ‘fought for animals and his family’

The father of three was moved to Tygerberg Hospital’s intensive care unit on Friday, where he was put on life support. Pentz, however, sadly passed away on Monday.

“Rico was a person who fought for animals and his family. He did not like injustice and would stand up against it, no matter what it was. He was truly fearless,” Steenkamp, who was at his hospital bed alongside his life partner, Eva Freedom, until the very end.

Wildlife rescuer and snake handler Rico Pentz worked at Eagle Encounters at the time of his death. Photo via Facebook/ Rico Pentz

Pentz, who worked at Eagle Encounters on the Spier Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, reportedly underwent extensive treatment in the past when he was bitten by venomous puffadders in two separate incidents.

Snake season alert

According to a release by Cape Town’s Mountain Club of South Africa (MCSA), the main snakebite season is from January to April/May – hot and wet summer months and during this period about 80% of snakebites in Southern Africa are recorded.

ALSO READ: WATCH: Rescuers battle huge squadron of SA’s deadliest snakes due to heatwave

Cape Town’s deadly snake trio and what to do

Western Cape reptile expert Tyrone Ping  said Cape cobras, boomslangs and puff adders are “the only three most venomous snakes to worry about” in Cape Town.

Durbanville, snake catcher Andries Cilliers said harmless mole snakes were in abundance in the Cape Town area and along the West Coast.

He advised Capetonians to regularly trim the trees in their garden and cautioned people who encounter a snake to always maintain a distance of five metres, “especially if it’s a cobra”.

ALSO READ: WATCH: ‘Josh, f**king drive!’ – Epic mongoose vs Cape Cobra ‘battle of the golf course’

What is the average cost of treating a snakebite?

According to Cape Town-based snake handling trainer Willem van Zyl, the average snakebite treatment in a hospital could cost about R200 000.

“If you need surgery, costs may be well over R1 million, so it’s much cheaper to call a snake catcher when you see one rather than try and deal with it yourself,” he told News24.

Has SA’s critical shortage in snakebite antivenom been resolved?

In April last year, the National Snakebite Advisory Group raised the alarm on the fact that South Africa was experiencing a massive shortage of snakebite antivenom.

After an appeal to Health Minister Dr Joe Phaahla to ensure funding and emergency upgrades of equipment and backup power supply at the South African Vaccine Producers’ production plant, the shortage crisis has apparently been resolved.

ALSO READ: WATCH: Fearless slender mongoose takes out snouted cobra

Read more on these topics

snakes Western Cape wildlife

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits