Herpetology | Research | Conservation | Education
Hello! I’m Hiral, a herpetologist and conservation biologist with a focus on snake ecology, conservation and education.
I am currently a PhD candidate in the Alexander Herp Lab at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. My research focuses on better understanding the behavioural ecology of venomous snakes and their role in snakebite. I am also the Africa Program Manager for Save The Snakes working on various exciting snake research, education and conservation projects in Hoedspruit, South Africa.
My core research interests focus on the ecology and evolution of snakes within various ecosystems. I enjoy exploring topics in evolutionary biology, behavioural ecology and the role of snakes within many complex systems. I also have interests in other reptiles and frogs and their adaptation to various environments.
Snake fangs are a remarkable evolution primarily for prey ingestion. My MSc research focused on the evolution of fangs within the Lamprophiidae in relation to diet.
To better understand how venomous snakes are distributed in South Africa, I will be exploring various environmental factors that contribute to this.
Behaviour of snakes
We have an exceptional diversity of venomous snakes in Africa, however. little is know about their behaviour. I hope to learn more about a few of these snakes.
Snakebite is a neglected tropical disease and to successfully reduce deaths and disabilities globally, more accurate data is needed. I will be exploring this using South Africa as an example.
We conduct research on all the snakes currently found in the area and particularly snakes that are commonly featured in snakebite.
We educate learners, community members and healthcare workers about snakes and snake safety to mitigate human-snake conflict and snakebite occurrences.
Working in partnership with local stakeholders, we work with different groups in the rural communities to reduce the fear of snakes and increase awareness about them.
Let’s save snakes together.
Women Champions of Snakebite
I was very fortunate to be part of the exciting Women Champions of Snakebite initiative created by Health Action International. The campaign focused on celebrating women working on snakebite around the world. I wrote a short article about the need for education on snakes to mitigate human-snake conflict. Through this initiative I have become connected with incredible people that I hope to work with.
Women in Herpetology Book
I was am excited to contribute to a book highlighting herpetology stories from 50 women from around the world with diverse cultures and backgrounds. Check out the website here.
I was very fortunate to be on the SquaMates podcast where I shared my journey into herpetology. You can listen to the episode here. The team enjoyed having me and invited to be a co-host on the podcast so I look forward to sharing lots of snakey content.
Hoedspruit Reptile Centre
I am currently based at the Hoedspruit Reptile Centre and in my free time I assist with giving presentations on reptiles, snakebite first aid and general husbandry at the park. This is hugely beneficial as I am able to educate a large number of people about reptiles and why they matter.