28.01.2009 - 28.01.2009 22 °C
Snakes and Scorpions
The wildlife at Antelope Park is not all about lions, horses and elephants. There are so many deadly critters lurking in the long grass that we are given a 2 hour snake and scorpion induction to prepare us for our inevitable encounters. We are told how to identify the 4 varieties of snake from the harmless Herald snake to poisonous Adders, constricting Pythons and the deadly neuro-toxic Black Mamba. There is no anti-venom in Zimbabwe so if we are unfortunate enough to be bitten, we need to be able to identify or even catch the snake (!) so the correct treatment can be determined.
On the afternoon lion walk, straight after the snake induction, the walkers come across a 3 meter Black Mamba. Fortunately it was extremely bloated from very recently swallowed prey but it was however big and dangerous enough to stay a very safe distance. Fortunately it had been spotted by the resident snake expert before it was too late!
The following day after lunch I am watching the daily game of football between staff, handlers, volunteers and guests when we hear a single gun shot from the camp nearby. Mr Deysel, the camp manager and clearly a good shot, has taken the head clean off an 8 foot Black Mamba as it lurked in the branches of a tree right above his head in the restaurant!
We have a close encounter with a small snake while slashing grass in a lion enclosure. Already injured by the slasher blade we decide to finish it off convinced that it is another Mamba as the local guys had hastily retreated in fear. It turns out it as probably a harmless red lipped Herald snake which explains why it showed no signs of aggression towards us.
Last night we were called to reception to see a 4ft Night Adder retreating over the door step. It was carefully caught and relocated safely away from the camp. Unlike the Mamba, it is not territorial and if deposited far enough away it wont return.
Just yesterday 5 of us were cub-sitting 4 hunting lions (Masai, Lozi, Longile and Luangwa) all sitting in a circle beside the enclosure about to play cards. Fanuel quietly and calmly suggested we might like to stand up but as he said it we all spotted the snake leaping towards us in the grass. We did the one thing we had been told not to do - we panicked! Lesley landed in Fanuel's lap, Taka pulled Sarah off her feat out of the way as Elijah and I fell backwards. The snake accelerated and leapt right through the middle of us at high speed!
The lions became very excited by the commotion and Masai spent the remainder of the session giving us the 'I really want to eat you look' which was very disconcerting. It took some time for our heart rates to return to normal before we felt safe enough to sit back down and resume our game of cards!
But that's quite enough of snake encounters. On another lion walk we stumbled across a very feisty brown scorpion. None of us could remember which was the deadly variety - the small pinschers, large tail or the large pinschers, small tail combination. And even if we could we weren't quite sure which looked bigger anyway. What was apparent though was that the aggressive little thing was definately prepared to take us all on as we stood towering over it warily pointing at it with our sticks and no doubt unnecessarily aggravating it.
I saw no snakes or scorpions in my first 2 weeks but now they are almost daily occurrences. I preferred it when I was blissfully unaware of their presence - ignorance is definately bliss.
Having said all of that, there have so far been no snake bites, no scorpion stings or lion attacks yet during my stay.