Thursday, March 21, 2013

S'nuther snake, I'm afraid.

It is funny how it happens, but shortly after releasing the vine snake, we came across another fellow in the La Rochelle car park - this time dead. It is possible that it had been run over by a vehicle, but from the state of him, I rather think he had been spotted and dispatched by one of the gardeners - all of whom live by the axiom that 'the only good snake is a dead snake'.


(As an interesting aside - one of the folk who stays in a cabin by the horses down the road saw a spitting cobra grabbing a rat in his room a couple of nights ago. Because it was dark he could not see it properly, so he went to bed and woke at first light, successfully locating and killing the snake! How many folk out there would have been happy to curl up in a one-roomed house and doze off, knowing that a very large cobra is lurking somewhere - even a well fed one? I am not afraid of snakes - but I would have been sleeping up a tree in that instance!)

So - this fellow. Our first identification of him was 'herald snake' - purely because of the stubby tail, and his coloration. However, on reflection, I have changed my mind and now think that it was a southern stiletto snake; I am open to correction on this one.

The southern stiletto snake goes by many names - 'burrowing adder', 'burrowing asp' (ah - did you say....Cleopatra?) 'mole viper' and 'side-stabbing-viper'. Not to be confused with mole snake - which is very different.

These snakes have one feature that is unique, and that is that their fangs lie horizontally. They are therefore impossible to pick up, because they can strike both sideways and backwards, and most bites from these snakes are on the fingers. The venom is nasty stuff (again, no anti-venom, as with the vine snake), and a bite is extremely painful and can lead to necrosis - which means that your flesh just melts away, leaving sinew and bone only.


My dogs, as always an integral part of daily proceedings, inspected the snake. Honey showed great caution in first of all sniffing the blunt end, and checking for signs of life..

Before attending to the business end!

Several blog readers remarked on the size of the vine snake featured a couple of days ago - and it was indeed large - for a vine snake. However tiny compared to some of the snakes we get here. The largest venomous snake, in theory, being the forest cobra, of which I don't have a picture. However - this is a photograph of Africa's most feared snake - a black mamba. And he WAS a big fellow, as you shall see.

A standard-issue mamba is a lethal thing - 10-15 mg of venom is enough to kill a human, and they have 400 mg of venom sloshing around in their mouths. So, not good to be bitten by one. And how much this chap was carrying - I have no idea.

We all know that the mamba is called 'black' because that is the color of the inside of his mouth. However they are shy snakes, and will avoid a confrontation if at all possible - despite the conviction of most folk here that mambas are 'aggressive'. If they are cornered and confronted, though, they rear up, and hiss. If still threatened, they strike repeatedly. Not something to keep as a pet, even though there is, in this case, an anti-venom that works, provided you last for the average 20 minutes that you have left, and further provided you actually have some anti-venom in your cupboard.

Lastly - I must point out that this pic was NOT taken at La Rochelle. Nor did I take it. As you can see from the cane fields in the background, it was snapped in the Lowveld of Zimbabwe - right next to the Triangle golf course, I think. The warm climate, plentiful water, and abundance of cane rates have all converged to create the perfect environment for a mamba to grow nice and big.

Here, then, a really, really big snake!

Add to that the fact that these snakes are able to raise one third of their body off the ground if they feel threatened, and then try and picture such a snake in front of you! Would block out the sun, I think?

Have a nice day!

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