It’s Monday 5th June 2017 and snakes galore

I do hope that you are well and sitting comfortably for this weeks’ installment. As you all know, Mother Nature has all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures to share with us but I think that the one that parts the crowds the most has to be snakes. They are definitely cause for a love/hate relationship. But like all animals they deserve their time in the spotlight so this week Erik from Mkulumadzi is going to try to persuade you that they really are fascinating and amazing creatures. Erik, good luck and over to you…

“As a guide, when I go off into the bush my mind is always set on finding what most people come on safari for. Be it big game like elephants and lions, stunningly handsome antelopes like sable and kudu or a striking splash of colour from a Purple Crested Turaco. Every animal brings out a certain feeling and reaction when you come across them in the wild. The knot in your stomach from the excitement of approaching your first big male lion or when you’re being dwarfed and feel so insignificant in the presence of a herd of elephants. We feel alive, amazed, awe-struck and filled with wonder.

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But every once in a while you come across creatures out here that evoke very different emotions, and it’s always interesting for me to see how different people react to them. And if there was ever an animal that can bring out the worst and the best in people, I think it would be a snake.

The heat of the recent summer months we have just gone through, brings with it our most feared reptile. It’s a bit of a shame how these amazing creatures are the source of such fear, although I fully understand why. But if ever one were to look for true physiological perfection, not many animals come close to the snake as they have remained unchanged for millions of years!

On the day when I came across this Python I nearly burst out of my own skin with excitement when I understood what we had before us, and so did my three guests. We approached carefully on foot to get some footage and follow the snakes’ slow progress through the bush on such a full stomach. We were wondering what it had eaten. A baby warthog? Small baboon? Vervet monkey? Bush duiker?

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Pythons lie in ambush next to animal pathways or water bodies and wait patiently for something of suitable size to walk by. Unlike most other snakes they are not venomous but will strike and latch onto its prey with its powerful jaws and sharp teeth, coil that muscular body around the victim and kill by constriction.

While most snakes can’t be credited with caring a great deal for their off-spring, the Python is a little bit different. The female will lay its eggs inside an aardvark burrow or termite mound, between 30-60 eggs depending on its size. It seems as if the Pythons eggs are quite sensitive to changes in temperature so the female remains with her eggs and curls herself around them to keep them safe and warm. She will even be there for when it’s time for hatching and she watches her offspring’s first emergence into this world and will even stay with the hatchlings for a few weeks to see to their safety.

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There are many snakes to be found around Majete but they do prefer to remain undetected and are rarely seen. However, every so often we do come across the occasional Puff Adder during the evening drives. This snake is rather sluggish and its movements remind me a little bit of a caterpillar, rather than that serpentine slithering motion like most snakes, yet they are able to strike at the speed of light!

There are a lot of snakes that are much more venomous than the Puff Adder but they are however, responsible for the most snake bites in Malawi. Snakes do not have ears but they pick up the vibrations from our footsteps and most snakes will take the opportunity to slither away before their presence is known but the Puff Adder is a very slow and almost clumsy snake and relies mostly on its camouflage to remain undetected.
That is why you can suddenly find yourself in very close proximity, with the snake having to come up with a safe escape plan in quite the hurry. The Puff Adder differs from other snakes because of its ability to produce live young. It is commonly known that reptiles lay eggs but with this special snake, the eggs are carried within the female during incubation and actually hatch before she ”gives birth” to them, thus producing live young. This to me explains why this snake is such a successful species and so widely distributed in Africa. It is a very clever way of avoiding other predators eating the eggs before they have a chance to develop and hatch. While it is the source of so much fear, as with all living things in our midst, it has its purpose.

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This Side Striped Sand Snake blends in perfectly into the mosaic of dry fallen leaves and had successfully ambushed and caught a little gecko. If the snakes were not present in out natural environment we would be overrun by lizards, mice and rats etc.

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So they do play a key role in maintaining the fine balance in our ecosystem. Spiders and bats are also often met with the same feelings of resentment, but are vitally important when it comes to keeping mosquito and insect populations in check. We love them and we hate them, but they have been around for millions of years and play their part in the environment with bravado. Most often we are afraid of the things that we don’t understand and I hope that I have provided you with some new insight into the world of serpents. If you are still in doubt, remember that snakes are a lot more afraid of you than you are of them, and will do anything to avoid a confrontation with you.

Thanks Erik, I have to say that was certainly very interesting and I promise you next week we shall look at cute fluffy animals to make up for the slithering nature of this week’s It’s Monday. In the meantime I do hope that you all have a fabulous week with lots of smiles and laughter and don’t forget to look after each other.

Cheers

ems

 

 

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