Monster mamba! An experience that I’ll never forget, with a snake I’ll never forget.
About a month ago I received a call from a man in Resevoir Hills, named Deepak, who ran a vegetable stall on the side of the road. On the opposite side of the road was a township, which had a river running alongisde it, and the M19 on the other side of it. Right next to the busy pavement, which went over a bridge, was a small patch of bush inbetween the road and the shacks. In that little patch of bush, was a well known snake!
A Black Mamba had taken up residence there. It had a hole in the bank where it would hide. With a township and a river on either side its his ‘home’, and a dumping site,it must have had plenty of food! Perfect place for a mamba, apart from all the people. The snake had been seen over the past 3 years, by passerby’s who walked over the bridge to get to work.
This morning, after a good birding trip, I got a call from Deepak while on my way home. The mamba was out! I was excited at first, but then my heart sank as I realised my grabstick/tongs were at home. They’re about 1m long. All I had on me was a half-a-meter pair, with sponge on the insides, which I use for grabbing Vine Snakes. Certainly not ideal for catching a big Mamba! I started wondering if I should say my goodbye’s to my family on the way there…
When I arrived, Deepak pointed it out. It was low down on it’s usual bank, and we were standing on top of a big rubbish heap next to the bank. The snake was down in the dip inbetween the two. All we could see was a portion of the body. The rest was hidden by the invasive Balloon Vine which covered the area. I couldn’t see the head, and I assumed it couldn’t see me.
I made my way down slowly the rubbish heap, trying not to slip on all the loose rubble and other things. I wanted to sneak up on it, while it couldn’t see me. I looked at the thick body of the snake, and then looked at my pathetic little grabstick. I thought, “Well here goes nothing!”.
I reached out to grab the body with the stick, while trying to stand as far back as possible. I was still on the slope of the rubbish heap. I grabbed the body, and it started moving forwards.I grabbed hold of it’s tail, and tried pulling it out. I thought it would be easy, but no, not with a snake of this size! It was incredibly strong, and heavy! I was wondering if it had been cross bred between a mamba and a python…
While holding the tail, I tried moving back up the rubbish heap, which was no easy task! I desperately wanted to get on level ground, because if it decided to turn on me, I’d be in a world of trouble. I couldn’t exactly dodge it, as I was on loose rubble and struggling to move. Luckily, it was trying to do what mamba’s initially do, move away! Despite me holding onto it’s tail, it tried to move away from me- not quite the vicious killers are they? But I didn’t think it would be doing that for long…
I needed to secure the head quickly, for everyone’s safety. Using my grabstick, I grabbed it by the ‘neck’ region. It reversed, but I had a problem. The grabstick had sponge inbetween to avoid injuring a snake, but this was a nightmare in this situation! I had to secure the head with my hand, firstly to get it in a bucket, and secondly, to avoid it slipping out of the stick with people around. I may as well have used some braai tongs.
While this was all happening, my body, especially my legs, were shaking out of control, from a combination of fear and adrenaline. I must have looked like I was doing a form of tap dancing.
I held the stick tightly, and reached for the head. Got it, yess!!!!!
I held up the snake like it was my new pride and joy, while I walked up the rubbish heap. Lots of people from the township had gathered to see this spectacle. I could not believe how big it was. It’s roughly 3m long, but thicker than my arm- I couldn’t fit my hand around the entire body! I cannot describe the strength of this animal, it’s remarkeable.
In a way, I felt bad for taking the mamba away from it’s home, but I had no choice. It had such a tiny area to occupy, and was bound to end up in a shack nearby, which could have ended badly. A huge big thank you to Deepak, who was determined to see this snake rescued instead of it being killed. He had chased off people in the past, who were throwing stones at it. We need more people like him!
Working with an animal as awesome as this, is why I do what I do- I wouldn’t change it for anything!