The dream call-out!

Yesterday, I had the perfect call-out, and a dream come true!

While busy doing emails yesterday afternoon, I received a call from a man in Westborough Avenue in Westville. He had a team of workers clearing a patch of bush, when they suddenly spotted two big snakes rolling around! As soon as the caller said that to me, I knew what they were- Mambas! I assumed two males fighting. I told him to get the workers away from the snakes, and to keep an eye on them. I could hear the workers going crazy over the phone.

When I arrived, I was greeted by one of the workers at the gate of the property. He lead me down a long flight of stairs. The rest of the team were at the bottom of the garden, where they were clearing. It was down in a drainage line. I met the caller, a concerned and kind gentleman. He had managed to stop the workers from turning these mambas into sushi! Excellent job! He played a big role in saving these snakes, so a big thank you to him.
He pointed out the snake. They were about 15 meters away, just behind some bushes. They were spotted out in the open, but had since rolled down the gully. I could see bits of movement, and my eyes lit up! I then made my approach.

I sneaked up to the snakes as stealthily as I could. As I got closer, I could see the action. There they were, two big Black Mambas, in full combat! Yes! Dream come true! I have always wanted to see this behaviour. Male mambas will fight over a female. They do not fight till the death, just till one gives up and moves off. I’ve seen a few pics and videos of it, but it is quite a rarely seen occurance. This behaviour is often mistaken for mating. Mating snakes are never this physical and lively!

I assessed the situation, and decided that I could quickly take a video of this moment. They seemed too focused on each other to notice me. It was marvellous to watch. They were entwined, completely wrapped around each other. They were throwing each other down to the ground, from side to side. A real clash of the giants! A much better wrestling match than in the WWE!

I hid behind some bushes, about a meter from their tails, and started filming. I filmed for 20 seconds and stopped recording. I just took in the moment. I was in awe, captivated by this spectacle. What a huge priveledge to be able to watch this remarkeable scene in nature. I loved and treasured every second.

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I thought that I should make my move, in case they decided to bolt into the bush. I carefully walked closer. Unbelievably, these two males paid no attention to me. They were in a trans, fully focused on their battle. I must admit, I’m gutted that I never filmed the approach! They were heading for a wood pile, and an old concrete structure.

Not knowing quite what to do with two Black Mamba’s in front of me, I decided to just go for one and see what happens! Only when I reached for one with my grabstick, did they stop, and appeared to have gotten a fright, probably thinking “Uh-oh, here’s trouble!”. I grabbed hold of one with my grabstick, and the other snake made a break for it.

I was pleasantly surprised. Expecting a dangerous tangle with a wired snake, but it wasn’t to be. It was exhausted, and didn’t put up much of a fight. I quickly restrained it behind the head, and screamed to one of the workers to bring my bucket, which I had left by them. Think they were bringing a bucket up to a man with a mamba? No chance! I had to run back, snake in hand. I quickly put the snake in a bucket, and went back for the other snake.

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I got to the spot where I last saw it, but there was no sign of it. I stopped, and listened. I could hear it moving, about 10 meters away down in the dry stream bed. I charged off through the bushes, leaping over logs and rocks. I felt like Rambo, when he was fighting the Vietnamese and Russians in the second film of the series (I love the Rambo movies!). I quickly caught up with the snake.
Now, if a normal mamba is a meter or two in front of you in the bushes, you’d have no chance in catching up to it (not that you should try of course). But this massive specimen, like the first one I captured, was way too tired to move quickly away. It was very sluggish. A rare encounter to have with a Black Mamba! Again, I managed to quickly restrain it. WOOHOO! Job done! I now had a very big smile on my face! Both were around the 2,5m mark.

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Once I was back where the workers were standing, I was pretty much alone, they were running in different directions. I instructed them all to come closer to learn. I gave them a quick talking to about snakes, about how one should react if a snake is encountered, and to ALWAYS leave them alone etc. I also pointed out the fact that these mambas tried to flee, even though I moved almost on top of them, a classic example showing that these snakes don’t just attack.

After that, from wanting to chop the snake into pieces, they were now all touching it and posing for a photo with me, as I had it safely secured in my hands. They were loving it! It was great to see, it really was. You could see that their whole perceptions of snakes had changed. Now they will rather call than kill, mission accomplised!

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It would have been nice to leave the mambas where they were. But if I didn’t come to take them away they would have been minced mambas. One possibly was living in the wood pile, which was soon going to be taken away with the development going on. It is safer for them that they have been relocated.
Plus, they will come in handy with some research work I’m starting to do on mambas (in collaboration with some other interested people). Data will be collected from these specimens prior to release. The mambas I catch are never sold, or killed, F.Y.I.

It had been two months since my last mamba capture, a very frustrating two months. I had also been going through a bit of a dark patch where nothing was going my way (we all experience this), but this completely swung my mood around. I was now smiling from ear to ear, uncontrollably! Words cannot express how delighted I was.

There’s just nothing like working with Black Mambas! Truly awe-inspiring animals! (Of course, please don’t attempt it 😉 )

For snake rescue and removals around Durban, give me a call on 072 809 5806

~Nick Evans

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