March 19, 2012


It was nature at its cruellest, but the action was exhilarating and nobody wanted to leave in the fear of missing a thing! Without even setting foot outside our wilderness camp in Selati, the group of FGASA Level One students were only metres away from witnessing a titanic struggle between life and death. The perpetrator – a female boom slang. The unfortunate victim – a dormouse.

It was just after lunch, maybe even during meal time that it all began, unbeknownst to the group still milling about in the lecture-cum-dining hall. One of them noticed something drop from one of the trees just outside the hall, but didn’t take too much notice. It turned out to be a dormouse. Then somebody yelled “Boomslang!” and that’s when everything changed.

With caution from instructor Ralph Kirsten to keep movement to a minimum, the group slowly gathered at the edge of the hall, peering over the wall to the scene that was unfolding right before their eyes. A few of the students grabbed their cameras, Marco Dematos being one of them, this was surely a once in a lifetime opportunity!

And it was clear what was about to happen – the female boom slang made a beeline for the dormouse, lying on the ground. It swooped down onto the defenceless victim, inflating its neck, striking sideways and forward in jerky motions.

The snake must have felt the movement of the feet of the students, even though they were trying to be as slow and quiet as possible, because in a flash it left the mouse alone and disappeared into the long grass. The dormouse was, well, literally as quiet as a mouse, and everybody thought it was no longer alive. Suddenly the mouse made a faint sound, started to move around a little bit and disappeared into the trunk of a hollow tree close by.

After a while the boom slang returned, striking at the base of the tree, trying to get at the dormouse once again. The snake eventually managed to extract the rodent. A kind of tug of war then ensued, with the little mouse not making it easy for its venomous attacker. This went on for a good while, with the boom slang attacking and then disappearing, and the mouse desperately trying to stay alive.

But even though everyone was rooting for the ‘little guy’, the law of nature ruled as it was the fittest and strongest who survived. The female boom slang eventually got a proper hold on the dormouse and made her way up a tree, victim in mouth and with the guarantee of a wholesome meal to last her a couple of days.

The memory of witnessing such a spectacular natural event is sure to last a lifetime for these lucky students!

(Thank you again Marco Dematos for these stunning images!)
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