January 10, 2013


JP and Margaux le Roux are the respective head and assistant instructors at our wilderness camp in the Selati Game Reserve. And something exciting is bound to happen where this dynamic duo is involved. Their students are indeed very privileged, sometimes even extremely lucky…

Margaux shares the latest:

“Humans and animals are forever in conflict with each other, especially when resources are scarce, and where we live in close proximity to the wild beasts. Be it elephants, hippos or baboons raiding local subsistence farmer’s crops, or predators killing livestock.

In most cases, especially when charismatic mega-fauna is involved, there would be an outcry to save the beasts, and various options and ‘solutions’ would be implemented to minimise further negative interaction. Could the same however be said for human-snake interactions?

Most people, including many aspiring field guide students, often cringe when one mentions the word ‘snake’, and the reaction of many people would be to rather kill the animal than to go out of one’s way to catch and release a ‘problem snake’. But fortunately for some, there are still those people around who dedicate their lives to conservation of ALL beasts, whether great or small.

This was once again demonstrated when JP got a phone call from the assistant reserve warden of Selati. A neighbouring game farmer had caught a Southern African python. The snake had managed to crawl through a game fence where the farmer had several baby nyalas and a grey duiker in an enclosure. The snake had managed to catch the duiker and consume it, but it was not able to crawl through the small hole it had entered in the first place.

Unfortunately the snake got a big fright when the farmer and his workers approached it, and as is often the case, it regurgitated the meal up in order to escape. Fortunately for it, instead of killing the creature, the farmer caught the snake (and its slimy meal) and brought it to Selati where it would be released onto the property.

This is where we became involved. We were given the task to release the python onto the reserve. As the farmer had placed it in a big bag, we could not fully comprehend the size of the animal (other than gauging that it had to be large on account of the fully grown duiker male that it had killed).

We gathered all the students around, and found a suitable place to open the bag. At first nothing happened, and with a little bit of coaxing, the snake emerged out of the bag. Initially it was uncoiling itself, and then suddenly, it lunged forward at us, with mouth agape. It always amazes me how quickly these creatures can strike. Off course we gave it enough space, and we all just watched as the at least four meter beast started to move off.

It just goes to show – man and beast can live in peace in close proximity to each other, and if anybody doubts in that statement I made, rest assured, the snake was only released less than 100 meters from our tent. Who knows, maybe we will see the Giant again…

(Thank you Margaux for the update! The photos were taken from a video courtesy of Paula Strickland, thank you!)
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