Posts Tagged ‘constrictor’

The Snake I looked up to

April 26th, 2010, posted in Creatures Great & Small

python-headFor years I have lived in the African Bush and my childhood was spent in the mountains of the Drakensberg. I have seen countless snakes of all shapes and sizes, from hissing night adders at the high altitude on mountain peaks, to skittish grass snakes in the deep valleys below; however, I am still not used to them!

I have seen, stepped over and walked around many puff-adders. Puffadders are the fastest striking snakes in the world; they are fat snakes with excellent camouflage. The reason I have seen so many of them is that they tend to enjoy basking on footpaths and dirt roads; I don’t go looking for them, I just am aware they exist!

The giant snake of Southern Africa is the African Rock Python. This is a beautifully patterned snake; it is a constricertor with sharp teeth but no fangs and therefore no venom. The African rock python is an opportunistic snake and will strike at any formidable prey it encounters. This is the snake I looked up to…

Pieter often comes in from the reserve to take us on an impromptu game, bird or bush walk and on occasion when he has spotted a rare sighting, he has collected Joshua and I and take us to see a new born hippo, cheetah den, leopard etc.  So, when he came home after a walk through the reserve and said I must quickly get Joshua, there is something he’d like to show us, I was very excited.

Pieter took me towards a tree and said, “There, can you see him?”  I looked on the ground, in the grass, under a nearby bush and asked “What? Where?” Pieter said the python, so now that I knew what I was looking for, I looked closer to my feet searching but then when he pointed up into the tree, my eyes met with those of the Rock Python. That is why, it is wiser and better to go into the bush with a field guide – they see wild creatures of all shapes, sizes and colours in all sorts of locations.

Rock Python above me

My heart skipped a beat as I realized I had been standing under such a large snake without knowing it. My instinct was to turn and back away from the tree as panic replaced my excitement, but Pieter was waiting behind me and grabbed my shoulders, keeping me there, reassuring me that I was safe, he was telling me to look at the patterns on its underbelly, a part you rarely see as most often pythons are, on the ground, so I forced myself to look away from its head and follow its large, long body down the tree branches.

African Rock Python

When my breathing returned almost to normal, Pieter let me go and then I heard this little voice from next to me, “I’m not scared Mommy, look at the beautiful patterns”. It’s wonderful to know Joshua is not scared of snakes, it makes it easier for Pieter to show him then, teach him about the dangers, but also it allows them to observe snakes in their natural habitat, learning more about each species and taking back a little more after each encounter.

I’ll leave the observation to the two of them and keep my distance; snakes seem a lot more interesting when I’m further away from them!!

Pieter and Joshua look up at python

Pieter pointing to the tails

Python, camouflaged in tree

Long, large snake

Constrictor in tree

Patterned body