Getting to know the Neighbours

It’s that time of the year again, when we all get a chance to relax and enjoy the fruits of our labours (or strikes) over the past 11 months. For Christians, it’s traditionally a time to celebrate the birth of Christ – although these celebrations are often manifest in anything but a sense of celebration and joy – a mere trip to the Supermarket has become a test of patience and pocket. For other faiths or non-believers, it’s a time to park off and maybe think about the year ahead, perhaps hoping or praying for something better than the year gone by. No matter what lifts your kilt, let’s hope that we can all put more joy and humanity back into this year’s celebrations – there’s no doubt we need some.

If you were a snake, this is one season you wouldn’t have to gear up for and you would just continue living out your life as you’ve always done – up in the morning, catch some sun, check out what’s on offer down the road (last month’s Rat Burgers from the Johnson’s refuse dump were a bargain!) back for some shuteye in the Loffelstein Guest lodge behind the garage, whilst always mindful of rule No.1 – keep your head below the parapet. That may strike you as being rather boring, but don’t forget that as for most creatures in the wild, every day is purely a matter of survival, each day being treated as if it’s the last. Studying some of their survival strategies, might even give us some ideas. Firstly; the mandatory avoidance of conflict – snakes consciously strive to avoid any kind of conflict, and these avoidance techniques vary between species. They could entail self-camouflage (reduction in movement), utilisation of natural camouflage (colouration, patterns, shape), or as is most common, a rapid exit from the conflict area. The relatively limited number of sightings of snakes in the wild is testament to the way in which snakes have honed these techniques. If the primary strategies fail, a second set might kick in; either the audible issuance of proximity warnings, like hissing or tail rattling (something like the warning you get when you’re reversing your Merc into a supermarket trolley) – or the visual warnings – the hectic coiling and uncoiling (like a turbocharged pancake), striking out, ‘hooding’ or spitting. Some species feign death – typical of the Rinkhals, which when harassed, can lie at an awkward angle, sometimes belly up, mouth wide open, fooling the enemy into thinking it’s dead.

Any simultaneously unexpected encounter between a human and wild creature is a ‘whoops!’ for both parties and it’s not only the human pulses that race off the scale – we should give some though for the dude whose cover we’ve just blown! Let’s all keep alert and try to get pulses racing in a more user-friendly way in 2015.

© pat mckrill. 2014
herpet@eastcoast.co.za
Cell: 0833036958
Home: 031-7851410

Snake Man Green mamba  Scott 1996 ed147 dec14

Snake Man Vine snake  Scott 1 ed147 dec14