Getting to know the neighbours

Not in the job description!

Not in the job description!

I’m grateful for being one of those who are more ribs than substance

I’m eternally grateful for not only my life on this beautiful planet, but also for the fact that I’m not the average South African politician, seemingly obligated to treble my body mass in my first year in office, and contribute additional hot air to an already super-heated summer atmosphere. Along with the aforesaid and despite having to cope with living off the grid because there is none, I’m also grateful for being one of those who are more ribs than substance, built to cope better with the February temperatures.

The limbless fraternity is similarly advantaged, but even they’ve battled to cope with the heat we’ve been experiencing lately. When I say they, I mean those who’ve been accompanying me on my recent travels into the nether regions of the province, conducting ‘snake awareness’ talks, showing people what snakes are, what they do, and why they shouldn’t be needlessly killed. In terms of the heat we’ve been experiencing of late, the wild snakes that live their own lives without human intervention, have their own innate ability to cope with temperature extremes – usually through site selection rather than self regulation of body temperatures (a reptilian phenomenon that is constantly under scientific review) – and thus might not suffer the discomfort that we do under similar circumstances. However, snakes living in ‘controlled’ conditions, as were my companions, don’t unfortunately enjoy the luxury of choice.

 The shower cubicle must be snake-escape proof!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been accompanied by a random selection of wild-caught snakes, made up of adders, pythons, house snakes, common greens etc. that I use to illustrate the various behaviours that we need to understand in the event of unintended confrontations with snakes, no matter where. My snake companions all obliged and acted accordingly, demonstrating admirably to the various audiences, their escape strategies, warning signs etc. but as the days went on and they were tasked with repeat performances, sometimes up to 5 times in a day, there came a noticeable decline in enthusiasm and I was forced, as would be a losing Sharks coach, to beg for better application from the team. Aside from dehydration, by not having the same ability as warm blooded animals to replace their oxygen reserves quickly, snakes tire easily and I’ve learned to work with different teams of snakes rather than the same ones every day. I have to thank my stopover hosts for allowing me to give the teams some r&r in the respective shower cubicles. It’s quite simple really; I release those snakes that don’t eat others, into a suitable cubicle that has a pool of water for drinking and relaxing in after a hot day in-field. This facility, by pre-arrangement with the client and the respective hosts, is based on two provisos: the shower cubicle must be snake-escape proof, and I must account for every snake I take in in the evening, and remove the following morning.

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