Snake Country – Getting to know the neighbours

Getting to know the neighbours
Working toward a stress-free co-existence with snakes

Snake-man-19-Book.-ArtWell, here we are then. At the end of another year that probably for most humanoids, has flashed by with indecent haste, leaving in its wake a trail of stuff that never got done. “Never mind” we say, and drop everything and go on holiday, “we can catch up once we’re back”. It strikes me that as far as just about every other living thing on this earth is concerned, it’s only humans who tick off their days like we do – counting down our lives. They, on the other hand, have an important function to fulfill – each is a food source for another. Maybe they don’t have regular jobs or don’t celebrate holidays. They don’t have to make monthly payments, go shopping or attend meetings, and with few exceptions, their offspring are kicked out of the proverbial nest pretty soon after birth. Think about it, with animals, apart from some initial basic flying lessons or rat catching practice, there’s little in the way of ongoing parental guidance or education – easy peasy – for all of them, just another day at the University of Life – live your life to the full, or die – who wants to be a human?

As I sit here writing, there’s frenetic nest building going on, much dashing to and fro in the greenery, and on the ground, the ants are going at it hammer and tongs, scurrying back and forth on their unregulated highways through the veld, pulling seed pods down into their larders.

The triangular given that rules all our lives is laid bare in front of me; find shelter, find food, procreate – not necessarily in that order. Now what happens when compliance with those basics suddenly becomes difficult? Take this food chain for example, where the snake is just another link; a drought comes along, there’s no nesting material close by, so fewer nests are built, less eggs are laid and the egg-eating snakes have a food shortage on their hands. Another consequence is that less chicks are hatched so the bird-eating snakes also have to make a plan. Those birds that hatch have to find food – grain, insects etc. – but we’ve got a drought remember, so another plan has to be made. The ever-present need to ‘make a plan’ exists in nature – and for this reason, I’m going to remind those of you who’ve read this far – that you can unwittingly become part of the problem, or you can become the solution. I know we’re all going ‘green’ with eco-friendly everything, to the extent that we’re creating artificial environments, but unless we keep this commitment up and reward those animals and plants who have accepted our invitations and will tailor their lifestyles accordingly, we’re helping no-one. Ask for a plant this Christmas, not a ‘pet’.
Freshly hatched reprints of my book Getting to Know the Neighbours are available now. Hurry.
© pat mckrill. 2015
herpet@eastcoast.co.za
Cell: 0833036958