Snake Country by Pat McKrill
Getting to know the neighbours
Working toward a stress-free co-existence with snakes
Coincidentally, and almost back where I left off the last time I was on the Sports page, I’m back in Cape Town, freezing my toes off (ja) and huddling under a brolly – a far call from the Durban Airport I left yesterday! It seems that every time I come to Cape Town, the Natal snakes get active, because I had three calls yesterday, all for snakes that were holding various sections of the community hostage; in garages, boatsheds or gardens. The common denominator, apart from the unreasonable fear aspect, was the humble limbless creature that I respect so much. The garden dude – a short-snouted whip snake – whilst trying to get the last bit of skink past the lips so that he could move off and get some rest after a rather hectic meal, had been surrounded by an entire gardening crew, all wielding weapons of mass destruction, and ready to chop him into small pieces. There was a rumour going around that he was the one who had killed someone’s grandfather a few years back, up in Kokstadt. The guy who phoned me was trying to defend the poor creature whilst getting a picture off to me for an i.d.
This scenario epitomizes the day-to-day trials and tribulations of a serpent (according to some experts, the second most feared animal after the spider) on this mortal coil, and the irony in this case was that it was taking place in a gated estate, or Eco-Estate. Presumably there are signs all over the place saying ‘Welcome to El Paradiso, No snakes or weeds allowed’. Surely it’s time we got a life and did some fact checking before arbitrarily killing things we don’t fully understand? This is not one of those ‘only in Africa’ things, no, the fear of snakes is universal, only the weapons change. Perhaps boiling water accompanied by profanity for an adder in an English garden, death by Utility vehicle and high fives for an understandably restive rattlesnake in America and surely Hara Kiri and fervent forward bowing by the self-immolating grass snake in Japan, but whatever the method of ‘closure’, the ultimate death of the creature in question is the aim.
I sometimes secretly (sometimes not) wish that there would be an outbreak of the plague, brought about by millions of rabid rats, or a cacophony of noise emanating from hordes of uncontrolled and overbreeding guttural toads drowning out all conversation, for people who kill snakes unnecessarily, to finally understand that without them, we will most certainly have an ecological disaster of major proportions on our hands. How’s that for putting my cards on the table? Maybe one day we’ll understand, that if each of us had the terrifying ability to change everything to suit our own personal needs and requirements, to the exclusion of the needs and requirements of others, then we’d have a REAL problem.
© pat mckrill. 2016