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 Post subject: Black Mamba at Sweni Bird Hide
Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 7:27 am 
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On the 3rd day we took a drive through to Sweni bird hide, when we got to the hide, there was a note on the gate that said that they had seen a black mamba in the hide at 8:30 in the morning.
We decided that we wanted to have a look at the snake, so we took a slow walk down to the hide.
My husband was about 1 1/2m in front of me.
He went through the passage into the hide, and I was just about half way through the passage when I looked up to my left into the rafters, and there was the black mamba looking down at me!
I got a huge fright and jumped backwards out of the passage.
However, now my husband was stuck inside the hide with the snake between us.
The mamba appeared to be very relaxed and looked like he had set up home there!
Not nearly as skittish as one would expect a black mamba to be.

My husband had to duck down and make his was very gingerly past the snake in the passage, and he barely even moved at all.
It was all quite an adrenaline rush.
We have done a snake handling course before, but actually encountering a wild black mamba is entirely different to the controlled situation of a course.

We then altered to note to tell people that the snake is actually in the passage way.

We went up to N'wanetsi to tell the guy there about the snake.
He said somebody had mentioned it about a month ago, but they figured since nobody else had mentioned it it must have moved on!
I found this a bit disconcerting because it means that the snake had more than likely decided to use the hide as its base.
I wonder how many people had been through that hide and been close to the snake without even knowing it.
I just felt that this was a problem, because knowing about the snake I really felt that the staff had a responsibility to do something about it, the last thing they need is for a child to be bitten, it's different if they didn't know anything about it, as accidents do happen.

So he told us to go and tell Thomas, the section ranger.
We took a drive to his house and told him about the snake.
He looked absolutely terrified, and asked us if we thought he should kill the snake.
This stunned me as the snake had not harmed anyone, and I thought the parks were all about protecting nature!
Anyway, I suggested that he get hold of a herpetologist or someone specialising in snake relocations, and get them to come and capture the snake and relocate it.
I also suggested that he lock the hide until such time as that could be done.
He asked us to go with him to show him the snake.

We went to Sweni with him and he came and had a look at the snake and said that he would lock the hide and arrange for its relocation.

It was quite an adventure! I was just wondering if anybody else has seen this snake there before? Also if anyone knows if anything was done about it?

I would hate to think that it had been injured or killed.
It was a beautiful snake, probably around 2 - 2 1/2 m long.
So not huge, and still quite young.
I was also concerned that Thomas wanted to kill the snake, considering someone who doesn't know snakes that well would put themselves at risk trying to kill such a snake.
Snakes usually only really become a threat when being themselves threatened!


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mamba at Sweni Bird Hide
Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 8:31 am 
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I assume the mamba was keeping out of peoples way , thus up in the rafters .
There was a resident b.mamba living within Nyalaland wilderness trails camp for a few years , according to the camp staff it apparently never came near human activity , I chanced upon it during the quiet time after lunch when people snooze and it immediately turned and dissappeared into a tree trunk .
The staff asked me not to mention its presence - I assume someone would have insisted it be disposed of if its presence became common knowledge .

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 Post subject: Re: Black Mamba at Sweni Bird Hide
Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 8:43 am 
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:shock: No more Sweni Bird hide for me until someone can assure me it has moved or been moved, and then I still don't know .....!

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 Post subject: Re: Black Mamba at Sweni Bird Hide
Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 9:00 am 
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Hey nattim-- Have to say I am very concerned at the section rangers response ..... :naughty: That is just garbage IMHO and one can only hope that it was just talk..... But still very disappointing even if it was.

We saw it there the week before Christmas. Almost certainly the same one. I estimated length at 2.3.Definitely adult but not as thick as they can get by a fair amount so pretty much entering its prime.We were in there for 10 or 15 minutes before I did the hide check which I have no idea why I forgot to do. :redface: SO also forgot and we sat quite happily...Then when I remembered that i hadnt checked I found him in exactly the same spot you did.

2 things. 1- the passage is very narrow and we walked in probably within 70 cm maximum of where he was lying hidden.Thats too close .
2--The thatch has the chickenwire cage on the outside and and I looked for him after he dissappeared in but he didnt come out on the outside. The thatch is quite thick and I am almost certain it has made its home in the capping at the apex of that roof. As a point of interest we had a monster male boomslang in our roof a few years back who also decided that capping is a great spot. The problem with that roof is that it isnt very high and also the passage is narrow.When we saw him he was pretty agitated.It would move a shortish distance very quickly before stopping and looking again and repeated it. And I was at least 3 meteres away at all times and standing pretty still.

Im not sure what the best course of action would be though.

1-- Could leave it and wait for it to go but I think it has found a great spot for itself and probably wont move if there are rodents and skinks and birds etc around
2-- Could leave it and warn people and maybe put internal fine mesh chicken wire to seal the roof from inside. Shouldnt cost too much and will protect hide users with a fair amount of protection along with a warning sign
3--Could try and chase the snake away with noise every night after closing time they could put up a generator and a pump that the vibrations go through the wood. It will probably leave of its own accord if disturbances unpleasant to it are maintained for a while
4--Last resort IMO is to trap relocate it.

It was a very beautiful snake and seeing it that close in the wild an unforgettable experience for us all.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mamba at Sweni Bird Hide
Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 2:56 pm 
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A warm welcome to you, Nattim :D but what a way to start :big_eyes:

I do hope that it has been moved by now. I am not so sure that I would like to meet a Black Mamba in a bird hide, even if he is well fed.

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 Post subject: Re: Black Mamba at Sweni Bird Hide
Unread postPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 3:01 pm 
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, how often does one not walk past thick vegetation or trees in the camps without knowing what lurks within ?[/quote]

Yes, but now we KNOW what lurks within...!! :)

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 Post subject: Re: Black Mamba at Sweni Bird Hide
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 9:33 am 
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Hi, and thanks for the warm welcome!

I too hope that it has been moved by now. I really don't think it would be a problem, but what concerns me is that is you know it is there, and someone gets bitten, then surely you need to take some responsibility?

I reckon it has probably been there for a while, and would most likely not be a problem in the long term, however, when snakes go into the blue, just before shedding, they can get pretty grumpy, and then there might be a problem!

Also, there would be no way I could sit and look for birds knowing that there is such a potentially dangerous snake somewhere behind me. :shock:


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mamba at Sweni Bird Hide
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 9:43 am 
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Welcome to the forum Nattim! :thumbs_up:

nattim wrote:
I too hope that it has been moved by now. I really don't think it would be a problem, but what concerns me is that is you know it is there, and someone gets bitten, then surely you need to take some responsibility?

I agree with you. SANParks knows about it and should have done something urgently about it. If not and somebody does get bitten, just imagine the consequences! :shock:


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mamba at Sweni Bird Hide
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 11:27 am 
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ndloti wrote:
How much must man intervene in the animals domain ?
AjayB wrote:
I agree completely with Ndloti. Its his home. Not ours


OK, curve ball. Now, the snake is in a bird hide, which if we are not intervening in the animals domain, should not be there ....... bird hides do not grow naturally in the african veld ... :lol:

Realism is that working with nature is a compromise, we interfere in nature just by being there, let alone roads camps etc. So there has to be active interference in order to protect both nature from us, and us from nature. A BM is a nasty snake, in a potentially dangerous area - a top down strike by the snake on a human will likely mean the person is stuck in the head/neck region or upper thorax - that means that person will very likely not survive the strike, or be very very badly injured.
To remove the snake, and the next one that may move in, is a simple, non harmful matter, releasing them some distance away.
So the compromise is - remove the snake without harm, to prevent harm, and bad publicity that would come with a snake bite, in order to protect the snake, and the people.
wrt to the section ranger - remember that many people have a personal, and sometimes a cultural fear of some animals, even if they are nature conservators (guess how many spiders have been turned into flat spiders by nature lovers? :lol: ) That fear can often override any rational thoughts that one may have, and even override training.

Personally my belief is that the harm that could be caused by the death or serious injury to a person in that hide by that snake, out weighs the "value" of that snake. If it can only be removed by death, so be it. It is not perfect - but a compromise - and remember.... above all technically that hide should not be there as its not naturally grown :)


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mamba at Sweni Bird Hide
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 12:13 pm 
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Hey David--Within the confines of the boundaries of the park as a rule of thumb the animals should come first. Not man. If a BM enters a camp I agree it should be chased away or moved if an experienced capturer is able to get it without injury to themselves or the snake. And safety is definitely a concern that should be adressed. No question.

But the hide is an unmanned outcrop in complete wilderness and not the same as a camp IMO.They could chicken wire the inside or they could chase it away with sustained noise rather than risking injury to the animal or capturer in a very tricky capture location in the heat of summer when its metabolism is highest. Mid winter I would maybe say go for the capture if unavoidable because it may be settling down whilst it is cold.

I am concerned for this particular snake in these circumstances though and have to say again that the reported initial response from the section ranger is not a very promising one and on those grounds alone I would rather the animal was left alone. Close the hide for a bit or put up a warning , put up some wire and leave him be I reckon.The reported response was not the type of response I expect from someone in his position.It sounded like he wouldnt care if the animal was injured or not.Or even worse (at the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist :lol: ) destroyed out of the publics eyes and then just say it was relocated.... He will probably move on when he gets too fat for that hiding hole anyway :lol:


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mamba at Sweni Bird Hide
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 1:58 pm 
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Hey David -- Not a daft example at. Valid in absolute terms.Nature is very resilient and I am sure it wont suffer too badly with one less Black Mamba. And there will always be roadkill. But there will be less if people slowed down.So lines are drawn.And a line that you draw with a black mamba cant leave margin for error.And maybe its easy for me to argue sitting here in Cape Town and most unfortunately with no prospect in the immediate future of visiting Sweni hide, that the absolute principle of it being a park that belongs to the animals first and foremost be applied in this case.But I still believe it should be left and definitely not killed.

Close the hide then is my view.It is after all right next to big stopping spot at Nwanetsi lookout and surely the impact on the quality of most visitors day without it will be minimal?

Whatever we say here doesnt really matter I suppose as the very real possibility exists that something has already been done and we just dont know what that is.......


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mamba at Sweni Bird Hide
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 2:07 pm 
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Throw this argument into the mix (whether you agree with it or not):
The long-term survival of the park depends on visitors and there money. How much of this money does this facility attract? How much money would be lost if the snake bit someone at this hide? How much would it cost to relocate the snake?

Please don't shoot me ndloti, was just presenting the argument.

Look at it from a risk/reward (cost-benefit ratio) point of view: what is the risk of the snake biting someone, and how much fallout would it cause? Weight that up against moving the snake.

One must also bear in mind that this story is about one snake. What about all the lions etc that have been hiding in restrooms lately? This is a daily reality for Sanparks. Do they remove all animals? All potentially dangerous animals? Will they remove the wasp from my bungalow?

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 Post subject: Re: Black Mamba at Sweni Bird Hide
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 3:03 pm 
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Too much analysis.

Either close the hide permanently or, until the snake has gone. Or, move the snake.

It would be wrong to kill it.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mamba at Sweni Bird Hide
Unread postPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 3:15 pm 
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joshilewis wrote:
What is the 'philosophical' answer?


Depends a lot on the philosophy makers.... :)

But a good guideline in this and many other things:
To do what needs to be done, as simply as possible, as gently as possible, cause as little harm as possible, disturb as few as possible, as cheap as possible, as quickly possible ....... and be as wise as possible. in every situation, where the lines from those meet...
but then that may be aiming too high :)

it is an art though, to find that balance, and the balance will always be changing. which is why people like the SanParks are never able to keep everyone happy.


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 Post subject: Re: Black Mamba at Sweni Bird Hide
Unread postPosted: Wed Sep 08, 2010 7:39 pm 
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You mean this note :twisted:

Image

I was there the saturday (26 December) for almost 3 hours. Spend the time with my cuz, of which 1 hour sleeping in my camping chair. We didn't have any (human) visitors that day. The sunday we wanted to return and repeat the same wonderful experience. Guess we weren't alone after all :shock: The gate was indeed locked. Thursday 29 December, the hide was open again...

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