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Snakes slither through Durban

Kwa-Zulu Natal
Durban - With slithery snake moments from Durban going global online this week, snake experts have warned that residents must be on the look-out now because the busy reptiles are feeding, sunning and mating.

Top of social media shares across the world was the massive black mamba in Westville which was cosying up to the owner's bed before sliding into the clothes cupboard, and the large python spotted lazily cruising between holes at Zimbali Golf Course.

Local snake catcher Jason Arnold said there was normally “a hype of activity” by the slippery reptiles at this time of year as winter is just around the corner.

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Herpetologist Nick Evans (right) releases the black mamba found in Westville last weekend with the help of Westville resident Stephen Clark and local school pupils.

“They are trying to get food and as much sun as possible, especially ahead of a cold front such as the one expected this weekend because they sense it’s coming. Once the cold hits, they will hide, but when seeking shelter they look for a warm place that tends to be people’s homes, garages and wendy houses,” said Arnold.

He confirmed that black mambas’ mating season could continue into July, while the mating season for green mambas was May and June. Black mambas can grow up to an estimated three metres and green mambas are smaller, growing up to two metres.

“There will be a lot of activity at the moment. Pythons tend to enjoy cooler weather and when there is a sudden drop in temperature, I could get more calls. I released a python yesterday, which I rescued last week when it wrapped itself around a large goat. The goat survived because it was too big to eat,” said Arnold.

The python spotted at Zimbali moved in a straight line, which Arnold said was “rectilinear movement”, which is used by heavy bodied snakes when they are not rushing.

A large Southern African python slithers between the holes at Zimbali Golf Course. Picture: Supplied

“If someone spooked it, the snake would use a serpentine movement which enables it to move quickly,” he said.

“It’s important to remember that this is not an invasion just because these incidents are appearing on social media. It has created more awareness of these incidents.”

Herpetologist Nick Evans from KZN Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, who was called in to catch the 2.5m mamba from the cupboard in the Westville house, confirmed on Friday that the snake was released into the wild on Thursday.

Speaking to The Independent on Saturday while out on a search for a pair of black mambas in Northdene, Evans said: “It is still mating season but snake activity will die down in the next month.

“Durban is not really cold enough for snakes to fully hibernate. They can be spotted but they become a lot less active,” said Evans.

Meanwhile, it will be Mother’s Day with a difference at uShaka Marine World after the hatching of six baby green mambas. The tiny snakes’ arrival is something of a small miracle because the mother mamba was found with a broken spine by Evans while rescuing it from a house in the Bluff in January. He took the injured mamba into Dangerous Creatures at uShaka Marine World where their veterinary team examined it, only to find it was full of eggs.

According to uShaka Marine World, X-rays showed she had suffered from a spinal injury. She laid her eggs two days after arriving at the centre and, 72 days later, the baby mambas began to emerge.

"Mamma mamba" with one of her babies at uShaka Marine World. Picture: Supplied

This week, Evans said he was “relieved and happy” to hear his "mamma mamba" was doing well.

“You don’t often see baby mambas as they are shy, nervous snakes and obviously small, so difficult to see but they're dangerous from day one,” said Evans.

With cold weather moving into the province on Friday, South Coast snake catcher Sarel van der Merwe said snakes would be “going into their sleeping bags”.

“In the past week I have caught two green mambas in two days, and also caught a rinkhals (spitting cobra) last week, a snake not usually found in this area, so it must have come in with holidaymakers. There were a lot of Land Rovers parked at the holiday camp and I believe it travelled in one of those. We find a lot of snakes in cars or golf carts, they go there because it is warm. We do catch a lot of average snakes, but mambas, cobras and pythons get attention,” said Van der Merwe.

He added that the rain and cold would see snakes becoming less active.“Then it’s going to be holiday time for me.”

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