LOOK: Massive 23.95kg southern African python removed from Durban home after ‘hard work’ from snake catcher

The massive 23.95kg, around 3.3m, southern African python was removed froma Clare Estate home. Picture: Nick Evans.

The massive 23.95kg, around 3.3m, southern African python was removed froma Clare Estate home. Picture: Nick Evans.

Published Apr 18, 2023


Durban — A snake catcher, with the help of others, rescued a massive southern African python weighing 23.95kg, around 3.3 metres, from Clare Estate home.

Durban snake catcher Nick Evans said it was a long story but there was a lot of information to share.

Evans said that on Saturday, he received a call from his friend Vincent of the Clare Estate Action Committee, who helped him on mamba calls in the past. Vincent told Evans about a rock python on a property in Clare Estate.

With a great deal of confidence he said, “Vincent, it will be someone’s pet boa.”

Evans said he had caught one in the area before.

A nightmare situation, described snake catcher Nick Evans. Picture: Nick Evans.

He said the southern African python, previously known as the rock python (which is technically now the East African subspecies), does not occur in this area, or anywhere nearby. Historically, yes, nearby, in the Palmiet Valley, but they have since been wiped out.

“Vincent was going to check it out and call me if he needed me,” Evans said.

He said that minutes passed and Vincent called back.

“Nick, I need you here buddy. It’s a huge python,” Vincent said, following with a photo and it was indeed a southern African python.

Evans said it was too interesting not to attend.

He said when he arrived, there were a number of residents from the neighbourhood at the scene.

Grabbing the head wasn't going to work here, said Nick Evans. Picture: Nick Evans.

He also said he did not have his python box with him, not that he was concerned, as he usually can fit them in my mamba bucket without a problem but the residents told him the bucket was not big enough.

“Ja, whatever,” Evans thought.

He said people always thought the snakes will not fit in the buckets, but they do, easily.

“Then, I saw the snake. Oh. It was a very large python,” Evans said.

“The python was in a horrible position for me to catch it in. It was sprawled out over the top of a two-metre-high brick wall, under a layer of barbed wire, built in on the wall. It was also lying against a standard wire fence, but right behind that, was another barbed wire fence. An absolute nightmare. I was deeply concerned that the snake was going to tear itself apart during the capture,” Evans described the situation they were faced with.

“My plan was to grab the head, and hope that the body would come out forwards, as usually is the case. I’ve found they do this, to then wrap their large body around one's arm, to try and pull their heads free. It might get a scratch or two, but it seemed the best choice.”

Evans said that the problem was that the python was looking at him. It would grab his hand before he grabbed it. However, the bigger problem was that he had to get his hand through barbed wire.

Vincent and the other assistants holding the snake while Nick Evans cut the fence. Picture: Nick Evans.

“As I was about to attempt this, while standing on a plastic stool, the python struck at my face, although it just hit the barbed wire and reversed back instantly - without injury. It then turned back over its body and tried getting through the fencing,” Evans said.

“It got through the standard, non-barbed fence at first, but the mid-body got stuck, due to its girth. The front quarter hooked around the barbed wire fence on the other side of the standard fence.”

Evans said it was not going to plan.

“I grabbed a hold of the body, to try and hold it from getting through. Vincent immediately came up next to me and grabbed on. Two other bystanders did as well. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to warn them about the python's painless but disgusting method of self-defence from the rear, and it squirted a large amount of urine onto my brave helpers. Oops,” Evans said.

“The four of us held on, but we weren’t winning. I wanted to get on the other side of the fence. There was a small space between it and the neighbour's boundary wall. But there was no access. I was starting to stress. What if it got through? Where would it go? Would it eat a pet? Would someone kill it? I needed to get it now.”

Evans said that the bystanders behind him were also trying to think of ways to help and shining torches. They then organised a set of bolt cutters for him. He said he had never used those before and he always made do with little wire cutters. He also said he learned that bolt cutters are a brilliant invention and the next tool he needs to get. The homeowner gave him permission to cut as much of the fencing as needed.

Where the python was. Picture: Nick Evans

“I first cut the barbed wire that was now below the snake, which it was initially lying under. It would catch her when we pulled her out, and it was hooking on my assistants. I then cut the standard wire around the snake. Then, I reached in further, and cut the next layer of barbed wire, with ease,” Evans explained.

He said the python was getting more and more agitated, understandably so.

“Eventually, we’d cut enough wire to pull her free. My assistants pulled, while I tried lifting her over the wire. We got her free and lowered her to the ground,” Evans said.

He said he had caught many pythons without incident. That was until last week when he sustained a minor bite and during this python rescue.

“Must be old age,” Evans said.

He said that a python’s mouth is lined with hook-like teeth, so it is a tad painful.

“Blood poured from my hands,” Evans said.

“The python moved after momentarily fending me off, but a piece of cut barbed wire, on the ground, got stuck on her neck, and I couldn't grab her then. I used the bolt cutters to push them off. Then, my assistants pulled her away from the chairs and stools we'd been standing on, and when she was in the open, I grabbed her, successfully, this time! My assistants quickly held the rest of her body down,” Evans said.

“She was massive. 23.95kg, around 3.3m in length.

“Fortunately, we didn't notice any visible wounds. She had quite a bit of blood on her, all mine,” Evans said.

Some of Nick Evans's crew for the night. He said he was extremely grateful to them and those not in the picture. Picture: Nick Evans.

He said they managed to get the snake in the bucket and then Vincent treated his bite wounds.

Evans said that he and Vincent took the python to uShaka Sea World on Monday, to the Dangerous Creatures and veterinary team, for a check-up. He said that the python had no visible wounds and she seemed in perfect condition.

“Thanks to the team for doing that for me,” he said.

Evans said that he was grateful to everyone who assisted. Everyone there just wanted the snake to be safe, it was awesome to see.

He said that one of his brave helpers was not initially a fan of snakes, and out of fear and misunderstanding, said he usually kills them. But he did not hesitate to help and loved the experience, telling Evans he will be calling him in future.

“While it was a difficult rescue that didn't go to plan, we managed, with the snake safe, and it would not have been possible without those who were present. A great team effort,” Evans said.


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Evans gave guesses regarding where the python might have come from:

It caught a lift in the undercarriage of a car or truck that was in an area where pythons occur.

On my way there, I thought maybe someone had picked it up somewhere and tried keeping it as a pet before it escaped. But I feel it is too large and grumpy to be a manageable pet.

Pythons are highly sought after in the traditional medicine market. Perhaps someone had collected it somewhere and was going to take it to the market at Warwick Triangle (Durban CBD), but it escaped. Pythons are taken there frequently.

“The python will be released in an undisclosed game reserve,” Evans said.

He added that the southern African python is classified as a threatened or protected species (TOPS). It is illegal to kill, catch, transport and keep them.

“Just for me to rescue them, I have to have a permit,” Evans said.

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