Nick Evans, Leanna Botha and Carl Schloms inspect Pippa the 'frozen' rock python. Picture: Supplied

Durban - Late last month, local snake catcher, Nick Evans, brought a three-metre female Southern African Rock Python (Python natalensis)  to Dangerous Creatures Exhibit at uShaka. Locals had spotted the python, named Pippa by the staff, lying motionless for nearly a week in a Shongweni storm water culvert.

According to snake expert, Lesley Labuschagne: “The python had probably sought refuge in the concrete culvert which, unlike the natural holes in which pythons would seek refuge, remained cold throughout the days and nights that followed. This led to a debilitating drop in her body temperature, preventing her from moving back into a warmer environment.”
 
When she arrived she was very cold, dehydrated and unresponsive. “We placed her in a temperature controlled environment and administered antibiotics and rehydration fluids. Over the next few days we were able to gradually increase her body temperature and her condition started improving,” said Labuschagne. 
 
For the next three weeks the python was closely monitored. She started moving about on her own, drinking water and digesting small quantities of food. It is anticipated that within the next few weeks uShaka veterinarian Francois Lampen will give her a clean bill of health. She will then handed to Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife for release.
 
African Rock Pythons are non venomous and are the largest snakes in Africa. They are classified as CITES II animals and are on the threatened or protected species list. 
 
The Shongweni area is an ideal foraging ground for these magnificent snakes as they feed off rodents, hares, monkeys, birds and small antelope. The main reason for the decline in their numbers is the competition with humans for safe spaces.
 
“Hopefully she will stay away from storm water culverts in future,” said Labuschagne.

The Independent on Saturday