Monday, March 9, 2009

Spitting Black Spitting Cobras

Two short stories about Black Spitting Cobras spitting.

  1. Don't drink and catch cobras One of our guides was called to my house when I was away on holiday at the time that I worked at Sossusvlei Mountain Lodge. Each night our power would be off, and we shared our satellite TV with the Chef next door. His girlfriend had gone into our house to turn on the power to the TV reception, and met a Black Spitting Cobra.

    The ranger had already had a beer in the afternoon, as he had the afternoon off with no guests. As he was the only one around who would catch the snake, he was called. After all, he had only had a couple drinks?? Anyway, the snake was caught, but he got spat on.

    He didn't think much of it, and took the snake out to release it. Later he broke out in an amazing rash. I got back soon afterwards from my leave and we phoned a doctor who was interested in snake bites. He was amazed, even excited at the reaction. It's a rather rare snake, and lives in areas where there are few humans, and it has a rather unsual venom. In the end, it eventually just cleared up. But it taught the ranger a couple lessons!

  2. Careful who you look in the eye One of the nature conservationists on our reserve also had a run in with a Cobra. I was working in Windhoek that year (2003.) One day I saw him in Windhoek. He told me that he had been in hospital because he had been spat in the eye by a Black Spitting Cobra. He had seen a small snake in the grass by his house, and it went under a little ledge. He didn't recognize it, as we don't often see the younger forms of these snakes.

    He got his snake stick and looked under the ledge of the house. There are many small constrictors in the area that are harmless. We don't often see the more venomous snakes. So he didn't expect it. But as he bent down the snake spat him straight in the eye.

    He knew right away that it was bad. He ran the hosepipe on the small lawn they have, and just poured water over his eyes. He was flown out to hospital and had a painful couple days, but recovered fully.

Situations like this are really rare. Much more often one encounters the small benign snakes, and even when you encounter cobras, things usually don't go wrong. It's usually hard to even get a decent look as these snakes do their best just to disappear. In all cases of being spat at, the victim was handling the snake.

Many people fear snakes a lot, but if you learn to appreciate them, respect them, then they soon become fascinating.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

New Managment - and Cobras

During my time at Sossusvlei Desert Lodge (it was called Sossusvlei Mountain Lodge at the time) I saw a number of changes in management. It was always an eventful time. Staff take time to adjust to the new management style, the new manager takes time to adjust to the lodge, to the staff and so on. It's just normal. It's like that in any normal organization.

A few years back one management change was a little more eventful than the others. There were lots of members of management around at the time. I was mainly guiding and not involved much with management (except for managing the guiding department.)

My typical day at Sossusvlei Desert Lodge as a guide involved a very early start, a long break in the middle of the day, and then working until the guests went to dinner.

During this particular management changeover I was off for my lunch break. I lived some three kilometers from the lodge at the staff village. I got a phone call from the manager to be. There was a Black Spitting Cobra Naja nigricollis woodi at the lodge. They couldn't find the snake stick. Could I come and help.

I found the snake stick without to much trouble. The snake had gone past all the people having lunch outside, up the wall, onto the roof. The roof was a depression (you can see the exact area where the snake was in this picture from Expert Africa's Website.

I had to climb up the side wall and was assisted by one of the managers from Windhoek up on the roof. I think I was the only one, aside from one of the assistant managers, who had caught cobras before. So I did all the actual catching of the snake. It got itself really wound up tight in a corner, having gone through a hole out of the roof, and down a narrow area where wires ran down the side of the building.

It was hard to pull it out. It kept it's head inside of it's coils, so that I could only pull out it's body. That's not ideal, because when you pull the body away it's head can strike at you. Eventually we got it out okay. It had a little spit at me, but very little got on me. I passed the snake into the container below, where the assistant manager controlled it and put the lid on. We drove it out and let it go.

Cobras were rather rare for us, and this day was really something else, with the cobra really putting on a show for all our visitors for the changeover, and a dramatic start to our new manager's time at the lodge.