The creatures that occur in a landscape do so for special reasons resulting from a combination of climate, geology, soils and vegetation. The reptiles on the Jock Concession are no different, the landscape provides a set of unique conditions for a habitat in which they thrive. So, apart from a good chance of spotting the Big Five, as well as 500 species of birds on safari at Jock Safari Lodge, you are also likely to spot one of the 54 different species of snakes that call the Kruger National Park home.
Only half of these are venomous with 9 being potentially deadly. 30 are non-venomous and 7 can give painful bites.
World Snake Day was on Tuesday 16th of July 2019 and is celebrated by passionate wildlife enthusiasts all over the world. Society has always been fascinated by these beautiful and mysterious creatures. Some cultures in South Africa believe you are privileged if a snake reveals itself to you. It is believed that the snake is a sign of change and is telling you to expect change in your life. However, for most of us, the initial reaction on finding a snake remains fear- shortly followed by an unnecessary need to kill it. World Snake Day is used as a tool to educate the public and inform people about the type of snakes in your vicinity, how best to deal with an encounter, whom to call in case of an emergency and various other interesting and useful information.
Snakes live on every continent except Antarctica and vary from 32 feet long pythons to tiny vine snakes. Only about one-fourth of all snakes are venomous, but all of them would rather avoid human contact if they could. Many harmless snakes have cleverly taken on defence mechanisms whereby they imitate the behavioural and physical characteristics of venomous snakes. When in doubt, do not approach or touch the snake. Most snake bites occur when you try to pick up, move or kill a snake. Observe from a safe distance or walk around them slowly if they are blocking a trail. As we always remind our guests: when you visit a natural area, you are a visitor to the wildlife who live there. As visitors to their territory, we must respect their space and life. Their well-being is our top priority.
Snakes have many ecological benefits, one of them being feeding on several pests, such as: insects and rodents. Most of the time, snakes hide out under rocks, in old logs and in the branches of trees. We cross paths with them when they are looking for a mate, soaking up the sun on a beautiful day or readying themselves to ambush other reptiles and rodents.
Familiarizing yourself with our native snakes can help you feel more comfortable out in nature and spare the life of a harmless snake. Read on for some interesting facts on the deadliest and the harmless snakes in the Kruger National Park.
The Puff Adder is a seemingly slow and lazy snake, however, don’t let this fool you. This is the fastest striking snake in Africa, the only one able to strike backwards and it can be aggressive. It is responsible for the most snake-related human deaths in Africa. The Puff Adder is a master of camouflage with its beautiful patterns and many bites have been dealt when people unwittingly step on them. They are very fond of lying in the sun; found in all Kruger habitats – one of the most widely distributed snakes in Africa.
The Mozambique Spitting Cobra is a nervous and highly-strung snake and when confronted, can rear up to as much as two-thirds of its length. Its venom can be ejected at a distance of 2-3 metres. After the Puff Adder, it is considered as one of the most dangerous snakes on the continent. They are found in mixed savanna woodland; favours hollow trees and abandoned burrows near water.
The highly venomous Black Mamba has a near-mythical status on the continent – one legend tells of a Black Mamba finding itself at a cocktail party in the bush and biting 11 people before it was caught! The Black Mamba is, in fact, not an aggressive snake and bites from this snake are quite rare. It isn’t black either, typically grey or dark brown in colour, the name gives reference to the inside of its mouth which is typically dark inky black. It can slither up to a speed of 15km/hour! They are found in dry bush; lives in abandoned termite hills, animal holes and among rocks; they love basking in the sun.
The African Rock Python is the largest snake on the continent, with significant specimens approaching or exceeding 6m. It is generally nocturnal but is seen during the day. This non-venomous snake kills its prey by constricting its heavily muscled coils. Death is usually caused by cardiac arrest rather than asphyxiation or crushing. Though it typically targets large rodents, small mammals and the like, pythons will often hunt animals of great size, like antelope or even crocodiles. Find them in mixed woodlands near water; they are very good tree climbers
The Boomslang is a large, venomous, arboreal snake. They are generally shy snakes and reach a length of 1.5m long. They have exceptionally large eyes with very good eyesight and characteristically egg-shaped heads. Coloration varies; males are light green with black or blue scale edges, while adult females may be brown.
The non-venomous Mole Snake can grow to an impressive 2m long. It has a characteristically small head and pointed snout, with a firm, tubular body with mature individuals varying in colour from yellow to brown and grey. Mole Snakes hiss loudly when threated and can deliver a nasty bite. They live mostly underground but can be seen basking in the sun.
The Brown (or Cape) House Snake is a non-venomous snake that is usually dark brown on top, but the colour varies greatly from almost black through brown to olive green. The stripes that stretch from the rostral scale through the eye to the back of the head are typically thick and bold. It is completely harmless and relies on muscle power to constrict its prey.
Some cultures in South Africa believe you are privileged if a snake reveals itself to you. It is believed that the snake is a sign of change and is telling you to expect change in your life.
Snakes might not be on the top of your “must see” list, but hopefully it helps to know that snakes are more afraid of you than you are of them. The guides at Sanbona spend countless hours on training, learning how to handle snakes and snake encounters. View from a safe distance, ensure the snake has a clear exit and most importantly- enjoy the sighting!
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