Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Snake Wrangling 101

I've had a passion for snakes that started when I was toddler in Zambia. Around that time my father caught my first pet snake - a species of unknown, presumably non venomous origins. My first serious foray into the world of snake handling occurred a short time later at the age of 3 while on holiday in Singapore with my parents. By all accounts, we were at a reptile show and the handler asked for a volunteer from the audience to come down to the front and have a rather large python placed around their neck. Before my parents could blink I was on my way down the isle to gasps from the crowd and well on my way to a life never too far from these much reviled, legless reptiles.

Despite the reputation of Australia as the land of all things serpent it wasn't until I returned to Zambia age 22 that I really got my hands dirty, so to speak. Working as a trainee safari guide, and subsequently as a qualified guide, in Zambia's Sth Luangwa NP I soon gained a reputation as the crazy guy who loved snakes and every time any of the staff at the lodge where I was working spotted a snake I was summoned immediately. I even had one young man, who very unusually for a Zambian, actually shared my passion for catching snakes. He would would put any snakes he found in a pillow case and place that on my bed if I wasn't around. The lady who cleaned my room learned very quickly not to go near anything left writhing on my mattress and it wasn't long before I was left to clean my own room on a daily basis.

It was around this time that I became good friends with a fellow guide from South Africa, Craig Doria,  who had published the first book on the snakes of the region; the aptly titled "A guide to the snakes of Luangwa Valley". I immediately set about helping him document as many species on film as we could get our hands on in order to republish his book with colour photos. This often involved placing newly acquired specimens in the camp cold room in order to render them easier to handle and photograph. Over time we refined and perfected our snake wrangling routine that as you can see from the video below shot some 10 years later in Tanzania, is still a work in progress.

Please don't try this at home - or anywhere else for that matter!