When Tina and I get to manage various different Lodges as “locums”, we certainly do have some very “interesting” challenges to contend with from time to time.
There are occasionally the more mundane problems…water pipes being broken, power failures, or TV’s, lights and geysers getting blown out by power surges when we are boiling over with a Lodge full of Guests ! Of course these would happen at the oddest of hours of the night, or over a long weekend when no Service Men are available to be called out.
We’ve even had a severe rain storm during the night – with water virtually washing half of a Lodge’s garden into a brand new swimming pool and almost destroying the one retaining wall of the pool.
There was also the comic-tragic instance, of a “lady” Guest triggering the outside perimeter alarm after 23.00hrs because she was despatched by a highly irate boyfriend to go and buy condoms from the all night Convenience Shop ! Essentials my dear, essentials !
However, I recently had a rather unusual experience with a very irate Guest, at a Lodge that is situated out on a farm.
While supervising the breakfast session one morning, the Gardener came to the door to ask me for a bunch of spare keys kept “somewhere” in the office. So off we went and started scratching around the big, but crammed office for the keys. After pulling open the top right-hand drawer of the desk I froze. There in the drawer lay a curled up, vivid green snake !
The helper who was assisting with the search shrieked out in panic, saying that the Owner must have left it there as a deterent to thieves ! With its bright green colour, one could have thought it to be a plastic toy snake. I had however opened that drawer just the day before for a staple remover, and knew it must be the real McCoy and most definitely not a “left-behind” toy. With my natural sense of insight into any devious behaviour, I immediately realised that it was indeed actually an unannounced Guest trying to sneak into a bit of free accommodation !
To cut a long story short and to not over-stretch the snake tail/tale, the Gardener was all ready to go and fetch a big stick to beat the Intruder to death, but I managed to ever so very gently remove the drawer out of the desk, then covered it completely with a flat cardboard box and carried it out into the nearby veld. It took quite a bit of firm coaxing with a long stick to try to dislodge a now very agitated snake out of its cosy sleeping quarters.
Then suddenly it sailed off and disappeared, into the nearby tall veld grass. The wily creature actually got away without paying for its overnight stay ! Whether they be Light Greens or Dark Greens, you do find Chancers like these in all the different strata of our South African Society today.
All of this just goes to prove the ancient Roman saying : there’s always something new Out of Africa !
The Boom Slang or Tree Snake (Dispholidus typus )
The Boom Slang is a relatively small venomous snake which is also colour blind. The Boom Slang is known to be the only species in its genus. The name Boom Slang means “tree snake” directly translated from Afrikaans
The Boom Slang is an oviparous species. The eggs have a relatively long (3 months on average) incubation period. Hatchlings are greyish with blue speckles. They attain their adult coloration after several years. Their diet includes chameleons and other arboreal lizards, frogs, and occasionally small mammals, birds and eggs from nesting birds, all of which they swallow whole. During cool weather they will hibernate for moderate periods, often curling up inside the enclosed nests of birds such as weavers.
Many members of the family Colubridae that are considered venomous are essentially harmless to humans, because they either have small venom glands, relatively weak venom, or an inefficient system for delivery of venom. However, the Boom Slang is a notable exception in that it has highly potent venom, which it delivers through large fangs that are located in the rear of the jaw. The venom of the boom slang is primarily a haemotoxin. It disables the blood clotting process and the victim may well die as a result of internal and external bleeding. Other signs and symptoms include: headache, nausea, sleepiness and mental disorders.
Because the venom is slow to act, symptoms may not be manifest until many hours after the bite. On the one hand, this provides time for procuring the serum, while on the other hand it may lead victims to underestimate the seriousness of the bite. Snakes of any species may sometimes fail to inject venom when they bite aptly named a “dry bite”, so after a few hours without any noticeable effects, victims of Boom slang bites may believe (wrongly) that their injury is not serious.
Adult boom slang has 1.6–8mg of venom. Various sources give figures ranging from 0.06-0.72mg/kg being sufficient to kill mice in 50% of cases, if the venom reaches a vein.
Despite all of this, the Boom Slang and other snakes are gentle creatures and will only attack when they are put in a situation they don’t want to be in. Most of the time the snake will see you before you see it and it will move away. Any snakes prerogative is to always avoid contact with humans as they are not by their nature, a conflict species. So next time you find a snake please don’t kill it, rather find some one that knows how to handle snakes safely and get the person to remove the snake for you.
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