Elusive Black mamba extended ‘school holiday’

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While the rest of the country’s school-goers were eagerly attending their first classes of 2020, pupils from Olwasini Junior Primary School in Amahlongwa on the KZN South Coast had their holidays extended for a few extra days after it was discovered that a black mamba had taken residence in one of the classrooms.

Herpetologists from Crocworld Conservation Centre in Scottburgh were called out to rescue the school’s newest classmate – assisted by members from SAPS – but the snake’s chosen hiding spot made for a challenging rescue, resulting in success on 17 January.
 
“The school staff identified the snake and contacted us to retrieve it, but it took three days before we were able to get hold of the snake,” explained Crocworld Conservation manager, Martin Rodrigues. The snake was hiding in the brickwork near the ceiling, inside the wall. It could be spotted but we couldn’t find the hole it was getting in through. Then the staff saw it and were able to keep an eye on it while we were called to attend.”
 
The delicate retrieval of the snake meant that the Crocworld members had to break through part of the wall without harming the snake. However, Rodrigues said, once access was finally made, the snake rescue was fairly straight-forward.
 
Mpume Mvubu, the principal of Olwasini Junior Primary School, explained that staff had noticed the presence of the 2-metre black mamba on the roof of the school. “We called the police and Crocworld Conservation Centre to rescue us. On the third day, they broke the wall, and the snake was hiding deep inside. I’ve never experienced this. “It was a crisis for the school – this is a fast snake and very dangerous. I thank Crocworld for their help, we will call them again if there is another snake,”
 
Because of the danger posed by black mambas, the pupils were kept away from class for the duration of the snake capture, Rodrigues said that the school acted correctly, with the safety of pupils prioritised: “It’s important to remember that snake captures are done by professionals. You need to know what you’re doing, use the right equipment and understand the behaviour of the animal – especially with a snake like a black mamba.”
 
He said trying to remove a snake without assistance, or killing the animal, puts the individual at risk. He advises keeping a watch on the snake, from a distance of about five metres, and immediately calling a professional for help.
 
“Thanks to the efforts by the staff and members of SAPS, we were able to successfully remove the snake unharmed,” said Rodrigues. “It is about to shed its skin, so we will feed it and keep it until then, before releasing it into a secure location, away from human habitation.” Crocworld Conservation Centre offers a free service of identifying and removing snakes for the communities of Scottburgh, uMkomaas, Pennington and Park Rynie. For more information or assistance contact Crocworld Conservation Centre on 039 976 1103 or Martin Rodrigues on 078 484 1859 or James Wittstock on 066 292 0880

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