Home Articles Tales of Zambia Life as owner of Kitwe Zoo, 1982-90
Life as owner of Kitwe Zoo, 1982-90
Written by John Stratford   
Tuesday, 23 March 2010 14:48

Of course, word spread quickly about my association with snakes, and I was often called upon to remove errant reptiles from people’s houses or gardens. Once I was roused from my bed early one morning to go rescue a neighbour’s chickens from the alleged attention of a “black mamba”. I didn’t believe that identification at all, since that snake was very rare around Kitwe. However, it is very dangerous so I went prepared. I took my trusty home made snake catching stick, my goggles (in case it was a spitting cobra) and a thick hessian sack threaded on a stout broom-handle.

I would soak this sack in water, and then hold it in front of me while looking for the snake. This method of self-defence proved very effective, the sodden sack stopped every snake I encountered in its tracks, and their fangs usually got caught in the weave enabling me to catch the things quickly.

Another time I was summoned to a farm on the border between Zambia and Zaire, by a farmer who said he had a python (python sabae) after his baby piglets. I asked him how he knew it was a python, to be told that it was about 20 feet long and as thick as his arm. So, - there was no doubt about it then! I collected my gear and my intrepid assistant, Barbara, and off we went. It took us about an hour to get to the farm, as there were several police checks on the way due to the proximity of the border.

On arrival, I was confronted by a large python, which had managed to get itself though the fence of the pigsty, but was unable to escape since it had swallowed a piglet and was now too large in diameter. Catching it was simple; I wedged open the mouth of a grain sack with a small stick, placed the sack in front the snake, which obligingly crawled into the sack. I tied off the sack, and we went home.