Home Articles Tales of Zambia Further adventures at Kitwe Zoo.
Further adventures at Kitwe Zoo.
Written by Joribar   
Monday, 17 May 2010 18:02

On arrival back in Zambia after my annual leave to England, I picked up the local newspaper in Lusaka airport, while waiting for my connection to Ndola. I was horrified to see headlines “Zoo Lions Devour Man", and even worse, this was MY zoo they were talking about. Apparently some person had made a bet that the lions were tame, so he climbed over the 30 foot high fence to prove it, and lost the bet. The police had been called and no hint of negligence on our part was mooted so it remained for us to try, when the chance arose, to recover the poor chap's head, being all there was left, together with any remnants of clothing for identification purposes. This gruesome task was accomplished a few days later after we managed to get hold of a tranquilliser gun to subdue the lions......we KNEW they weren't tame!

The problem of everyday feeding of all these animals was quite easily overcome. I was able to help the local health department by offering to remove all of their condemned meat and vegetable waste from the markets. Each evening, my Allenwest driver would make the rounds collecting whatever was available, and take it all to the zoo! Health dept happy; animals happy, me VERY happy as I had fed all at no cost.

I employed my own snake-handler in the zoo, a Mr Patrick Phiri. He was at first, terrified of his charges, but needed a job, so overcame his concerns and exceeded all my expectations. He became very much at home at the zoo with a 6 metre python around his neck, showing off to the onlookers.

One handler in a rival establishment, Monkey Fountain Zoo in Ndola, was not so lucky though. He used to show off his snakes by pulling back their top lips to expose the fangs. One day he tried it with a Cobra (naja nigricolis) and pricked his finger on one fang. He died the same evening. Although there was anti-venom available, it had no effect because of his in-built conviction that "to be bitten is to die". On one of my many "spying" visits to that zoo, I was enjoying a Coca-Cola in the cafe, when I felt a tickle on the back of my neck, so I scratched it. A little later when the tickle returned, I put my hand behind my neck to feel a furry lump. I grabbed it, and when my hand came around to the front, I was terrified to see myself holding the biggest spider I had ever seen, either alive or in pictures!

I suffer badly from arachnophobia, so the spider travelled faster than any of its relatives, or ancestors, towards the nearest wall, where it formed a large sticky mess!

Later, a friend found a similar spider while out in the bush, and took it to his home where it lived for many years in a standard type of bird cage, being hand fed on horse flies, grasshoppers, and when possible, locusts.