Monday, September 08, 2008

Bush Tip Number Two – how to survive a python attack

More useful tips from the bushveld... There will be pictures in due course. Signing off now for a while as Mrs B and I cross into the badlands of Zimbabwe... for now, read on...


“When the python bites you on the leg, stay very still. Maybe for up to one, one-and-a-half hours,” said Metsi, our safari guide at Xakanaxa Camp in the Moremi Game Reserve, deep in the Okavango Delta.

“I see,” I said, as we watched the 3.5 metre African Rock Python inch its way into a hollowed out log.

Metsi cackled, digressing: “We sometimes stop at this spot for sundowners and people they want to sit on this dead tree. Hahahahahahahaha.”

“So,” I said, bringing him back to the subject at hand, survival in the wild, “when the python grabs you, you stand still?”

“Yes, very still,” he said to me, like I was the dumb kid in the back of the class. “The python, you see, is not poisonous. His bite is like the dog, so it will not kill you.”

All very well, but I don’t know if I’d be standing still for an hour and a half if a Doberman’s jaws were locked on my thigh.

“The python he wants you to move, and when you move he will wrap himself around you, squeeze you, break all your bones and eat you,” Metsi explained matter-of-factly.

“Gotcha.” Good incentive to stand still. I asked Metsi if he knew of any humans who had met their end by flinching under the bite of a python, as I checked the snake’s very large head and very large teeth through Mrs Blog’s binoculars.

“My uncle….” Most of Metsi’s interesting wildlife stories seemed to relate to his uncle, who led a dangerous and varied life, scaring lions off kills to steal their food and generally doing his best to get himself killed as he poled himself around the delta on his mokoro canoe in “the olden times”.

“My uncle,” he continued, “was walking from island in the river to another in the olden times when the python grabbed him on the leg. He stood in the water for one and a half hours with the snake holding on to him. Eventually the snake got bored and let him go.”

I wondered, given Bob’s advice about crocodiles (see my earlier post if you have just joined us) what would have happened if Metsi’s uncle had encountered a curious croc midstream at the same time as the snake attack. How easy would it have been to stroke the belly of the crocodile or tear out its nostril valves with a python chomping down on his calf?

After our encounter with the snake Metsi led us to an excellent leopard sighting. A female had killed an impala and dragged it under a maggigwari bush to devour it. Nearby, in a tree, was her small but perfectly formed eight-month-old cub, who occasionally squeaked to its mother.

So cute was this miniature killer, that Mrs Blog and I were tempted to snatch it up and whisk it away. It bounded out of its tree, ran across to its mother and posed beside her (pictures to come), then hopped back up in a nearby tree, to the accompaniment of a chorus of clicking and whirring cameras.

Metsi informed us that this particular leopardess’ method of hunting was to wait silently in the branches of a Jackalberry tree. Impalas, inevitably, would be drawn to the foot of the tree to nibble on fallen berries. At the right moment this cunning cat would simply drop out of her tree on to the back of her unsuspecting prey.

What, I wondered, would Metsi’s uncle do if a leopard descended on him from out of the blue? I doubt that the time honoured “whatever you do, don’t run” would work in this case.

8 comments :

ali g said...

Read all your latest blogs at 4am this morning after being banned to the
'snorers coach'.
Your great descriptions made me forgot how cold it was here until finished reading but then snuggled down with the cats on the couch and dreamt of Africa with the snakes and crocs there trying to bite me.
Think my snoring kept them at bay though!
Great blogs! >^..^<

Crookedpaw said...

Aaah! But will you be able to stand still if the python bites you on the python?

redcap said...

Oh, man, I want to see those pictures! Jeez, hurry up! I was absolutely gagging to see a big snake on my last trip, but no dice.

And I suspect that Metsi has about eight or ten uncles, several of whom were actually eaten by the things he claims got bored with them and wandered off. Or else they were all Spike Milligan ;)

Java said...

Hope you are gonna pop in at my family's this time around. They live near the Marken border in Ellisras!
They'd be happy to have you's. SMS me and we'll swop phone numbers.
Enjoy!!

noddy said...

I saw a set of python teeth once and they were razor sharp. I don't like the chances of standing still whilst being bitten. It's hard enough not to scratch after being bitten by a mozzie.

Java said...

A mate here from work talk about visiting Zim in Dec 08/Jan 09, I told him I won't go unless he spoke to you. Can I pass your email address on to him?

AMDW said...

METSI was my guide when I stayed at Xakanaxa Camp in Dec 06..he was fantastic and had the most amazing stories..I can't wait to see your pics. I miss Africa but I'm really enjoying SILENT PREDATOR..love the setting, well done Tony! :-)
AMDW - Aust.

Anonymous said...

Though usually when a python attacks it will be an ambush and it will use its body weight to knock u off your feet. Once u are off your feet it does not matter how still you are he will start wrapping