As a guide I’ve learned one thing, and that is to respect animals, especially venomous snakes. This is an area where I am very happy to view the individual at a safe distance and ensure neither party is disturbed or harmed.
Over the last year, the most commonly seen snake for me while driving, hiking, visiting National Parks and at home has been the boomslang (dispholidus typus).
On one typical sunny afternoon, I looked over my balcony to scan the now flowering Strelitzia in my garden, expecting to see some sunbird activity, when I suddenly spotted movement in the tree. I got a quick glance of a brownish body of what looked like a snake moving in the tree, so I quickly grabbed my camera and rushed downstairs to see if I could get a better view of the creature.
Most times when I’ve seen this snake it’s been a fairly quick sighting. However, this young female was very happy to be observed as she slithered in and out of the green stems of the Strelitzia. I was amazed at how fast this snake can move in and around a tree; one minute she’s gone and then, all of a sudden, she pops out right in front of me!
As she slithered towards the base of the plant I saw a quick flash of movement and suddenly a Marble Leaf-Toed Gecko jumped out and proceeded to hang upside down on one of the Strelitzia’s stems. The first thing I noticed was that its tail was missing!
Geckos are known to release their tail as a form of distraction to the predator. However, the snake was not fooled and after swallowing the tail, it continued to slither in and out of the Strelitzia in search of the Gecko.
Suddenly the snake reappeared and the gecko took a leap of faith and darted for the Wild Jasmine next to the Strelitzia, but the boomslang was too fast! The snake shot out of the Strelitzia and grabbed the gecko in the centre of its body and proceeded to eat the gecko.
What to learn about this snake:
- The boomslang is regarded as a highly venomous snake, possessing haemotoxic venom which prevents the blood from clotting.
- The boomslang is generally a placid snake and most people that have been bitten or killed have been handling the snake.
- If it’s head is puffed up and looks abnormal, this is a warning! Stay clear!
- Remember that the boomslang is a predator and would probably prefer to eat rodents, birds and lizards than you, and if you kill it, another predator could take its place which might not be so friendly.
- If you have birds in your garden regularly, listen to their calls, as the birds’ alarm calls can help to warn you if there is a predator in the garden.