Holidaymakers renting a Zimbali Eco Estate property were in for a surprise when they spotted an African Rock Python more than four metres long basking in the afternoon sun on their patio on Monday, December 16.
The estate called in Nick Evans of the KwaZulu-Natal Amphibian and Reptile Conservation centre, who said what he found was ‘a dream come true’.
The snake was exceptionally large at over four metres, weighed 33.1 kg and was also pregnant.
“Soon after we arrived, my colleague Nick Saunders and I discovered that underneath the stairs of the patio was a tunnel.
“After digging for a bit I decided to stick my phone in and get some footage however, there was no sign of the snake so we continued to dig,” said Nick.
The men disturbed a hidden beehive in the tunnel and a barrage of bee stings ensued.
“I was getting stung on my head, between my eyes, on my ear, neck, arms and legs – everywhere,” said Evans, adding that he managed to escape the bees after running for some 300 metres.
While Evans’ wife Joelle saw to the removal of the stingers from both her husband and Nick Saunders, a Durban-based bee-removal expert was called to help remove the bees.
After their successful removal, and instead of going home, bee-removal expert Johan Bodenstein stayed to help with the capture of the python.
“But the python had other ideas. She squished herself into her tunnel so tightly that removing her would be difficult. We were however quite relieved to find that she was not on her eggs because if she had been, the removal would have been near impossible,” said Nick.
After six hours of struggling, they managed to coax the python out of her burrow.
Evans took the python to the uShaka Marine World’s Dangerous Creatures department where data was collected on the snake.
“I consulted with professor Graham Alexander and it was agreed that it would be best to house her until after delivery,” said Nick.
According to Snakes of Southern Africa by Johan Marais the African rock python (Python sebae) is a large, non-venomous snake of sub-Saharan Africa.
The African rock python kills its prey by constriction and often eats animals up to the size of antelope, occasionally even crocodiles.
The snake reproduces by egg-laying.
Unlike most snakes, the female protects her nest and sometimes even her hatchlings.
The snake is widely feared, though it very rarely kills humans.
Although the snake is not endangered, it does face threats from habitat reduction and hunting.