2006.04.29: April 29, 2006: Headlines: COS - Zambia: Blogs - Zambia: Snakes: Personal Web Site: Zambia Peace Corps Volunteer Ned writes: Snake Hunt!

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Zambia: Peace Corps Zambia : The Peace Corps in Zambia: 2006.04.29: April 29, 2006: Headlines: COS - Zambia: Blogs - Zambia: Snakes: Personal Web Site: Zambia Peace Corps Volunteer Ned writes: Snake Hunt!

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Zambia Peace Corps Volunteer Ned writes: Snake Hunt!

Zambia Peace Corps Volunteer Ned writes: Snake Hunt!

"The snake curled and whipped its form out from the crevice, first the slender tail, then central coils, staying in place but displaying a terrible presence as it skitted along the wall edge. A banging and pounding noise rattled the rooftop overhead as our outside legions hurled rocks and bricks at the aluminum sheeting. Suddenly, a small coffin-shaped head emerged from the darkness, and steadied its black eyes onto our cohort. "Kill it! Hit the head!" Brother George shouted."

Zambia Peace Corps Volunteer Ned writes: Snake Hunt!

Snake Hunt!

The black mamba is renowned and feared throughout its African homeland for its speed, agility and deadly venom. In spite of its name, this snake is dark greyish-brown in colour. The black mamba is a long, dangerous snake from central and southern Africa. It will take readily to the trees, and can move faster than any other snake through thick undergrowth or over open ground. Agile and nervous, it can strike accurately at prey even when moving fast.

"There's a python in the pumphouse!" Brother George blirted out.

I ran from my room and approached him in disbelief.

"A python?! Is it really a python?!"

"It's huge! As thick as my arm!" Leewais exclaimed.

So to the pumphouse we went.

Leewais jiggled the lock and cautiously opened the door. Light poured into the small room where four pumps hummed in mechanical succession.

"Up there! Behind the straw!"

Sure enough, just under the eaves of the aluminum roof we could make out the dark coils of a serpent.

But it wasn't thick enough to be a python.

I set my camera flash at the mysterious creature and we all huddled around the screen to get a better look. "I think it may be a cobra; it's not big enough to be a python," I guessed, "We need to see the head."

"It's a black mamba." Leewais said gravely.

I immediately doubted him. Ever since arrival in country, it seemed that every snake a villager saw was a ‘black mamba’ or a ‘spitting cobra.’

I had good reason to doubt.

"This picture shows grey-brown scales and a light colored underbelly. I think it's a cobra." I commented.

"I don't know; it looks kind of green, maybe it's a green mamba?" George reasoned.

"It's a black mamba." Leewais repeated.

Drawing from my training session on snakes the week before, I thought aloud, "Then we have to see the inside of its mouth. If the mouth is black then it's a black mamba."

We retreated to collect our reserves--a handful of noble snake soldiers armed with homemade spears. This mood dissipated when the words "black mamba" spilled out. Nonetheless, our small mob of adder assassins returned to the scene to finish the job.

The river gurgled loudly under the forest canopy as Leewais reluctantly returned to open the pumphouse door. Our batallion floated silently through the doorway and trained our eyes on the spot to find--nothing. Where did it go? A breath of panic ushered its way across our lips until someone spoke.

"It's still there! I see it!"

Indeed it was, retreated far into the shadows.

The paralysis of hesitation and fear extended immeasurably until finally a spear tip prodded the dark bundle...

And the battle commenced.

The snake curled and whipped its form out from the crevice, first the slender tail, then central coils, staying in place but displaying a terrible presence as it skitted along the wall edge. A banging and pounding noise rattled the rooftop overhead as our outside legions hurled rocks and bricks at the aluminum sheeting. Suddenly, a small coffin-shaped head emerged from the darkness, and steadied its black eyes onto our cohort. "Kill it! Hit the head!" Brother George shouted.

Missiles fired from the doorframe and met their purchase, tearing at grey scales along the central coils. A sharp hiss shot out from the wall as the snake held ground. The mouth gaped open at us in the low light revealing an inky abyss within. Shouts came from our troops as they stormed the compound, thrashing the creature with spears, sticks, rocks, bricks--ravaging the delicate scales and tearing them from the body like rice paper. Standing there, I could only watch the barrage unwind in disbelief, disarmed by our foe's terrible aspect. A brick came hurtling from my right and exploded against the wall in a cloud of dust. What emerged was the limp image of our adversary, hanging like a discarded pair of stockings from the roofbeam.

A cheer rose up from our ranks as the nearest soldier stabbed his bayonet through the head of the snake and dragged its nearly three-meters of length into the light of day. Blood dripped from the mouth and the tiny fixed fangs, and though the coils continued to twist and contort themselves it was evident the battle was over.

"That is a black mamba." Leewais said.

Staring into the black mouth of the snake, I was no longer in doubt.

When this story was posted in October 2006, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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