Pietermaritzburg – An African Rock Python was rescued on Wednesday morning from the wrath of the Table Mountain community, who said the snake has killed and eaten chickens in the area.
SPCA spokesperson Maureen Vida said they were called by the police in Bishopstowe to assist in the removal of the python after it had been caught by community members.
“Senior Inspector Alec Wylie accompanied the police to the area and found the snake curled up in the chicken coup.
“After dislodging some of the structure, he managed to remove the 2.5m African rock python, which, judging by the bulge in its body, had recently consumed a chicken or two,” said Vida.
The python had been injured and it struck out aggressively at Wylie several times – much to the horror of community onlookers, she said.
Qualified herpetologist Angelo Lambiris and a vet performed a seven-and-a-half-hour operation.
“I am not a qualified vet, though I do have internationally recognised expertise in reptile medicine and surgery; I work under the supervision of a qualified, registered veterinarian, with the knowledge and permission of the South African Veterinary Council,” said Lambiris.
Struck on head
He said the young female snake had been struck on the head with a blunt object after she had been caught eating a chicken.
“She was in a critical condition when she arrived and had to be stabilised before surgery could be performed.
“Her snout had been split wide open, with extensive damage to important underlying structures, and the bones of the snout and left upper jaw were shattered.”
He said the skin and soft tissue of the lower jaw, including the gums, were badly lacerated and damaged, and completely pulled away from the bones.
The tongue sheath, which contains tiny intricate muscles, was badly lacerated and damaged; the tongue is essential for the snake to be able to track food, so this was a very serious injury, said Lambiris.
The tissue in the snout that could not be saved had to be carefully excised.
The surgery was completed without undue problems and the python is recovering remarkably well.
The African rock python, Africa’s largest snake, is listed as a vulnerable species in the latest South African Red Data Book – Reptiles and Amphibians.
It is an offence to capture, kill or harm them in any way and it is against the law to keep them without a permit. Fines up to R15 ?000 and lengthy prison sentences can be imposed for contraventions.
Vida said the natural food source of pythons, notably cane rats and dassies, is shrinking and they are often found in areas where chickens are kept.
– The Witness