It sounds like something from a Leon Schuster movie, except there are no strange accents nor candid camera pranks. But, like a true pro, Durban snake rescuer Nick Evans assured a happy ending for terrified farmworkers in Camperdown, south-east of Pietermaritzburg.
Evans is literally the one to call when you realise your garden hose is, in fact, a green mamba. He was also the adjudicator in the python vs. goat battle.
(Editor’s note: we’re not making this up! This is literally one of the many situations that this guy has been in the news for. He caught a green mamba in a residential wendy house south of Durban last year.)
Since he started KwaZulu-Natal Amphibian & Reptile Conservation in 2015, he’s been the go-to guy for people who want to rescue snakes from their properties, and even farmers who’re dealing with surprise guests.
Anyway, back to python vs. goat…
Evans has been a snake rescuer for many years, but his most recent catch was one for the books.
Farmworkers called to say there was a snake wrapped around a goat’s head. Initially thinking it was a prank, he asked for a picture.
“I could not believe my eyes when the pic came through,” Evans tells Food For Mzansi.
Low and behold, the snake was around four metres long and weighed 27.6 kg. The workers planned on eating it.
(Can the ophidiophiles in the back of the classroom please settle down? The snake has since been released – far away from goats.)
This is how it went down.
Dona van Eeden: The snake you caught was four metres long! Was that the longest snake you ever caught? And was it difficult to manage such a sizeable snake?
Nick Evans: This is the third four-metre python I’ve caught! I have yet to catch one bigger. So yes, it’s the longest snake I’ve caught.
Generally, the longest snakes I catch around Durban are (the highly venomous) black mambas. They average between 2.2 and 2.5 metres in length.
Although, last winter I caught one that measured 3.05 metres, a record for me. Pythons (like the one I caught on a Camperdown farm) are a rare treat for me. In many areas of Durban where they used to occur, they have been wiped out.
It was difficult to capture this one. It was slithering in the long, thick grass. I grabbed the tail, but they’re so powerful. Plus, it had been raining. It was a little slippery! I needed to get to the head because that’s the end that causes the damage.
Pythons are not venomous, but they have rows of sharp teeth, which can certainly inflict a painful bite. I held onto the tail, as the snake moved along. It looked a little like I was walking a dog. Eventually, we could see this was going nowhere.
The camera operator for my TV series, Snake Season, grabbed the tail, while I went for the head, which I soon got. Pythons do try to wrap around your arms while being captured – not to constrict and kill you, but to pull their head out of your grip.
They’re panicking, wanting to escape, not realising I’m trying to help, which is understandable. They are just manageable at four metres, although it’s nice to have help!
Want to know what to do when you encounter a snake on your farm? Read our article ‘Help! There’s a snake on my farm’.
The python vs. goat experience gave me goosebumps! What are some of the more memorable snake catches you can recall?
I have been fortunate enough to have many memorable rescues! Most involve black mambas, my favourite species to work with.
Before working with them, I was a pretty scared of them, and their reputation. But I’ve come to understand them.
They’re not aggressive, just nervous, terrified of humans. They will do whatever they can to flee rather than “fight”.
Recently, I had two different calls, where there were two mambas in roofs! That was fun. During the initial search, in both cases, I thought there was one. But I later learned there were two…
“I’ve also been called to remove male mambas fighting for a female. That’s another fun and exciting challenge!”
I also had to capture a massive black mamba up a tree. It was 2.5 metres, so not the longest, but it had a thick body! As thick as the average arm! While climbing back down with it, it wrapped around my neck.
Facing a black mamba
Mambas always wrap around your arms, or whatever their tail can get around. They do not constrict. They kill their prey by venom.
But when they wrap their tails around things during capture, it’s to pull their head free, so I obviously need to hold on firmly. But yes, on this occasion, it wrapped around my neck, and its grip felt like that of a python!
My one hand had the head, the other was holding on a branch. I had thorny creepers wrapped around me and the snake, and I couldn’t just rip through it, as I’d tear the mamba’s skin open. I had to wait for someone to cut it. It was properly choking me. I never experienced that before!
With pythons, my most memorable was having to remove a mother python and her eggs, which she laid next to a house in an estate. Most snakes lay their eggs and leave them. Not pythons, they protect them at all costs.
It was extremely challenging, but with the help of a friend we got her and her eggs. The eggs were incubated, the babies all hatched, and we released them.
I have to know, how on earth did you end up in this line of work?
As a young child, I started watching the late Steve Irwin aka The Crocodile Hunter. I thought he was amazing! His passion and enthusiasm was so contagious. I had to do what he does, I thought.
When he died in 2006, I was 12-years-old and I decided to dedicate my life to his cause. So, that’s what I did.
After matriculating in 2012, I went to work at Dangerous Creatures at uShaka Marine World where I gained a lot of knowledge and experience in working with venomous snakes.
After two years there, I decided to work for myself, doing snake removals around Durban, and snake education across the province. The snake educational work came to a halt when Covid-19 hit, but the snake rescues never stop!