July 16,, 2009 Entry #14
Spent the past two days doing a good deal of mamba work and other various tasks around the snake park with Ferry. But today was a day I was looking very much forwards too- the day I took on a Naja Ashei (world's largest species of spitting cobra) in the pit alone. Although I had been doing a lot of work with cobras alongside Ferry, I had yet to attempt to take one behind the head by myself, and Sanda decided the best way to teach it would be to release a medium-sized Ashei in the pit for me to capture, bag once, and box once. I spent a good deal of time the day before practicing my bagging method on sand snakes and beaked snakes, and I felt I was ready to take on the cobra. Early on in the morning I got into the pit, Sanda and Ferry came by to release the snake and assist if necessary while Joseph worked the camera. As the snake was dropped into the pit, I faced it, goggles on, tongs in hand, slightly nervous but ready to go! After a minute or so of letting it cruise around the pit in circles I approached it, tonged it, and pulled the snake out into the open. The snake must have drenched me in at least 6-8 good jets of venom to the face and mouth. With my right hand I maneuvered a second pair of tongs to the base of the neck, pinned it, and gripped it firmly behind the head in my other hand- but what a strong snake! I had total control of the snake and was feeling great until the time came to attempt bagging it- not easy with a bag slightly small for the size of the snake, a powerful wriggling cobra, and the difficult maneuver of switching the snake from one hand to another without allowing it to slip out and stick me with a fang. I managed to make the swap alright, but the snake began to twist its head violently and wrapped its body all up my arm once it felt the smooth starched material of a brand new snake bag. While it couldn’t maneuver close enough to get me, it was a good lesson on the sheer strength of even a medium-sized ashei, and after getting some on the spot advice and a moments help from Ferry holding the head in place so I could untwist the body and reposition the head, I had him back in a good position, sealed off the bag, double tied it, and a collective sigh of relief was breathed by all. Next up, the box! The snake was released into the pit, I restrained it, placed it in the box, job well done one minute later. It is certainly considerably easier to box a cobra than to bag one and I have learned a lot today. Finished the day with more mamba work with Ferry and a celebratory dinner of mbuzi, chips, and tusker for a hard day done. Bada ya kazi!