Reasons to check under the bed # 1

So the latest word from Tanzania is they had to kill a Black Mamba snake outside the baby home; oh, and there’s no anti-venom in Mwanza… Black Mamba….snake…kill…baby…no anti-venom… Yep, there’s no way to turn that sentence into a good one.

I’d purposefully avoided delving too deeply into Tanzania’s herpetology, preferring instead to apply a blanket rule that if I didn’t recognise it I didn’t touch it. But to not research what was clearly about to become a close neighbour seemed churlish.

Press on the Black Mamba is not good…

…a very visual display of why it’s important to check under the bed.

Africa’s most notorious serpent!


The most deadly snake in the world!


and my personal favourite:

They are invulnerable…no animal can actually kill them!


Growing up to 3, 4, 5 metres long (depending on the publication), they can raise themselves up to 2,3,4 feet (again, publications differ) off the ground. They’re also the fastest snake in the world and can move at 12.5 mph.

And the Black Mamba has mythic status –  there are lots of stories; a Mamba wiped out 5 Maasai children and 6 cows because they cornered it and threw stones; a Mamba hunted and killed an entire family; a Mamba overtook someone on a galloping horse; ‘a Mamba bit me on the scrotum twice and I’m fine’… Its other name is the Shadow of Death.

I’ve investigated – there is actually an anti-venom created for Mamba bites, SAIMR (South African Institute for Medical Research) polyvalent anti-venom. {Complete aside, but did anyone else know anti-venom is made by injecting a diluted version of the poison into a sheep, horse or cow so that they can build up the anti-bodies to it? We then use the animal’s plasma to create the anti-venom. Interesting, no?}. However at £45 per capsule and the need for 5-6 capsules for a Mamba snake bite, it makes sense there’s none available.

Bundesarchiv Bild 105-DOA3121, Deutsch-Ostafri...

Bundesarchiv Bild 105-DOA3121, Deutsch-Ostafrika, Askari (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An Askari dispatched the snake. Before researching I had thought maybe this represented a more exotic and specialised Rentokill. Turns out, much more interestingly, that Askari is an Arabic word meaning soldier and refers to local troops in East Africa that have been involved in both World Wars and employed in earlier colonial Empires. Today the word can mean police. What was further interesting was that I could find very little written about them, Wikipedia not withstanding… But that’s another debate.

I’m stuck with a dilemma – I value my life but I also don’t like the idea of the snake having to die because I happen to have rocked up in its habitat. I’m more a ‘tease it into a jam jar with a piece of paper and throw it out the window’ kind of person. I googled ‘How to kill a snake’ – I don’t recommend you do it. Fear, exaggerated reports, religion even (check out Eric’s post on They’re a passionate lot, taxidermists) have culminated in snakes being tortured and killed in the most horrific and cruel methods imaginable: and it’s often videoed. Rare and relatively harmless snakes have  been at the mercy of an hysterical gardener and beheaded with the hoe. For true horror comedy you should check out Kathy’s You’re rooting for the snake, right? The more I discovered the more I started feeling something akin to..well..protectiveness.

Then I found David and his snake removal website

The only good snake is a dead snake – dead wrong, and the belief of bad people. Snakes are great animals. They ought to be treated with respect.

With 15 years experience of snake removal, David is firmly in the ‘not killing’ category. This guy LOVES his snakes – there are pictures of him draping coral snakes over his nose or stroking a Yellow Rat snake in a customer’s garage. So what was his advice when I contacted him?

First off it will be extremely unlikely you will ever come across one. And if you do, no snake will ever attack unprovoked so just move away in the opposite direction if you do see one. Stay on clear paths and roads and avoid tromping about in thick brush.

All that said, it is highly, highly unlikely you will see one.

And besides the recent sighting at the baby home, no doubt this is true. Obviously, the presence of one near 60 under-fives would be extremely worrying and needed to be dealt with. But my attitude to snakes has changed a little – no matter what website all are agreed that they aren’t cunning predators with murderous intent but in fact nervous and sensitive  and prefer to avoid human contact.

…but I’m still going to check under my bed.

Thanks to Snake Trap for their prompt reply to my Mamba question.


2 thoughts on “Reasons to check under the bed # 1

  1. Wow, I have followed your preparations for Tanzania, (I work with your mum) Sounds like you will need to check more than your bed. my sons have snakes and even they scare me. Love your writing

    • Hello there and thanks so much for following and commenting. Yep, I have now met all manner of creepy crawly – it’s like a David Attenborough documentary in my bathroom!! I’m not any braver after 6 months either!!!

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