Tracking snakes in the Kalahari | by Thilo Beck

We’ve been in the Kalahari now for four weeks. We are doing a job that we couldn’t have imagined doing five years ago in a place we would not have believe existed. Living next door to every imaginable kind of wildlife would be special enough, but we get to combine that with regular interactions with some of the most interesting snakes southern Africa has to offer.

Our daily routine includes catching snakes, investigating around sociable weaver colonies and tracking Cape cobras and boomslang. We usually go out in the mornings to catch the snakes on the move while tracking them, so we can learn as much as we can about their habits, behaviours and priorities. Walking around the bush, antenna in hand, listening to the beep of the transmitter, is just magical.

While tracking snakes one comes across a huge variety of wildlife. We’ve stumbled onto everything from buffalos to giraffes and ostriches with chicks.

One encounter will definitely stand out against all the others. However, on this particular day we were on our way to the sociable weaver colonies to check their current breeding status. To do so we have to stand beneath the big colony nests and check the different chambers for eggs or chicks.

It was late in the afternoon after a long work session and all three of us were tired. In the aftermath it seems like nobody really paid attention to the surroundings. We probably thought about the next braai already and only realized quite late that something was different this time. The weavers were excited. But neither humans-approaching-the-colony excited nor snake-in-the-tree excited. We were not able to put the buzzing weavers into context and continued our approach.

We were 10 metres from our target colony when we suddenly heard a deep, muffled grunt. We froze in our tracks and looked up, right into the face of a leopard which was standing on top of the weaver colony nest. Suddenly the awaited braai did not seem to be that important anymore.

The leopard jumped down on the far side of the tree and ran away immediately, leaving us speechless.

About the Entry

Thilo Beck

I was born in Germany but moved to South Africa this year. Now I am studying the impact of human driven climate change on Cape Cobras and Boomslang in the Kalahari. A deep understanding of the behavioral ecology of the given species will be crucial to not only avoid human-snake conflicts in the future but also be able to protect on of our most precious resources – wildlife.

  • Site name | Starry sky above us
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  • Why should someone visit your site? As wildlife enthusiasts I enjoy sharing our most interesting stories with the world we live in. While I go forth and back between Europe and Africa my goal isn’t only to educate the public about the importance of our surrounding ecosystems but as well to share the beauty of nature!
  • Entry TitleTracking snakes in the Kalahari
  • Entry Number | 75

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