It was the big NDT inspection on the Caravan and we had the wings and tail and landing gear and engine ripped off the bare looking fuselage as everything was being checked. But this is Africa and the airstrip and hangar at Kajjansi are right close to the lake shore of Lake Victoria. The biggest lake in Africa. And surrounding much of the lake are large areas of papyrus, which is prime breeding grounds for snakes of many kinds. I have standing instructions to all the grounds staff that I want to see any snakes they find. I have had great fun with this and caught some amazing snakes. One being the biggest Python I have ever seen or had the privilege to play with. So when I got a call from Michel the airport manager, I grabbed a broom and went out to see what this snake might be.
There was some confusion when I arrived. There was the tractor used to mow the runway with a bunch of guys using it as a ladder to escape the snake, standing on the seat and engine tires, while a quad was right up close like there had been an accident. Michel was standing on the seat of the quad.
I asked where the snake was and he said that it was under the quad with the tire on it. I was not too worried about the snake as the grass was thick and soft. But I was a bit worried for the guys when the snake was not visual. I jumped up on the tractor and tried to find it from a safe vantage point. I told Michel that the snake could have a very long reach if the quad was only on its tail. He made an admirable leap away from the quad and ran to a safe place.
I finally found the snake mixed up in the thick grass and could see that it was a forest cobra. It could have easily come out and hooked Michel if it had wanted. I managed to get the broom on its head while the other guys moved the quad away and I was able to pick up the cobra behind the head. It is always interesting handling poisonous snakes. A mix of respect and heavy adrenaline and wonder.
The Forest cobra is one of the most common snakes in the area and I had caught or killed them before. There is always a big debate with the guys, as they want to kill all the snakes. I reckon any snake I save is a rare and good thing, but these guys are surrounded by these snakes as they work and I can’t blame them for wanting to stay alive. We talked of letting it go further away from their work but they didn’t like that. Death was the popular vote. I finally said I would take it to the new snake park just a few kilometers away and that made them happy. I took it to the hangar to find a box. It is amazing the reactions you will get from the average person here. People do not like snakes!
I found a nice thick box to put it in and at lunch I drove the box up to the snake park. They were very excited to have a new snake and it took a place with 6 other forest cobras in a very nice, large enclosure. As they opened the door, all the cobras stood, as if to attention, and flared their necks beautifully. The snake handler asked me what my name was as he took the snake out of the box. I said, “Jon”. He said then “Jon the snake will join Bob and Samuel and the others. We always name them after the person who brings them in.” Nice.
I played with a couple of the big pythons and looked around the snake park before leaving to get some more work done on the plane. It was a nice distraction and what makes the job continually fun and exciting.