Just off the end of my verandah, there are three old, snake-friendly pigsties, each comprised of a closed and an open section. If I’m sneaky enough I can peek over the wall and catch a glimpse of a puff adder or two, basking in the morning sun, sometimes with a night adder lying nearby, also getting its vitamins. If they see movement, they’re gone.
I often wonder what they talk about. They live in as close to natural conditions as I can give them, in order for them to behave as they would in the wild when I use them in my talks to field workers, conservationists, interested parties, etc. When I need a few specimens for a talk, all I need to do is to place a new and different hiding place (a shift-box) in the pen and by morning, I know I’ll have a tenant or two inside – they’re as inquisitive as humans sussing out a new house, and being nomadic to some extent, they’ve no problem with the odd change of scenery.
I don’t provide any special heating or home comforts for them, and they live as they would in the wild, perhaps with the advantage of having less in the way of predators to think about, and, because they would be living a close to typical lifestyle, I quite naturally expect them to do most of the natural things.
I’ve often incubated eggs laid in captivity by other indigenous species, but these were my first live-born babies here in SA. I was over the moon. After giving them a week to get settled, shed their first skins and have a run in the park, I collected everybody and off we went to be released in the game reserve nearby.
Now they’re on their own, to do what nature intended them to do, which they will, with clinical dedication we should envy.
Pat McKrill: firstname.lastname@example.org