|A Gabon Pit Viper. "Cassava Snake"|
For this post I just want to introduce a few of the snakes of Liberia and tell a few snake stories. Everyone who has lived in Liberia has a snake story or two or three...
Dendroaspis polyepis, jamesoni, & viridis
by Patrick Coin.
Photo by Bill Love/Blue Chameleon
CC BY SA 3.0
My personal encounter with a mamba was when I was down by a swamp rice farm project and was busy walking about. I grew tired and decided to lean against a palm oil tree. As I was about to put my hand on the tree I felt a sudden 'inner warning' almost like an audible voice. I moved my hand back and right where I was about to place my hand was a green snake poking his head out from behind a pruned palm branch! It was sticking its tongue out at me. Whether it was a green mamba or just a tree snake I do not know, however mambas do like palm oil trees. Whatever it was I'm glad I didn't get any closer!
|Python constricting a pregnant goat in Zimbabwe.|
Mango Atchar derivative work
Called a 'boy ee stracker' (boa constrictor) in colloquial Liberian English this snake's scientific name is python sebae. These snakes can get huge! I've heard many interesting stories about these guys including a python worship site at a sacred waterfall visited by Graham Greene in 1930's.
My own personal python story involves our Liberian friends who worked for LAMCO (now ArcelMittall) in Buchanan. They lived just outside of the LAMCO compounds in a fairly forested area. One day their dog went missing. For whatever reason, a 'boa constrictor' was suspected and the people searched the bush with their cutlasses until it was located. After cutting open the python the family dog was found inside! They estimated the length of this snake to be 22 feet! These snakes are becoming less common due to the fact that they are hunted for their meat, but are still present in the deep bush.
(Naja haje, melanoleuca & nigricollis; & the Psuedohaje nigra)
|Black Spitting Cobra|
by Luca Boldrini
CCA 2.0 Generic
My cobra encounter will be with me forever. I was trying out my new 'cutlass' (machete) and was at the trailhead of a trail that led to a swamp around Christian High School in Buchanan. As I walked toward the trail, with my brother behind me, I stepped on a pile of dried palm branches. Little did I know that a cobra was coiled beneath! My best guess is that it was a Black Spitting Cobra (Naja nigricollis).
The cobra shot up and hooded right in front of me and swayed back and forth. I simply screamed like a little girl. Then it quickly darted past me to my right. Before I could turn around and warn my brother I heard him make the same yelping sound. The cobra coiled itself right in front of my brother and then using its body like a spring it actually jumped up into the tree right in front of us!
So, 'yes' I believe in guardian angels and from then on one of favorite verses has been Psalms 91:13 "You shall tread on the lion and the cobra...", although I'm not interested in making this a habit! In 2011 I revisited the site where I had been spared a cobra attack and prayed a prayer of thanksgiving.
Bitis gabonica, rhinocerus, & nasicornis
by Brimac the 2nd
CCA 2.0 Generic
The bitis gabonica or Gabon Viper is known as a 'Cassava snake' in Liberia. They supposedly taste delicious, but one doesn't just go hunting for them as they are very toxic.
In a sad story, my Liberian Ma Sarah lost one of her daughters in the bush while hiding from rebels during the Civil Wars. She lost her daughter to a 'cassava snake' bite :-(
|Ma Sarah lost her daughter to a Gabon Viper while hiding in the jungle during |
the Liberian Civil Wars. She was only 16.
RIP dear sister.
The bad thing about these snakes is that they are rather sluggish and not apt to skirt away when they hear something approach. They also camouflage themselves rather well. This all makes stepping on one a very real and possible threat.
|Gabon Vipers can be very difficult to see!|
by Tom Vickers
I could go on, but I think you get the idea... There are snakes in Liberia!
Do you have any Liberian snake stories to share?