Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Man bites snake in hour-long battle to survive

By DANIEL NYASSY

He had to bite the snake to survive.

Mr Ben Nyaumbe was alone on the farm where he has been manager for 10 years, the workers having retired for the day.

And he is unlikely to forget last Sunday. It was the day a python dragged him up a tree at Sabaki Farm in Malindi District in Kenya's Coast province.

“I was preparing ugali at 7pm, close to the stable. I stood to pick a packet of flour when the water started boiling.

“As I stood up, I stepped on a spongy thing on the ground and suddenly, my leg was entangled with the body of a huge python.

The struggle was mammoth. “The python, apparently hunting for goats, attempted to bind both my legs. But I struggled hard,” he said.

The reptile then jumped onto his left arm and coiled itself round it, between the elbow and the shoulder.

“It waggled its ragged and scary tail on my mouth. I had to bite it as I struggled, one hand incapacitated,” he said showing a torn part of his lips resulting from the bruising effect of the snake and his mouth. He tried to hold onto a tree, but after about one hour, he got too tired and let go off the tree trunk.

“The snake then got it easy and quickly dragged me on. Systematically, it pulled me up a tree and surprisingly enough, it rested when it reached there,” he said while pointing to broken branches on the tree where he said they “rested.”

“This gave me the opportunity to remove my phone from my pocket. I had not been able to do so all the time I struggled”. It was 8.30pm.

Mr Nyaumbe called his boss, a local lawyer, Mr Tukero ole Kina, who rushed in a matter of minutes with two police officers.

Officer remained

“The snake was hissing so much they all got so scared. In fact one officer remained in the car, scared out of his skin,” he said.

Mr Kina and one officer went to his help. It was difficult for the officer to shoot the snake “because he could have shot me as we were entangled”, he said.

Through their efforts, Mr Nyaumbe managed to tear part of his shirt and covered the python’s head to enable him tie a rope round its neck.

Mr Kina and the police officer pulled the snake down but could not make it as it coiled itself round a branch, meanwhile releasing its victim as it became exhausted.
“Finally we both came down, landing with a thud. The other officer came running and helped his colleague put the python in three sacks, hurled it onto a pick up and drove it to Falconry of Kenya, a birds and snake sanctuary in Malindi, 20 kilometres away.

But the snake was nowhere to be seen the following day. And Mr Nyaumbe still cannot tell how this happened.

“How does a snake escape from a closed room? Did they see the hole they claim the snake made on the sacks? How did it remove the rope from around its neck and my shirt which I had wrapped round its head?” Mr Nyaumbe asks.

No answers are forthcoming, however. Malindi police chief Peter Kattam, who spent two days with two pick-up trucks full of police officers hunting the run-away snake with no success, said: “I’m shocked. I don’t know what happened”.

There are several private snake firms in Malindi which buy pythons and other snake species at fortunes.

“What happened to the python which attacked me?” That is the question Nyaumbe is asking.

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