Mall mamba ma­nia

Zululand Observer - Weekender - - FRONT PAGE - Or­rin Singh

PAN­DE­MO­NIUM erupted at Em­pan­geni’s San­lam Cen­tre on Sun­day af­ter­noon as ter­ri­fied lo­cals wit­nessed the cap­ture of a 2.3-me­tre black mamba.

The fright­en­ing, life-threat­en­ing bat­tle was caught on video, where screams and shrieks by mem­bers of the ter­ri­fied pub­lic can be heard echo­ing through the cen­tre’s shaded park­ing lot.

This added to the ten­sion for snake han­dler, Fred Lubbe (72) as he came to grips with one of the world’s most ven­omous rep­tiles .

Lubbe said in ad­di­tion to the dis­trac­tion of the ter­ri­fied crowd, the fact that the snake had taken refuge un­der­neath a VW Polo Vivo, made for a tricky sce­nario.

It could have taken a turn for the worse very quickly.

Ac­cord­ing to Lubbe, in his 63 years in han­dling and cap­tur­ing snakes, he’s only ever had two close en­coun­ters in which his life was at se­ri­ous risk - and this was one of them.

‘I got a call from San­lam Cen­tre man­age­ment and rushed out to the scene.

‘A se­cu­rity guard told me he had seen the snake come down from the up­per park­ing lot and when peo­ple started get­ting hys­ter­i­cal, it dashed un­der­neath a ve­hi­cle parked close by.

‘The fe­male owner came out of the mall and was told she can’t drive the car be­cause of the snake.

‘The ve­hi­cle was parked in the sun and I got a guy who was with me to pull it into the shade.

We looked all over - in the en­gine com­part­ment, in the chas­sis – there’s a thou­sand and one places where a snake can hide in a ve­hi­cle.

‘Even­tu­ally I got this young guy to jack up the ve­hi­cle and I picked the cor­rect side, for­tu­nately.

‘I lay on my back and was us­ing my tong to hit a cover un­der­neath the car. I was sure the snake was be­hind there and the noise would have brought it out im­me­di­ately.

‘Noth­ing was hap­pen­ing and with my head by the left back wheel, I looked up and about 30 cen­time­tres from my head, there it was.

‘I first thought it was a hose go­ing up into the car un­til I shone my light there and could see its scales.’

Lit­tle did he know that the snake’s head had been right next to his the whole time.

‘When I started pulling it out, the head came out im­me­di­ately but for­tu­nately I man­aged to get it out with my grab stick safely be­fore it struck.’

Spec­ta­tor screams turned to cheers and ap­plause as he even­tu­ally won the bat­tle and held the mamba up for hordes of pho­tos, self­ies and videos.

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