EASTERN NEWS | Mutare Museum brings back live snake displays

MUTARE - Mutare Museum has reintroduced a Gaboon viper to its live snake displays after their initial attempts were shot down due to the gentle giants’ dwindling wild population.

The museum reintroduced live snakes four years ago after opting for the more prevalent puff adders and a common house snake.

The museum now has the gentle Gaboon viper and a very cheeky puff adder — the terrier of the snake world with the most fatalities on the continent, which to prove its angry disposition struck the display glass twice as the Eastern News crew watched.

Both snakes were recently captured by a local expert, Michael Hitchman, in the city’s Murambi low-density areas.

National Museum and Monuments of Zimbabwe (NMMZ) eastern region director Paul Mupira said they could not reintroduce Gaboon vipers which were their first choice breed over concerns that their numbers were dwindling in the wild due to rampant poaching and illicit trade.

Once wide spread in the Honde Valley forest, the serpents have been a favourite of poachers due to their huge demand in neighbouring South Africa.

Gaboon vipers are now an endangered species, he said.

Also called the Gabon viper having been initially discovered in the West African country, the snake is extremely venomous but usually docile.

It is the heaviest venomous snake in Africa, weighing up to 8kg, and it grows to a length of 2 metres. The Gaboon viper also possesses the longest fangs of any snake, measuring up to 4cm or 5cm long.

The stout body is boldly patterned with rectangles and triangles of buff, purple, and brown, which gives the snake its velvet-like appearance. This pattern provides excellent camouflage and allows this sluggish viper to become nearly invisible among leaves and roots of the forest floor and even in a museum glass (see picture).

The Gaboon viper is a docile snake, quite sluggish in its movement and generally doesn’t attack, outside foraging, unless it feels threatened.

Unlike most venomous snakes in Africa, the Gaboon viper is quite sedentary. Instead of hunting for prey, this species hides within the leaves of the forest floor waiting for suitable prey to pass over. The Gaboon viper is a very tolerant snake and doesn’t attack humans unless it is accidentally stepped on.

Their non-aggressive nature makes it easier for wildlife researchers to handle them.

Netsai Machingambi, assistant curator of Botany/Zoology for the museum said live snake displays were stopped for almost 10 years by Society of Prevention to Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), particularly over absence of direct sunlight in the show glasses they are kept in.

“We explained to SPCA that snakes particularly require sunlight as a source of heat but we provide them with alternative heat sources and occasionally take them outside for bathing and sun basking,” she said in an earlier interview.

Machingambi said they had to settle for snakes that could easily adapt to the confines of the limited space and less hostile even if their glass is knocked having learnt their lessons after their attempt to keep a black mamba almost ended in tragedy after it hit and smashed the glass and escaped.

“It’s the only snake that smashed that glass and we learnt our lessons then,” she said.

Machingambi also said they do not keep the snakes for their lifetime as they would wean them off after some time before releasing them back into the wild.

“We also try to keep a male and a female and allow them to reproduce as we try to allow them to have as near-natural a life as we can,” she explained.

Explaining the history of live snakes in its displays she said; “Upon its official opening in September 1964, Mutare museum had live snakes on display among several dead stuffed animals.”

“The diversity of live displays increased over the subsequent years with the inclusion of birds, tortoises, bees and fish, while the stuffed animals remained static,” she said.

During 2006, snakes and birds were removed while snakes are now only being re-introduced.

Machingambi said; “Several museums the world over are now incorporating live displays for various reasons and shifting from exhibiting the traditional stuffed animals to live ones.”

Haulage truck driver fined, banned

MUTARE - A haulage truck driver, who caused the accident of a fuel tanker by trying to overtake at an undesignated stretch along the Harare-Mutare highway, has been fined $350 and banned from driving trucks for two years.

Richard Nyamoto, 45, of 59 Ziko in Seke, Chitungwiza — who was employed by J and J Transport — was convicted after a full trial by magistrate Perseverance Makala.

He was represented by Nyaworuzive Attorneys.

Nyamoto was charged with negligent driving in contravention of section 52 of the Road Traffic Act 13:11.

It was the State’s case that on September 23, 2017 at 1730 hours Nyamoto was driving a freight liner vehicle along Harare-Mutare road towards Harare.

Upon reaching the 238km peg, Nyamoto began to overtake another haulage truck which was towing a tanker but saw an oncoming vehicle, forcing him to swerve and side-swipe the tanker.

The tanker veered off the road to the left and later overturned causing extensive bodywork damages.

Nyamoto was convicted for failing to keep a proper lookout under the circumstances, failure to stop and act responsibly, travelling at an excessive speed, failure to keep his vehicle under proper control, and failure to obey regulatory signs by straddling a white double continuous line.

Brighton Shamhuyarira was prosecuting.

Hospitality industry wary of RBZ facility

MUTARE - Local hospitality industry players have expressed concern over the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ)  $15 million tourism loan facility saying it is too expensive and would have the sector ripped by local suppliers.

The players said the loan has too many hidden costs and did not guarantee access to foreign currency or duty-free importation with many risking losing their properties to the central bank due to its high collateral cost.

This explains why the loan facility is failing to attract any takers.

Leopard Rock Hotel proprietor Samir Shasha said the loan was a “disgrace” saying players should be “wary” of taking the money as it could cost some their properties.

“I have shared my opinion on the RBZ facility as well. This is a disgrace and members should be very wary of participation. It’s very expensive with many hidden costs.
It has no provision for access to foreign or duty-free (and hassle-free) importation so you get to buy a $200 lawn mower for $650 and pay 13 percent for the privilege or lose your hotel if you can’t repay (150 percent collateral),” Shasha said.

Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) vice president Clive Chinwada said the facility was only ideal for people who want to refurbish without having to import anything as it is otherwise too expensive.

“It makes sense for members if they want to utilise it for refurb costs and there is no importation taking place e.g paying local contractors etc,” Chinwada said.

The HAZ boss said the loan facility falls short on imports.

“In respect of importation, the facility falls short and will not make any sense,” Chinwada said.

Shasha said the interest rate on the facility is misleading.

“I cannot believe an arm of the RBZ would be allowed to mislead an operator by claiming an effective rate of 13 percent (or more considering that 5,5 percent is upfront) is a “7,5 percent facility,” Shasha said.

He, however, said desperate operators were likely to be gullible.

“The sad part is that many out of desperation will borrow and the RBZ (Homelink) will own their facility,” Shasha said.

Chinwada said 13 percent interest would only make sense if the exchange rate keeps falling.

“13 percent money only makes sense if the ‘exchange rate’ keeps dropping. The reason why we are in this mess is most of us borrowed real dollars at an unrealistic interest rate and we are about to do it again,” Chinwada cautioned.

Local suppliers are also reaping out clients as they sell 25-litre detergent for $250 but the same product costs only $100 in South Africa.

Chinwada advised that the hospitality industry needed to advise each other of astute suppliers.

Comments (1)

Kkkkk. Bringing live snakes you say? I thought the live snakes have been here since 1980 destroying us in the name of Zanu PF? Those are the snakes to worry about. Kkkk. On a different note it's 'ripping off' not 'reaping off'.

Moe Syslack - 12 April 2018

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