by Diana Studer
- gardening for biodiversity in Porterville, near Cape Town in South Africa
This is a guardian angel post. Written to Cape gardeners for biodiversity. Even if you can't abide snakes - get to know the tabakrolletjie. Duberria lutrix (common slug eater). GOOD guy. Please be kind to him! Don’t kill off these snakes by feeding them snail bait in dead and dying snails. If your garden is well mulched, some of these little snakes are living in your garden. Beneath logs and stones, or near the pond – wherever the snails are living.
Remember that old nursery rhyme – what are little boys made of? Frogs and snails and puppy dog’s tails. You are what you eat. Meet that “little boy – made of snails!” The slugeater, is one of the good guys because he, eats snails.
I know that is true, because only once in twenty years of gardening in Camps Bay, did I see the life and death struggle slowly play out. The snake had caught a snail. The snail doesn’t want to be eaten, so he resists. The snake hangs on like grim death. Grim. Death. Until the snail tires … and the rest, is Lunch.
He is harmless, doesn’t bite, isn’t poisonous, and sadly his only defence is to tie himself up in a knot, with his head optimistically buried in the centre, Mr. Venter. That is where his Afrikaans common name comes from – a coiled up, dried tobacco leaf.
Compared to the Ungardener’s hand you can see he is about the thickness of a pencil, or a slender finger. That blur in the head shot is his forked tongue, scenting danger.
|Duberria lutrix lutrix snake's head|
In the Camps Bay garden, after wildfire on the mountain twice we had boomslang (tree snakes) in the garden.
From SCARCE Cederberg reptiles - Duberria lutrix lutrix are restricted to the damper areas of the Western Cape, through the eastern Cape into KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Free State, Mpumalanga, Gauteng, eastern Limpopo Province and eastern Zimbabwe. In drier parts, they are found on mountain slopes. The common slugeater is protected under the Western Cape Nature Conservation Act.
Duberria lutrix species is found from Ethiopia to Kenya to Mozambique to us in South Africa.
(The pictures were taken in September 2009, when Meredith of Great Stems wrote) - I love snakes, always have. They are very welcome in my yard. That little good guy Tabakrolletjie snake is a cutie. Glad you are keeping it safe! The boomslangs have their place in this world, too, so if rescues are options, excellent. But in your own backyard, please YOU be safe! Here in Texas our main threats are rattlesnakes, copperheads, coral snakes, and water moccasins. Fortunately, I rarely ever see them, and not yet in my yard!of Elephant's Eye
Pictures by Diana Studer
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