During my fifteen years in Africa I have seen it too often: the crushed chameleon or the flattened snake. And to be honest, I killed a chameleon last week while driving in Botswana.
And yes, I do feel bad about it, but sometimes it is unavoidable that these unfortunate things happen. I would like to give you some tips to minimize the impact for reptiles, not only in Africa but for the rest of the world as well.
You as a reptile lover (otherwise you would not be on this site) know that reptiles are so called ‘cold blooded’ animals, in other words they need a different source than blood to heat up their bodies and most of them rely on the heat of the sun to get their little asses into gear. Although it can at times be extremely hot in Africa, there are areas where temperatures can drop considerably and reptile life almost comes to a standstill. Especially the spring and autumn time is notorious for reptiles to come out of their hidings when they start looking for heat, thereby having to dodge all sorts of dangers, one being you with your vehicle.
And where to find a better place to charge the battery and heat up the reptile system than on a sun-warmed tarmac road. Since tar retains a lot of heat, asphalt is a preferred place for snakes to cuddle up to. Often snakes stretch their body full length on the road to absorb as much heat as possible and they therefore often resemble sticks or branches. So be warned, that ‘stick’ in the distance (especially when looking straight) is more often a snake than a real stick and I kindly ask you to lower your speed in order to swerve if necessary. Driving over sticks is bad anyway as they might damage the underside of your car.
The problem with dirt roads is that they are uneven, full of leaves and branches and due to the unevenness cast a lot of strange shades. You therefore require all your attention as to not wreck your vehicle and you are constantly looking for the ideal line where to drive, resulting in not watching the smaller things on the track or simply not seeing them. The chameleon that I killed had taken on the light color of the sand track and it was only after my fellow traveler screamed that I realized I drove over the poor thing. I never saw it, but had I driven a bit slower I might have been able to react in the right way and save its life. In other words, when driving on dirt roads adjust your speed accordingly.
In the event that you ever drive over a snake, think before you get out of your car. Some snakes have the habit of playing ‘dead’ if wounded or scared and can still be extremely deadly. Best is to drive in reverse and remain seated with your windows closed to see if you have to take it out of its misery.
Guest Author: Johan Knols, PlanYourSafari.com
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