By Dan Rowlands and Sophie Norris
A fearless snake catcher has been filmed sticking his hand into an underground nest and pulling out dozens of wriggling baby pythons – with the rescue leaving him bleeding in the process.
Cor Viljoen, 39, was called by a farmer to move the nest after dozens of hatched eggshells were found for fear of the snakes being killed by scared workers.
Footage shows Cor, who works at Klein Kariba resort in Bala-Bala, South Africa, kneeling by the sandy lair, sticking his hand into the deep hole and pulling out handfuls of the slithering serpents.
The safari guide claimed that while he hadn’t being expecting so many snakes, he wasn’t scared as they felt like ‘handfuls of spaghetti’ – but had
the check the five-metre mother was not home first.
Cor said: “I first checked into the hole to make sure all the snakes were there and that the mother wasn’t with them.
“If she was, I would have I had to take the mother out first and I estimated her size to be at least 5m long from a photo.
“I didn’t expect to get so many babies out of the tunnel.
“It was the biggest clutch I have ever taken out. I had only been expecting about 40.
“Everyone was amazed at the amount of babies that I took out.
“The eggs had a leathery feel to them and the snakes themselves had velvety [skin].
“They weren’t hard to handle because they were still small. It almost like taking handfuls of spaghetti out of a bowl.”
Despite being well-experienced, Cor and his friends were careful to make sure they had a number of people to help at the different stages.
Even as babies, pythons have around 120 teeth and Cor and his colleague were both bitten leaving them with bloody hands – although luckily they are not venomous.
The snakes are constrictors, which means they wrap their coils around their prey until they feel the animals’ hearts stop beating.
At full size, the python can kill animals as large as antelopes by preventing blood flow and oxygen supply to their vital organs.
Cor said: “I was asked to relocate these babies because the owner was worried that his farm workers would kill them on sight.
“About 5% of python babies will survive to adulthood and since they’re a protected species we try to give them a fair chance without people killing them.
“I was bitten only once – I think I was too quick onto them and they didn’t register at first what was going on.
“These Southern African Python babies are non-venomous so there’s no venom [but] they are constrictors.
“I released these babies in a private nature reserve of about 2,000 hectares where no people will hurt them.
“They only have to worry about their natural enemies.”