When we think of Puff Adders we think of extremely dangerous snakes with powerful venom that can kill. Snakes that move slowly but can strike like lightening. In most cases you would be quite correct in this assumption. What you do not think about is a Puff Adder with character and a plan!
This is the story of Puffy who was definitely a character and who ultimately had a plan.
We first found Puffy in one of our sheds at Tamboti Bush Lodge. He was lying in the front of the shed sunning himself and one of the staff noticed him. That afternoon at about 15h30 he had disappeared. The next morning at 09h00 he reappeared from the back of the shed and spent the day lying in the sun until 15h30 in the afternoon when he went to the back of the shed, where he probably felt he was safe and slept the night away. We watched his habits and nothing changed for over a week, each day the same procedure.
At that time, we had Professor Graham Alexander from Wits, who was doing research on Pythons and Puff Adders in the Dinokeng Game Reserve. He had 20 Pythons and 20 Puff Adders fitted with radio trackers and they were being monitored by some of his students. I approached him and asked if he would like to include Puffy in his research program but he said that he had sufficient males.
So Puffy became one of the star attractions at the lodge. The guests would be escorted to the shed and Puffy became the star in many hundreds of photographs. Another thing that Puffy did was to make a guttural gggg sound instead of a hiss. If anyone got too close, he would give them a baleful look and gggg at them. About 2 weeks later Graham called me and said that he had lost 2 of his males to predators and he would include Puffy into his program. This entailed taking Puffy to the laboratory, anesthetizing him and inserting the radio tracker under his skin. This was done and Puffy was returned to the shed, to be visited, checked on and documented every second day by one of Graham’s doctoral students.
About 2 weeks later the student found Puffy just outside our bar and when we went to look at the shed we found that 2 fully grown and rather large and intimidating leguaans (monitor lizards) had taken up residence in Puffy’s abode. After a discussion with Graham it was decided to capture the leguaans and transport them to the University for other students who were involved with a leguaan study and to put Puffy back in his area. He was quite happy with these arrangements and he got back into his routine, day in the sun, night in the shed.
Four days’ later things changed. We found Puffy on the lawn in front of the bar and he was almost stepped on by a guy wearing a hearing aid and not hearing Puffy’s frantic gggg sounds. We put Puffy into our snake box and he spent the night safely in our lounge. The following morning, we found out that the students had returned the leguaans to the shed and Puffy must have decided that the shed was too small for all of them so he wanted to rather come and socialize with humans who he trusted certainly more than leguaans.
The following morning Graham decided to relocate Puffy to the Tamboti forest on the southern section of the lodge away from the guests. Puffy was not really comfortable in the forest and he then made his way to a friend’s farm about 1,2 kms away. The friend has a pile of scrap metal close to his house and Puffy set up home in this area doing the same, out into the sun during the day and under the scrap metal at night
This went on for about 2 weeks and all of a sudden Puffy went on a mission. He traveled over 2 gravel roads, down through the valley, over the river and up to another friend’s farm 4,8 kms away. This was an extraordinary journey if you think of a puff adder, especially since they may strike like lightning, but they move like a tortoise. My friend has horses and Puffy found a really nice warm spot under a pile of stabling. There we thought he would live happily ever after, but unfortunately, of a day Puffy decided it was time to come home and once again he started his epic journey home. This was a humongous mistake, as he got into the valley he was caught by a gang of banded mongoose and killed. They ate most of his body but left the piece of his body with the tracker in, in the veldt, where it was found the next day by the student. When we checked the GPS reading where his body was found it was directly in line from the stabling to the shed at Tamboti Bush Lodge.
The day that we lost Puffy to the mongoose we at Tamboti Bush Lodge lost a friend and a character. It is hard to describe how we viewed Puffy while he was with us. Did Puffy have plan? Well! What do you think?