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Why mongoose kills snakes

Why mongoose kills snakes

Nick Greaves
Nick Greaves


By Nick Greaves, from the book of short stories called  ‘When Lion Could Fly and other Tales from Africa’

Permissions :  Originaly published by David Bateman Ltd.  Co-published in South Africa by Random House Struik


 (A Bushman Legend) In ancient times, Mongoose and Secretary Bird were great friends. One day they were walking through the bush when they came upon a large snake.

Snake asked Mongoose to accompany him.  He found something special and wished to show it to Mongoose.  Secretary Bird said she was hot. She wished to bathe and drink at a water hole some distance away. So Secretary Bird said farewell to her friend Mongoose and flew off.

Mongoose and snake set off together. After a long walk, they came to a nest on the ground. The nest had some eggs in it. Snake knew that the nest belonged to Secretary Bird, but he did not tell Mongoose this.

"Have you ever tasted eggs?" Snake asked Mongoose.
"No, Snake, I have never eaten an egg," replied Mongoose eagerly.
"They are very good. Why don't you try one?" suggested the cunning Snake. He broke open the shell of one of the eggs.

Both Mongoose and Snake started to eat the eggs. Mongoose agreed that he never knew anything that tasted so good. Just as they had gulped down the last egg, they saw Secretary Bird approaching.

The devious Snake called out, "Mongoose has eaten all of your lovely eggs!"

Secretary Bird was very angry and very sad that her friend Mongoose had betrayed her. Then she saw that Snake had egg around his mouth too!

"You have both eaten my eggs," Secretary Bird said furiously.

Mongoose explained to Secretary Bird how Snake had tricked him.  Then both Secretary Bird and Mongoose set upon the deceitful Snake and killed him.

"From now on, we shall both watch for snakes and kill them," said Mongoose to Secretary Bird and they have done so ever since.

Secretary Bird learned how to build her nest atop thick, thorny trees to protect her eggs and young from predators.  She also eats snakes, stamping them to death with her long legs and horny, scaled feet.

Mongoose eats snakes too.  He is able to kill them by being quicker than lightning and faster than the speediest snake.

But Mongoose can never forget the lovely taste of eggs and whenever he can find them he will always eat them.  (
From Nick Greaves, When Lion Could Fly and other Tales from Africa)

From www.nickgreaves.infoBorn and raised in Yorkshire, England, I studied geology and environmental sciences at the University of Aston in Birmingham, England. My passion and interest in Africa took me to Southern Africa in 1976 . My interests in wildlife, conservation & photography originally developed independently, but slowly all these came together over the years, and I was able to combine all these passions into my current position as a multi-tasker, dividing my time as a professional safari guide, photographer and author. “