'Help please! There’s a rinkhals in my loo': April 1 snake encounter no joke

02 April 2021 - 15:48
By Naledi Shange
A picture of the rinkhals inside the toilet  on a property at Vrede in the Free State.
Image: Facebook /Snakes of Southern Africa A picture of the rinkhals inside the toilet on a property at Vrede in the Free State.

It may have happened on April 1 but what a Free State resident found lurking in her loo was anything but a joke.

The woman from Vrede posted a plea for help on the Snakes of Southern Africa Facebook page on Thursday evening.

“Help please!! There is a rinkhals in my loo in Vrede. What do I do?” she asked.

“Don't flush,” was the advice offered as members of the page rallied to find a nearby snake handler. The toilet lid was closed and weighted down with bricks.

According to the African Snakebite Institute, the venomous rinkhals may at first glance resemble a Mozambican spitting cobra and is “very dangerous”. 

“It is a shy and retiring snake and is very quick to disappear, but when cornered will stand its ground, lift up to half of the body off the ground and form a hood — like a cobra,” it said.

When in danger, it spits its venom out, aiming for the eyes. This causes a burning sensation to the eyes which could cause corneal damage if not treated.

The institute also highlighted the snake's ability to play dead if in danger.

The snake was trapped inside the toilet by placing several bricks on the lid, preventing it from coming out.
Image: Facebook/Snakes of Southern Africa The snake was trapped inside the toilet by placing several bricks on the lid, preventing it from coming out.

“This isn't a common occurrence, but does occasionally happen,” Luke Kemp, who identified himself as a zoologist, replied on the Snakes of Southern Africa page.

“The snakes seem to travel up the drain [especially French drains] and end up in the loo. Because the loo has a water lock, the snake does have to submerge through the water to get out the loo. Snakes have low metabolic requirements and do not require much oxygen and many snakes can hold their breath for a long period [more than 30 minutes for snakes like pythons]. These removals are tricky and often require patience,” wrote Kemp.

Some of the comments irked snake lovers on the page.

“I can tell you what not to do ... and that’s sit on it,” remarked one observer.

Snake handler Frans Vermaak — who confirmed the incident — told TimesLIVE on Friday that finding snakes in a toilet was not uncommon.

“When it comes to farms, they sometimes get into the pipes as they are looking for frogs and things to eat and they sometimes get themselves in uncomfortable situations,” said Vermaak.

“We have actually have had a few incidents of Mozambican spitting cobras and black mambas ending up in houses or toilets,” he added.

So what is the correct thing to do when faced with such a predicament?

“Do not flush,” advised Vermaak.

“Flushing would not be the best option as this could kill it. Flushing could also mean passing on the problem to another person,” he added.

What’s best, he said, was to cordon off the area with the snake, then leave the area where the snake was spotted.

“Place something under the door and ensure there is no-one in the vicinity that can be hurt while you call a snake handler,” he said.

They prioritise catching the snake and releasing it back into nature safely.

Juan’s Reptile Rescue offered this advice to keep snakes off one’s property:

  • Keep your grass short;
  • Don’t let branches touch your thatch roof;
  • Remove building rubble;
  • Reduce clutter around your home as this creates hiding spots;
  • Remember — ponds will attract snakes as they attract food supply for snakes;
  • Keep a local snake handler’s contact numbers nearby.

Meanwhile, in the case of this rinkhals, it was not immediately clear whether it had been safely removed. The homeowner could not be reached on Friday.

TimesLIVE