Animal Dilemmas – Black Mamba Pangolin
The Pangolin was not glad it had to compromise but it disliked argument almost as much as physical confrontations. Its near death encounters with pythons and one with giants that it was trying to forget had made it nervous and fearful. It was very comfortable in its tree and knew the lay of land around it and the habits of the local animals. So it was an artist at avoiding meeting any living thing except termites that is ate at night.
It kept its nocturnal expeditions for food as short as possible and never took risks. It ate just enough and returned to the its tree burrow in the safest possible manner. It studied the Aardvark’s habits and adjusted its movements to reduce interaction to he absolute minimum. It started leaving its burrow earlier in the evening before its neighbor. And returned as soon as it was well fed. The returns were the only occasions when chance encounters with the Aardvark would occur. But for the most part the Pangolin returned first, for the Aardvark liked to spend he whole night out and travelled far for its meals.
With time, the Pangolin grew to dislike the Aardvark for its careless manners, loud grunting and for not covering its tracks. The Aardvark slowly created several paths under the bushes leading into the grove. The Pangolin had been very careful to keep only one path to avoid attracting attention and now the grove was beaming with tracks in all directions.
So when one evening the Pangolin found the Aardvark dead at the mouth of its hole it was not surprised but it was terrified because whatever killed it could have chosen its burrow instead. But for many days no beast showed itself or ate the corpse until the stench attracted the hyenas and they dragged it away in their competition for a piece of rotten meet.
What the Pangolin didn’t know was that it had a new neighbor. The Black Mamba was three years old in its prime and had fully realized its deadly potential. It had traveled out of the overcrowded jungle to seek a dried place. It liked trees and when it saw the single tree grove it thought it could settle there. In its journey in had met giants and lions that had tasted its poison. The lion was too proud to give way and it had courses it its life. The group of giants knew the snake’s powers and had tried to evade it but he Black Mamba was irritated and had leaped up biting on on the chest. So he too had demised after hours of struggle against the toxin.
The snake could only sallow small rodents and reptiles so it was hungry. It had entered the Aardvark’s burrow hoping to find mice and a litter and feed on them. But it had found the unfortunate ant eater and had used its last poison on it. After that it rested, it knew it had to sleep to recover its weapon and then hunt for food. On the second day it had parked itself in mouth of the hole patiently waiting for prey.
It waited all day and the next day but not animal passed. The Pangolin hunted at night with great caution and avoided getting near the burrow in the ground. But since the snake rested at night deep in the hole the two animals always missed each other. But hunger made it change its strategy and one evening the snake came out just when the Pangolin was leaving the crack in the tree to hunt ants.
When it saw the snake all its python nightmares came to life and it rolled into a stiff ball. The Black Mamba raised its front and opened its inky black mouth ready to strike. The snake was very hungry and the Pangolin looked smaller that it was in the twilight. The snake leaped forward and bit on its armer to no avail. After the first strike its mouth hurt but the snake bit a few more times only to break its venomous tooth. The pain shot through out its body and all its poison dripped on the Pangolin’s hard shell.
The Pangolin was shaking with fear and could hardly keep a grip on its ball of armor. It finally loosed a little and looked around. The Black Mamba was gone it had exited the grove and snaked about among the grasses with no venom and no tooth to inject it with. Its mouth hurting like it was biting on an edgy rock. The pain was so great that the snake had no sense of direction.
It rolled under a bush and tried to sleep. But the pain and its thoughts were not letting it. How was it possible that it could kill a lion and a giant but it was defeated by a small passive animal. How was it possible that until a day ago it was strong and powerful and today its was toothless and sleepy. Why didn’t it attack that rock solid animal. Maybe it was not a animal, it thought, maybe it was polished rock and hunger blinded it. How could it have been so foolish and let its ego drive its actions and waste its strength and resources. Why had it killed the Aardvark. Why had it killed the Lion, it could have easily tricked it and escaped in the tall grasses. What had it proved? It had created a meal for the hyenas and vouchers. And why had it bit that giant, out of the excitement of fear. It thought, that maybe all its actions were motivated by fear without it realizing. Fear made it aversive as the first line of defense. Fear of failure and weakness made it invest all its venom in a single attack. Fear of hunger had blurred its clear sightness and assured its demise.
The snake thought it had no future. What good was it without a venom tooth. It could catch mice with speed eat and sleep but it could not dream of immortality. It had became like all other animals that it so despised. It became like the Pangolin a routine animal that no one feared.
The Pangolin went on at its night hunt, ate with great appetite and returned to the grove for a good day sleep.
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photograph by Julian W.