Nando's, a South African fast food chain, recently aired an awesome and rather brave advert:
Whipple Dam - Pantherophis obsoletus
While getting a picnic lunch ready on Memorial Day at Whipple Dam State Park, we noticed a black snake moving around the leaf litter on the ground. We saw it several times and were a bit puzzled as to why it was hanging around.
We watched in move in and out of the dead oak leaves and then begin to climb a large tree (it was pretty amazing to watch a one meter snake move up a trunk with such relative ease). Suddenly, two robins descended upon the snake with fury, dive-bombing, and pecking it, until the snake slipped off the trunk and back onto the forest floor. Black snakes are good climbers and known to regularly prey on small birds and eggs, so the robins really were fighting for the survival of their young and seemed to have triumphed for the time being.
The whole ordeal reminded me of the many times that we were alerted to the presence of snakes in Tanzania by the endless chatter of birds. This method was actually by far the most reliable way to find vine snakes and other well-camouflaged arboreal species whose presence we would otherwise have gone unnoticed.
In the States, this occurrence is so out of the ordinary that I stood transfixed watched the drama unfold and didn't think to grab my camera until the ordeal was over and the snake was disappearing under dead leaves.
A former fashion executive with no formal conservation experience has begun a captive breeding program for the critically endangered South China Tiger...in South Africa...with the notion of eventually re-releasing them to their endemic range in China. The BBC has an interesting audio slideshow about the program. There are a number of components to this article that intrigue me, not the least of which is a rather sexy image of a tiger hunting hartebeest in the South African veld. I'm not saying that there aren't some serious potential critiques for the program, but these images certainly got my attention!