Kakamega man wrestles giant python while taking bath in river
By - Jan 1st 1970
Wycliffe Ochango Mukuywa, 60, enjoys taking a bath in a river located 400 metres away from his house in Shiyunzu village, Kakamega County. The stream is located in a thicket at the edge of a narrow pathway.
The surrounding area is forested and forbidding. At around 3 pm on May 20, this year, Mukuywa was feeling uncomfortably hot and decided to go and take a bath. A few metres from the river, a rustling sound from the bush along the narrow path made him pause to investigate.
What followed, as he narrates, happened so fast he did not have time to react. A black python that had been stalking a goat tethered to a tree in the bush rushed at him, coiled itself around his legs and lower torso and threw him to the ground.
Instinctively, he struggled to throw off the creature and after a short struggle, the snake slithered away and left him bruised and badly shaken.
“On the material day, I was on my way to bathe when a huge snake, as big as a water pipe (about five inches in diameter), attacked me. I saw a dark form and before I knew it, the snake was coiling itself around my legs and torso,” Mukuywa, still visibly shaken by the encounter, recalls.
“I struggled with it in panic for a while before it suddenly released me and disappeared into a nearby bush. All the while, there were only three children in an open space nearby but they could not understand why I was struggling and shouting for help,” he says.
Pythons are huge non-venomous snakes that kill their prey by suffocating them. They strike, use the momentum to coil their bodies around victims and squeeze, tightening the grip every few seconds until they sense their prey has stopped breathing. They swallow their prey whole, starting from the head. Researchers say some pythons weigh as much as 250 pounds and can grow to a length of 33 feet.
Shiyunzu villagers say it was a miracle that Mukuywa escaped the attack. However, some of them have a ready explanation for the close shave with the snake. One of the villagers who preferred anonymity claimed that the python that attacked Mukuywa is domesticated by a witch.
“It only acted to scare Mukuywa and find a way to escape. If that python were truly wild, Mukuywa would not have lived to tell the story,” he says.
Folklore has it that witches in some Luhya communities used to rear snakes and leopards as tools of trade. It was rare to see such snakes, and the leopards would only venture out at night. They would run around the village, scaring villagers, especially children who were warned against straying far away from home and staying out late. With the advent of Christianity and modernity, the practice has nearly died, but diehard witches still hold onto their pets.
“A few years ago, a similar python was run over by a pickup not too far from here and died. It was a domesticated one and the owner took it away at night to give it a decent burial,” the villager says.
Rosemary Nashiali, Mukuywa’s neighbour whose homestead is close to where the attack occurred, was reluctant to speak to the press, afraid she would be mistaken for a witch who rears snakes.
After a little persuasion, she said, “I met Mukuywa on his way back after the attack and saw the bleeding from the back of his head and hands following the encounter with the python. He was hurt when the snake threw him to the ground”.
Retired secondary school teacher Anderson Rakama says he has often heard tales about the huge snake but has not personally seen it.
“I bought this land three years ago and I have heard tales about a big snake being sighted around here occasionally. I rarely go to the edge of the forest or the river, and that is perhaps why I have not seen the snake myself.”
“The encounter with the python has traumatised my father so much, he is scared of the surroundings,” says Chris Makokha, Mukuywa ‘s eldest son.
“Weeks down the line, he still gets nightmares. In fact, the day after the attack, dad left his house and moved into my grandmother’s house a few meters away from his home” he says.
Asked whether the villagers have reported the snake sightings to the Kenya Wildlife Services, the response is negative. “We have not because we do not know where the snake lives. KWS can only come to trap the snake, not search for it,” Makokha says.
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