QACHA’S NEK — Nkhooa Molahlehi, 29, says catching and rearing snakes of all kinds and sizes is what he dedicates his time exclusively to on a daily basis.
And for a Mosotho staying in the mountainous in Qacha’s Nek, his field of work surprises many because wildlife has always been associated with whites.
But then again, Molahlehi is not an ordinary Mosotho.
The tall and lean snake enthusiast holds a degree in herpetology, the branch of zoology that deals with reptiles and amphibians, from the University of Tanzania.
At the tender age of 20 in the year 2000, Molahlehi was sponsored by the German Technical Corporation to study snakes in Tanzania.
Today Molahlehi is the proud owner of the Snakes and Traditional Resource Centre, a sanctuary for snakes at the foot of the Letloepe Mountain in Qacha’s Nek.
The modest yet outspoken young man says his passion for snakes developed at a very young age, but he only took it seriously when the scholarship to study his first love came along.
“I have been at it for the past decade and I am not about to slow down,” Molahlehi says.
“There are currently a host of plans in the pipeline to develop this place into a world-class spectacular,” he said.
Molahlehi says whenever villagers spot snakes they think about him and call him.
“People always call me when they see snakes and I always rush to the spot because one finds new kinds of snakes all the time,” he said.
Molahlehi said besides his passion for snakes there are other reasons that influenced him to establish the snake park.
“I work with snakes because I love nature and Lesotho has a lot to offer in that department,” he said.
“I am dedicated to nature conservation”
Snake Man, as he is affectionately called by Qacha’s Nek residents, said he also wants to contribute towards the sustenance of development in the district and Lesotho at large.
“I want to educate Basotho about snakes and help them to do away with the perception that snakes are only for the white man,” he said.
“In addition, the centre was meant to be a job creation initiative.”
However, Molahlehi laments that he does not get any financial assistance from the government.
“But the lack of financial aid from the state is not enough to hamper my progress though such assistance would go a long way,” he says.
Molahlehi says the study of reptiles has opened his eyes to a lot of things, like the importance of the extraction of snake venoms for the creation of anti-venom remedies.
He says although he has studied snakes and is making a living out of them, it is quite demanding to keep them in good shape.
Molahlehi says from time to time the snakes at his centre become “frustrated” as a result of being removed from their natural habitat and being in confinement.
“Snakes are frustrated by being removed from their natural habitat and being stripped of their independence,” he says.
“The cold can also wreak havoc in their systems. Eye flick can also generate frustration.”
Molahlehi’s beloved pets eat a variety of food ranging from wild rats, rodents, lizards, toads, tortoises, guinea pigs and rabbits.
“They live exclusively on meat. I am currently breeding wild pigs especially for them,” he said.
The Snakes and Traditional Resource Centre is currently building a secure snake enclosure large enough to contain snake species from the pythonidae family that includes Burmese and African rock pythons as well as anacondas from the southern Africa region.
Molahlehi has a son aged nine with his ex-wife.
However, the Snake Man has no intention of marrying again anytime soon.
“I am happily single and have no intention of getting married anytime soon,” Molahlehi says.
“For now it’s just me, my son and the snakes.”