Lost in the Savannah

Image (c) Young World, The Hindu, 2015

Nobody seems to know where the black mamba is. It has gone missing. Or has it?

The sun blazed over the grasslands of Tanzania in eastern Africa. A young but tired looking secretary bird dragged his feet through the grass to come under the shade of a big tree. It was his first day hunting on his own without his mama’s help. He had caught only a few insects. He was hungry.

“Hello there!” called out a long brown snake that sat coiled on a branch above the bird’s head. “Need any help?”

The bird looked up and nodded. In a flash, the snake was by his side. He looked critically at the nearly four-foot-tall bird with grey wings and tail feathers. Black feathers covered his body and thighs. Crest feathers made him look majestic. The snake shivered in fear when he saw his sharp beak and talons.

“I am Brownie. Tell me your problem,” said the snake with a hiss.

“I am looking for a black mamba. My mother said that it would make a big, tasty meal. How does he look? Do you know where I can find him?”

Brownie spoke with an evil glint in his eye. “You mean the black mamba, the longest and fastest venomous snake in Africa? The most dreaded snake with venom that can kill you in a few minutes? Umm… he must be black in colour. Come on, let’s look for him!”

Sneak snake

The two spent hours looking for a black mamba in the tall grass, but in vain. So, the bird suggested that they take the help of the Hopper detectives.

The three detectives from Hopper, Hopper and Hopper Solutions hopped into the savannah grasslands where the two waited patiently for them. They listened keenly to the rather strange case of the missing mamba.

“How long has he been missing? What does he look like? Who saw him last?” asked Rock like a policeman.

It was Brownie who spoke for the bird that had no answer.

“I have seen a black mamba. He lives in lakes. He is black, very long and very fat like an anaconda and umm… he eats only butterflies.”

“That doesn’t sound quite right,” said Rana with a scowl.

Let-it-be looked puzzled. He too did not believe Brownie’s description.

“Umm, umm, umm,” came a sound from under a tree. It was a mother bush baby trying to say something as she held her baby in her mouth.

“Why don’t you put your baby down and speak clearly?” suggested Let-it-be in a kind voice to the tiny primate with big ears and a long tail. Nervously, she put her baby down and stared at Brownie with her big eyes.

“It’s him! He is the black mamba!” she cried in a shrill voice.

“Where is he? Where is he?” cried Brownie excitedly pretending to look for a snake behind him.

Rock caught a flash of Brownie’s blue-black insides of his mouth. He looked sternly at the snake.

“She is right. Isn’t she? A black mamba is a brown snake with insides of its mouth blue-black. Why don’t you open your mouth and show us?”

Brownie knew that the joke was over. He raised his head and opened his blue-black mouth and hissed violently. Secretary bird was excited.

“I know how to kill a snake,” he shouted confidently. He opened his wings and crest feathers. He ran towards Brownie to stamp him with his powerful feet. But the mamba was too quick. With lightning speed, he disappeared into the tall grass.

Though the Hoppers were quite satisfied with their work, the poor bird was yet to find a good meal. Well, at least now he could tell a black mamba when he saw one!

Published as part of a series titled Open and Shut Cases in Young World, The Hindu on March 14, 2015.

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