Snakes need new homes

2008-05-16 00:00

Private snake handlers in Durban have opened their homes to the collection of indigenous and exotic snakes and reptiles from Fitzsimons Snake Park, which has been ordered to close at short notice.

eThekwini Municipality served an eviction notice on the park, giving them only four days to move the 4 000 reptiles out.

The park, which just celebrated its 70th anniversary, is a major tourist attraction on the Durban beachfront. It is believed that demolition work will start on Monday to make way for a major development.

The park has battled the municipality for the past two years after its lease expired. They were told to move out more than a year ago, but were later given time to relocate.

City manager Mike Sutcliffe said the park’s closure is part of the city’s plans to upgrade the Golden Mile.

Staff at the park told Weekend Witness they were shocked when the sheriff of the high court handed them a court order on Wednesday.

"This was the last thing we expected. How do you get such a large collection of animals out in time? It’s heart-breaking to hear that our home is going to be destroyed," said a distraught staffer.

"We were busy trying to upgrade the park, lots of money has been spent, but that is in vain now. Now we are just focusing on getting the animals out in time," he said.

He said many snake handlers have offered homes, while a new location is found.

Byron Zimmerman from Snakes for Africa said he will do whatever possible to help house the snakes. "The closure of the park is a huge loss to Durban," he said.

The owners of the park could not be reached for comment.

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