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Dream coming true for NC snake catcher

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A reptile zoo will be opening soon in Kuruman.

Bokamoso “Buru” Ntehelang’s dream of opening a reptile zoo is coming true. Picture: Supplied

BOKAMOSO “Buru” Ntehelang’s dream is starting to come true after the John Taolo Gaetsewe Development Trust (JTGDT) performed the sod-turning ceremony for the Reptile Galaxy Zoo in Kuruman on Wednesday.

Construction work on the reptile zoo is set to start soon in Seoding, Kuruman in the Ga-Segonyana municipal area.

Once on a path on the wrong side of the law, Ntehelang now has the chance to “go straight”.

This development follows the trust’s visit to Ntehelang in 2019, to assess where he keeps his snakes and reptiles.

Ntehelang, who is affectionately known as “Buru” in the district, is a renowned snake catcher and has been capturing snakes since 2003. He often keeps the snakes at his home. He apparently caught about 300 different snakes in 2019, and possibly the same amount in 2020 to date. He has, however, also been arrested for unlawfully catching snakes.

Ntehelang admitted on Wednesday to having been bitten by a venomous snake before, but said he managed to receive assistance in time.

According to Ntehelang, he has had many offers for assistance in his reptile zoo project, none of which materialised.

The construction of the zoo will enable him to realise his dream and to use his expertise lawfully.

The CEO of the JTGDT, Tumelo Mpolokeng, expressed his satisfaction with delivering on a promise he made to Ntehelang in 2019 to help him with his project.

Mpolokeng said that the development should take about eight months to complete.

He said that several stakeholders were involved, including the chieftaincy and the Northern Cape Department of Nature Conservation, to help realise the completion of the project.

“Ntehelang was lacking support in the beginning, thus we decided to intervene and assist in minimising instances where he captured reptiles and snakes which he was not supposed to capture,” said Mpolokeng.

“We visited him in the past to see what we can do to assist him to explore his God-given talent.

“That is when we realised that it will be best to rather assist him instead of harassing him with arrest.

“We saw the importance of creating an environment in which we can all take pride in.”

Mpolokeng pointed out that the reptile zoo would also serve to enhance tourism in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District.

He said that it is a project for the youth and community as a whole to continue to nurture and be proud of.

A Ga-Segonyana ward councillor, Dineonyana Mpata, praised the trust for helping with such a development.

Ntehelang meanwhile expressed his joy and gratitude to the Trust for offering to help him.

“I believe this outstretched hand to help me is completely different to the empty promises which I have previously had. I see that this one has started already,” said Ntehelang.

“The snakes that I currently have are exotics like the ball python, Bradley carpet python, corn snake, leaking snake and yellow anaconda,” he said.

Ntehelang admitted that he is not allowed to keep snakes like puff adders and cobras and that it is illegal to capture a snake in the veld and keep it.