If you hear blood curdling screams in the middle of the night while visiting the Luangwa, you can safely assume you have heard the night time call of the thick tailed bushbaby. Or if it happened to be last week, it might have been my reaction to being stung by a scorpion. An experienced safari guide would have been able to differentiate by the lack of expletives punctuating the screams of the bushbaby.
Scorpions are a diverse group of creature, with thirteen families and over 1,700 species, occurring on all major land masses with the exception of Antarctica. The culprit in my case is a member of the Buthidea family, likely a specimen of Hottentotta trilineatus. A feature of the family Buthidae is the combination of small pincers and a thick tail. This is an indication that it relies on it’s sting for protection and subduing prey, and so carries a powerful venom.
While I do confess that my experience was not entirely pleasant, it was, as is usually the case with wildlife encounters where people come off second best, entirely my own fault. Two important pointers will ensure that your visit to the African bush is scorpion sting free: check your shoes before putting them on and use a light or a torch to see where you are stepping, especially if you are not wearing shoes. I was walking from my bathroom to the bedroom, barefoot, in the dark, at the tail end of the rainy season. A rookie mistake!
The sting from this species is not dangerous to humans, though it is extremely painful. Scorpions are also surprisingly docile. I was able to scoop the little guy in the picture up using a shoe and pair of pliers, and place him on the counter for his photo shoot, without him attempting to sting pliers or shoe even once.
Even if you are stung, once you have endured the pain there will be no long term health damage involved. Unless you resort to my impromptu remedy of two paracetamol tablets and shot of whiskey, in which case perhaps expect some liver issues! Luckily I was able to administer the remedy in the knowledge that I didn’t have to lead any activities the next morning!