SA conservationist survives five nights with deadly reptiles in ‘Cage of Death’
For most people, the thought of spending any time in close quarters with a venomous or toothy reptile brings with it fear and sheer dread.
But for Dingo Dinkelman, SA conservationist and YouTube sensation, it was a chance to show his global audience that reptiles aren't the monsters they're often perceived to be by spending five nights alongside 16 of the world’s most dangerous creatures in a “Cage of Death”.
“I didn’t actually sleep any of the nights, you’re just too on edge, especially when you’re deprived of sleep and your mind doesn’t work as quickly,” said the wildlife crusader, whose YouTube videos have attracted more than 70-million views over the past few years.
I really think we achieved what we set out to do: show that these animals don't intend us any harm if left alone.Dingo Dinkelman, conservationist
“It was an incredible experience and a successful series. I really think we achieved what we set out to do: show that these animals don’t intend us any harm if left alone. There’s absolutely no reason to kill them.”
The five-part series, which can be viewed on Dingo’s YouTube channel, filmed every Wednesday from July 28.
For each episode, Dingo spent 12 hours from 5pm to 5am hanging out with a selection of the world’s most feared reptiles in the cage.
The custom-built enclosure, created by Conrite Walls, ensured there was no escape for the death-defying Dinkelman.
In each session, Dingo chats about the species, explains the behaviour and shares insights into why they do what they do.
“It is always exciting for us to be involved with Dingo and the conservation work that he does,” said Mike Speirs of Conrite Group.
“The Cage of Death was completely new engineering, requiring us to keep the danger confined inside the cage, and still allowing unobstructed visuals for people on the outside looking in.
“It was a project that offers people a look at the real nature of these dangerous animals, and we feel privileged to be part of Dingo’s conservation efforts in raising awareness for these misunderstood animals.”
For his first roommate, Dinkelman chose a female Nile crocodile.
A primarily nocturnal being, Dinkelman was in for a night of bumps and constant disruption as she wandered around the enclosure on her nighttime walks.
“She went for me in the beginning, but the rest of the night she actually got quite chilled out. But she didn’t stop walking around underneath my hammock, bumping into me every time.”
The second episode saw Dingo welcoming two of the world’s largest constrictors: a four-metre green anaconda and six-metre, 100kg reticulated python.
“I had an incredible encounter with the reticulated python. She climbed onto my bed and came right over my back and just perched on my head for a while.
“It was an incredible way to experience animals, you get to know how they react and move. Each animal has its own unique personality.”
Dinkelman's serpentine sleep mates continued in the third episode with rattlesnakes.
“This was a tricky one because they’re smaller than a crocodile, python or anaconda and there were four of them in the enclosure. It’s quite difficult to keep track of where they all are at any one time. They were under my bed, cruising all over the show, but they didn’t show any aggression. The night by went pretty easily.”
The fourth night, with five-metre Thor the king cobra, was a highlight for Dinkelman.
“He was particularly feisty that night and went for me a few times.
I had about three different snakes strike me in the beginning, but during the night they were cruising around under my bed.Dingo Dinkelman
“In the start, he went between my legs, put his hood up and gave me a bit of a fright.
“During the night, he perched on my table right next to my bed and spent the entire night right by my arm, with his tail sometimes draped on my bed, checking how things are going.
“Every time I went near him, his hood went up and he opened his mouth, but it was a really cool encounter.”
For the fifth and final adventure, the heat was turned up with a new mamba added to the Cage of Death every two hours from 5pm to 3am.
By the end of the night, a wide-awake Dingo was hanging out with two black mambas, a Jameson’s mamba, a West African green mamba, and two homegrown green mambas.
“That was by far the most nerve-racking night – the black mambas in particular.
“I had about three different snakes strike at me in the beginning, but during the night they were cruising around under my bed. If they saw me move, the black mambas would open their mouths, but it was very successful overall.”