Dingo Dinkelman speaks to BTN about black mambas, conservation work and his new channel on Patreon.
South Africa: blue skies and 35 degrees
Dingo Dinkelman is in good spirits when we speak, writes Breaktime News Editor, Duncan Little. It’s mid-morning in South Africa and it’s already 35 degrees, the sky is blue, and the sun is shining.
It’s early morning back here in Blighty. The skies are grey and there’s a gentle pitter patter of rain on the office window.
But the British weather doesn’t dampen the enthusiasm, or warmth, which greets BTN from nearly 6,000 miles away.
For the uninitiated, Dingo is a conservationist, and herpetologist, whose time on YouTube saw his films clock up a staggering 75 million views worldwide.
His weekly live stream events would become ‘events to view’ as thousands of people would watch him holding various (normally deadly) snakes while calmly chatting to us about different aspects of their behaviour.
His goal was to show us all how these creatures shouldn’t be feared – but respected. His wife, Kirsty, was often behind the camera and her voice could be heard reading out questions from their global audience.
BTN first came across Dingo a few years ago as he gently held a boomslang in his hands and explained a bit about its favourite habitats, foods and how its venom worked.
Snakes have been a big part of the 40-year old’s life since his father, who worked for the local wildlife authority, bought him a book on these incredible animals when Dingo was four. He quickly became interested in snake number 42: the gaboon viper.
And, by the way, these venomous snakes are the ones with the biggest fangs in the world. Dingo explains to Break Time News that some of these needle-sharp points have been measured at a whopping five centimetres in length.
‘There’s something about venomous animals that excites me,’ he explains in an exclusive interview with BTN.
Filming for new channel
We’re catching up with him between breaks on conservation work and on filming for his new platform on Patreon. BTN asks how he feels when working alongside some of the most-deadliest creatures on the planet.
‘Fear is very, very dangerous. Nerves are good as it keeps you on your guard, but fear is bad as it means you don’t react properly. If you’re fearful then expect something bad to happen.’
Dingo has certainly experienced his fair share of death-defying moments during a career which spans decades. A couple of years ago he was rescuing a black mamba from a cabbage field.
The farm’s owners had called him out after terrified workers had spotted the snake. Kirsty filmed Dingo as headed into the field.
From a British perspective, it’s hard to grasp how the words ‘black mamba’ can create real fear in communities where these animals live. Our only native venomous species of snake is the adder, a protected animal and one seldom seen on these shores.
The black mamba, on the other hand, is among one of the fastest land creatures on the planet. Their speed is matched by their striking abilities and their venom can cause death in an adult human within minutes of being bitten.
And, worryingly, it doesn’t take much of the neurotoxin to cause paralysis and death.
But, as with all animals, they play a crucial role within the ecosystem and its often humans encroaching on their habitats which can cause them to behave defensively.
‘Every now and again something catches you unawares. I was in the cabbage patch and went to grab my stick then lost sight of the mamba.’
The herpetologist’s stick is a crucial bit of kit. It’s forked prongs allows someone to keep the animal at a safe distance from themselves. The stick is designed not harm the snake itself.
‘It was very difficult to see. I thought it was 10 to 15 metres ahead of me. Kirsty said, ’It’s by your feet.’ I tripped over the cabbages and waited for the bite on my calf. We were in the middle of nowhere and it was all happening at a lightning speed.’
‘The snake chose not to bite me and that was a very scary realisation. We had lost it and it had turned back. It was quick among the cabbages.’
A bite from a snake as venomous as the Black Mamba would have been bad news. Very bad news.
In 2003, Dingo had ended up in hospital from one such bite, and, as regular viewers know, he now needs to be exceptionally careful when handling such snakes as he can experience huge allergic reactions from their secretions alone.
In other words, when it comes to handling venomous creatures then don’t try any of this stuff at home. The amount of safety equipment and planning which goes into producing his on-line material is mind blowing.
In one film, he explained how he spent time cutting the grass before the camera was rolling to try to ensure the area was safer before filming began.
This was just one of a multitude of steps taken to try to ensure a safer environment. Even so, nature can quickly outstep human planning and thinking.
‘I was once chased by an elephant along the Zambezi River and had to dive into crocodile infested waters. If I had tripped, I would have died.’
‘In 2019, I was in Bolivia and was bitten by a snake and had a massive allergic reaction to it. It re-iterated how quickly things can go wrong.’
Chatting to Dingo and it’s clear there were initial doubts over whether his You Tube channel would gain enough lift to become a soaraway success.
Safe havens for animals
‘I never thought we would clock 75 million views. We are all fallible people and I asked myself, will anyone watch this but the family and the dog?’
‘My parents asked how we would make money from it. We got to 1000 subscribers and then to 10 to 15 thousand then imagine getting to a million. It’s an achievement and we’re grateful. Part of me wants to pinch myself.’
‘It’s creating a connection between animals and people so we can care more about the animals. We never thought it would make the impact that it has.’
‘When you hear someone say ‘your videos have changed my life’ then it makes it all worthwhile. It’s humbling.’
Dingo’s new platform on Patreon allows people to access his channel from just £4 a month, with the knowledge that the money will be going towards conservationist work.
‘We have some incredible fans who really want to make a difference and are not just watching to see if I die – but watching to help to save animals.’
He may be best known for producing jaw dropping films involving deadly snakes but his location in South Africa means the team can help a broad array of animals.
Over the years, they’ve helped endangered lions and relocated brown hyenas whose hunting habits meant they were at risk from farmers looking to protect their livestock.
They’ve also been instrumental in protecting rhinos from poachers and creating orphanages for them.
‘For me, reptiles are a love of mine, but I love everything from turtles to Great White sharks.’
His passion for the environment has recently seen him plant 600 to 700 trees as part of a conservation project which will, eventually, create safe havens for threatened animals.
Dingo’s work is all about conservation. His three children are all growing up with their Dad’s passion for animals and the environment. It’s a passion which he hasn’t just shared with them but with millions of people from around the world.
Some of whom, like BTN, have seen their perception of these incredible animals change from a place of fear to an understanding of what they’re about – and an admiration for the way they live.
Photographs kindly provided to Break Time News by Dingo Dinkelman.