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Snakes: Advocates of the devil?

Elysa Ng
Elysa Ng

Sixteen-year-old. Loves life sciences and literature.

Singapore  /  Wed, December 26, 2018  /  04:33 pm
Snakes: Advocates of the devil?

A python. (Shutetrstock/File)

The snakes were released in a small dark spot, near the forested end of the island where macaques and wild boar still roam.

To avoid being hit by a speeding car, I had to move a little bit deeper into the forest. Not much light was required, just the light from the rescue van. The light pollution in Singapore was very strong, so the night was very bright.

The pythons were placed in porous gurney sacks or pots, depending on their size, which could range from 30 cm to 3 m. They were pretty much not moving anymore from all the coldness and the darkness.

Snakes are cold-blooded. They require heat to function and without it, they have no energy.

The first thing to be done when releasing a snake is to make sure that the head is held down firmly, either by the hand or by a snake stick. A python bites when feeling threatened.

There are actually two types of bites: a warning strike where the snake rushes forward and lets go, and a latch bite where they hang on.

Contrary to popular belief, pythons do not have venom. They are constrictors, and kill their prey while suffocating them.

Releasing the snake involves keeping the head in check, taking out the body, releasing the body into the grass before letting go of the head and the entire snake completely. Mostly, the snakes just lie there on the grass for a while before slithering away into the darkness. However, some grumpy ones strike toward you before slithering away as quickly as they can.

But the best part is always the release and watching the animal go back home to where it truly belongs.

Most people seem to have this idea that snakes are the advocates of the devil. They are infamously known for tricking Eve into eating the forbidden fruit and causing Adam and Eve to be cast out from the garden.

This story has caused countless others to associate snakes with lies, revenge and trickery. Snakes have become a recurring symbol of the struggle between good and evil. They also serve as a constant reminder to people not to let their sins tempt them.

Read also: Thai university draws snake researchers from around the world

However, the way people look at snakes differs between cultures. In fact, in several cultures the snake is celebrated. For example, in certain tribes and old civilizations, snakes are considered to be the symbol of fertility and rebirth because of their constant shedding of the skin. Snakes are also connected with guardianship of certain temples and vaults, as cobras are known to stand their ground when threatened, and the reptile is also known as a symbol for poisons and medicines.  

But with widespread Christianity, people have stopped looking at the snake as something they would like to worship, but more of something that should be feared. Snakes are seen as creepy, slimy and evil creatures that could kill a person within minutes with their poison.

Perhaps this could also be accounted for by the type of documentaries broadcast on channels such as Nat Geo and Animal wild. They tend to air documentaries showing the graphic effects of snake venom on humans, and these are the reasons why people find themselves even more squeamish whenever snakes are mentioned.

People fail to appreciate how useful snakes can be. In Singapore, the python population acts as an effective rodent control. They navigate the island using channels and drains, and are attracted to areas with more rodents. Sometimes, they end up in residential areas, getting into conflict with humans. Some pythons are even killed by humans simply because they could not tolerate the snake in their property or the snake ate their pet.

Rescue groups such as Animal Concerns Research & Education Society (ACRES) actively encourage Singapore residents to leave snakes alone as their natural habitat is the drains and the areas around Singapore. Snakes would most likely be there in search of a meal, and they would be gone within minutes. We should remember that they are more likely more afraid of humans than humans are of them.

Aside from raising awareness about snakes, ACRES also fights against the wildlife trade, carries out wildlife rescue and rehabilitation and creates education for everybody.

And I'm very glad that I have been a part of them as an intern and learnt a lot of things about animals there. (kes)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.