HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong is dwelling to quite a lot of snakes — from the venomous king cobra to bigger species such because the Burmese python. Each time certainly one of these reptiles is noticed slithering into a house or coming alarmingly near a residential space, Ken Lee is among the many snake catchers referred to as to seize the creatures.
However not like industrial snake catchers of yesteryear, whose catch is commonly served up as soup within the metropolis’s snake retailers, Lee doesn’t promote the snakes he captures. He’s a part of a brand new breed of snake catchers who attempt to launch the reptiles again into nature.
“There are events the place folks have caught the snakes earlier than I arrived on the scene, however sadly a few of them have been killed or fatally injured,” mentioned 31-year-old Lee, who’s certainly one of Hong Kong’s youngest registered snake catchers. “Some folks caught the snakes bravely, however really it brought on hurt to wildlife.”
Like many different snake catchers within the metropolis, Lee is self-taught. He first began dealing with snakes on the age of 17, when he labored as an apprentice in a Hong Kong snake store. His expertise spurred him to study extra about biodiversity and biology, and he ultimately went on to review that at a college in Taiwan.
When Lee catches snakes, he makes use of a spread of kit — puncture-proof gloves, sticks, hooks, a torch and baggage. At instances, he even makes use of his naked arms.
In early December, he made headlines when he efficiently captured a 3-meter-long (10-foot-long) Burmese python in a village positioned in a rural a part of Hong Kong. The identical month, Lee was additionally referred to as to a high-rise residential constructing in a rural space to seize a bamboo pit viper — a typical, venomous inexperienced snake whose chunk may cause a nasty swell.
The snakes he catches are despatched to the Kadoorie Farm and Botanical Backyard, a neighborhood nonprofit group that shelters rescued wild animals. After a well being examine, many of the creatures are then launched again into the native parks.
“I hope all these wild animals could possibly be returned to nature,” Lee mentioned.
At the moment, he works as a analysis assistant at 4 universities within the metropolis and volunteers on the Hong Kong Society of Herpetology Basis, a nonprofit group devoted to the research of reptiles and amphibians.
Regardless that Hong Kong has ample inexperienced areas that function completely different habitats for snakes, Liz Rose-Jeffreys, Kadoorie Farm’s conservation officer, thinks the town’s city growth might threaten the survival of snake species.
“I believe that is certainly one of mutual respect, actually. They’re our wild neighbors, they’ve been right here quite a bit longer than us, and I believe we’ve got an obligation to respect nature,” she mentioned. “They kind an vital a part of our ecosystem, so if we’ve got to take away snakes, then it might upset the steadiness that has been established for a few years.”