Snake Tales

May 10, 2009 at 11:01 pm | Posted in itchy mouth | 4 Comments
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Slimy. Sneaky. Scary. Scaly. Slithery. Poisonous. Carnivorous. Creepy. Cold-blooded. Fanged. Vicious. Evil.

These are some of the words used to describe snakes. All of them are negative in meaning. It doesn’t help that a lot of sayings using snakes are also negative in meaning – A snake in the grass is a sneaky and despised person who pretends to be your friend while secretly doing things to harm you; Mad as a cut snake describes one who has lost all sense of reason, is crazy and out of control. The chinese idiom 画蛇添足 (literally drawing snakes with legs) is to ruin the effect of something by adding something superfluous; 虎头蛇尾 (literally tiger head snake tail) means having a fine start but a bad finish, or not being able to carry through a task consistently; 一朝被蛇咬,十年怕井绳 (literally once bitten by a snake, wary of ropes for ten years) has similar meaning to once bitten, twice shy. In Singapore,吃蛇 jiak jua in Hokkien (literally to eat snake) refers to a skiver, or the act of skiving. :p

I think besides the creepy crawlies, a lot of people have an inborn fear, dislike or even hatred for snakes. The talk that I attended on conservation by the NPark Outreach Officer confirmed this. 

The lady was recounting her experiences of seeing dead snakes at the Bukit Timah Nature Reserves while she was working there. It was only later while talking to visitors that she realised that there were visitors hiking up the hill with sticks in hands not as walking aids but rather, as weapons to kill ANY snakes in sight, regardless of whether the snake was a threat or just passing by! I was seriously flabbergasted when I heard this! How can anyone be visiting the nature reserves to relax and enjoy the little nature we are left in Singapore and at the same time, try to destroy the very little nature we are left with?!? :O This is especially unforgivable considering the fact that most of the snakes in Singapore are non-venomous, or even if they are, they do not cause much harm to human. If left alone, most snakes would not attack. In fact, most of the times when Itchyfingers were lucky (yes! we considered it our lucky day to see a snake in the wild!) to see snakes, they were more afraid of us than we were of them, and they would likely be hiding or moving away quickly.

The Painted Bronzeback

The Oriental Whip Snake
…quite common in Singapore

Not too sure which species of Cat Snake was this one… 

The NPark Officer’s talk reminded me of a blog entry I read some times ago. The blog was a nominee for a local blog competition under the celebrities catergory. As Itchyfingers had just started, I was curious what makes a popular and good blog, so I went around reading some of the nominated blogs under the different categories. So what has this to do with snakes? Well, this particular blog entry was titled, 杀蛇记” (Killing Snake), and it immediately caught my attention and read through the whole article despite it being tough on the eyes to read.

For those unable to read chinese, he wrote how he heard screams for help and found a friend trembling with eyes staring at one corner. He looked at the direction and saw a snake slithering across. Without much thinking, he immediately sprung into action – found two long wooden sticks and with one stick pressing about seven inches behind the snake’s head, he hit the snake’s head forcefully with the other stick until the poor snake was no longer moving. Friends cheered and he was instantly crowned a hero.

It was when he looked closer at the carcass that he realised it was a harmless python. He admitted that, like most people with inborn fear for snakes, instinctively he wanted to get rid of the snake, to kill it. But on hindsight, he realised he should have at least look carefully to see if the snake was poisonous, or he should have catch it and release it back to where it should belong. Remorseful for his action, he hoped to learn from this lesson.

Though I felt sorry for the poor snake, I was glad that the celebrity was brave enough to admit his action. I hope those hikers who went up to Bukit Timah Hill prepared with sticks to kill any snakes would be able to read his blog entry. Afterall, as a celebrity, his appeal with a single sentence must definitely be much stronger than Itchyfingers writing a whole paragraph. :O

Snapped this Common House Snake lying dead on the pavement next to the
road near my place with my lousy camera phone. The head looked a bit injured,
hopefully it was not the work of some people who hate snakes….:(

Actually you don’t have to visit a nature reserve, forest or park to see snakes.
This Striped Kukri Snake 
slithered past under our nose at the Zoo…luckily it
happened too fast for other visitors to start screaming…I even saw this while
jogging at the canal near my house…crossing the road between two grass patches :p 

Er, next time you touch railings, look first. :p This Paradise Tree Snake was
somehow taking shelter inside the crack….:p This was at Taman Negara,

Was on my way to the loo at the Botanic Garden when I bumped into this
Paradise Tree Snake. Had to quickly call Tisu Boy to come and take better photos

And this cooperative and totally not shy guy allowed us to go quite close to
him…Can you see Tisu Boy’s reflection in the snake’s
eye?  8) Er…only now
that I realised it is actually mildly venomous… 

To Itchyfingers, it is always exciting to see snakes…especially when they are in action….

Ouch! Frogy was crying for help and it attracted our attention…Poor Frogy!
But there again, the poor snake also needed to eat! Anyway, we are not 
supposed to interfere with nature…

This was the first time Itchyfingers saw a Red-tailed Rat Snake while visiting
Sime Forest with a friend. Quite a big guy!

And certainly a gorgeous looking snake! His colour blended so well with the
surrounding…if not for the alarming calls of some birds, we might have
missed it…

The first venomous snake Itchyfingers finally saw was this guy hiding under some trees in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserves. He was very well hidden and we had to thank some fellow birdwatchers for showing us. 

This venomous Shore Pit-viper was lying motionlessly, apparently
bloated after a full meal as we could see lumps in the body. Too bad our
picture doesn’t show as it was blocked by leaves and branches… 

On our way back we went to check out the Pit-viper again and was surprised
to see it still there…This snake is known to be bad-tempered and is quick to
strike. But if we leave it alone, it will leave us alone!

Tisu Boy was also lucky to see this – the Wagler’s Pit-viper, another highly
venomous snake

Another good sighting by Tisu Boy – the venomous Mangrove Snake

The Mangrove Snake is also known as the Gold-ringed Cat Snake

Having being lucky to see these snakes in the wild, Itchyfingers really hope people would try to be more tolerant of other living beings sharing the earth with us. They are part of a balanced ecosystem and help to control the population of rats and other pests too. Though unpopular among many people, snakes deserve to live just like you and me, especially when we are the ones disturbing their territories. So if they are not doing you any harm, surely you can just leave them alone? 

Also see related posts:
> Monkey See, Monkey Do
> The Web Crawler



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  1. Thanks for this delightful post! Great photos!

    I’m a big fan of snakes but almost never get to spot them in the wild. It’s very distressing to read about other people killing snakes, a move which I find very unnecessary and excessive sometimes.

    If only more people learned to accept the presence of snakes amongst us, and understood that most of them are completely harmless.

    I visit STOMP quite often, and sometimes, people submit sightings of snakes. It’s very appalling to see just how paranoid some people are, even of Oriental Whip Snakes. Then there are the posts about snakes being needlessly killed:

    Lousy start to new year seeing snake cut in 3 on nature trail
    I killed a snake- in my 8th floor HDB flat

    • Thanks Ivan. It is indeed shocking to see the two stories on harmless snakes being killed unneccessarily. 😦

  2. The brown snake you found dead on the pavement is a Common House Snake (Lycodon capucinus). I’ve caught and rescued one with my bare hands before.
    The photo of the unidentified snake (the one below the Oriental Whip Snake) looks a lot like some sort of cat snake. In fact, it’s a very close match for the Black-headed Cat Snake (Boiga nigriceps), which is very exciting if you spotted it in Singapore, since it’s not been recorded to occur here! Where and when did you spot this particular snake? You can see photos of the Black-headed Cat Snake here and here.

    • Thanks Ivan for helping to Id my dead snake…so it should be a juvenile cos it was about 30cm long…The other unID snake was sighted in Malaysia, someone said it was a cat snake but was not sure which cat snake was it.

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