Group bids to make over snakes’ bad image with survey

SNAKES IN THE GRASS::A Council of Agriculture institute is hoping that by encouraging people to ‘snake-watch’ they can clear snakes’ ‘evil’ name

Staff writer, with CNA

Thu, Jun 13, 2013 - Page 3

An ongoing nationwide snake survey has been launched in a bid to quash the tradition of warding off the reptiles observed by some during the Dragon Boat Festival, when ancient Chinese culture says the evil spirits of animals such as snakes are awakened.

The survey was launched on Sunday last week by the Council of Agriculture’s Endemic Species Research Institute as part of wider efforts to promote wildlife protection.

The institute said it timed the campaign to coincide with the festival and the Chinese Year of the Snake. The campaign, which is to conclude on Sunday, was initiated online through a Facebook group.

Council staff said they got the idea for the snake poll from the Christmas Bird Count in North America. During the bird count, animal lovers are invited to vie with one another to see how many types of bird species they can observe during the holiday period, which was traditionally celebrated by hunting birds instead.

“Instead of bats and sticks, take out your smartphones to record the time and place where you have spotted a snake,” the institute said on its Facebook page, which it established in 2011 in an effort to reduce roadkill.

Although in traditional Han Chinese culture, snakes are seen as ominous portents, the group said it wants to capitalize on the momentum of the Year of Snake to turn the creature from an unpropitious omen into an auspicious symbol and prevent unnecessary killings because of superstition.

Participants in the survey take photographs of any snakes they encounter and submit them to the site along with a note specifying the number of snakes seen, as well as the time, longitude and latitude of the sighting.

Participants do not need to identify the species, the group said, but all snakes photographed must be alive.

Every entry submitted to the institute’s site,, will be reviewed annually as part of efforts to examine fluctuations in the nation’s snake population, the institute added.