Survey on snakes inspires wildlife protection efforts

Staff writer, with CNA

Fri, Jul 26, 2013 - Page 5

The organizer of a snake survey held to coincide with the Dragon Boat Festival last month has been pleasantly surprised by the response and said it has helped shed light on wildlife protection in the nation.

The online campaign, held to dispel a popular perception that snakes are evil omens, which, along with other sinister animals, are awakened during the Dragon Boat Festival, drew more than 300 participants.

Lin Te-en (林德恩), an assistant researcher at the Endemic Species Research Institute, who organized the survey on his own time, said he hoped to capitalize on the “Year of the Snake” momentum to turn the creature into an auspicious symbol and prevent unnecessary killings resulting from superstitious beliefs.

“We came up with the plan out of the blue. It was exciting to see support from people not in our field,” Lin said.

During the survey period from June 1 to June 23, participants were asked to take photographs of any snakes they saw and submit them, along with a note specifying the number of snakes, the time, and the longitude and latitude of the sighting.

More than 40 of the participants successfully identified a total of 251 living snakes, contributing valuable data on the nation’s snake population, Lin said.

The idea for the survey came from the Christmas Bird Count in North America, in which nature lovers are asked to identify as many bird species as they can from the middle of December to early January, instead of killing them, as North Americans had done in the 19th century at Christmas.

By keeping track of snake species periodically, conservationists can better understand the reptile’s living environment and draw up better protection plans, he said.

Should the public observe during the process that snake populations are rapidly diminishing and report what they see to the group, efforts can be taken to reverse the trend and more diverse conservation plans can be developed, Lin said.