Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Snakeman Jim at Snake Temple, Penang Island 1989.

I love snakes- a misunderstood, maligned and persecuted reptile that is such a beautiful example of Nature's form for function in the animal world. Perfectly evolved to be  able to slither quietly through their environment, climb trees, lie quietly in wait, and even swim the oceans. Their lithe, supple bodies take them anywhere there may be a meal awaiting to had, be that a mouse or a man!

Snakes are the stuff of our deepest fears, the serpents of legends, the giver of swift death from their venomous fangs...and yet most are quite harmless to man. We can look at the Australian scene. Check out Bob's info  here- http://www.bobinoz.com/

Australia has 140 types of snakes and only 12 can kill. They also have sea snakes lurking in tropical waters but there are no known human fatalities from them. Their mouths are very small and fangs are less prominent. But if you're unlucky enough to stand on one on the beach, it'll be say your prayers time! Deadly. Keep your eyes open.

Sea snake we almost stepped on in New Caledonia! 1994.

Of 41 deaths from snake bite from 1980 up to 2009, almost half are thought to have occurred when the victim trod accidentally on a snake. Commonsense, and a wee bit of education and you'll be fairly safe.
Walk noisily, use a torch at night, carry a long stick, walk in clear pathways, avoid long dry grassy areas. Almost all snakes will move away from you- they don't want trouble, just a meal, and you're too big for them.

So since a few have killed, we persecute them all.
Meantime more people die from bee stings or horse riding accidents!

My hands on experience with snakes started in China 1984. Early days for tourists into China, and hardly anyone spoke English then. We toured for a day from Macau, then a Portuguese colony. We were taken to a city centre market where snakes were being sold for medicinal purposes. I'm not very keen on Traditional Chinese Medicine's exploitation of wildlife, in fact I find it deplorable with today's insatiable demand for any animal thought to have some beneficial quality. That's an issue we'll go into at another date.

Anyway, this very experienced world traveller walks up to the Chinese snake vendor and asks-

Snakeman in Guangzhou, China 1984. What a cool looking dude...the snake that is!

"Are these snakes safe to handle?"
"Yes." came a cheerful reply.
"They are non-poisonous, right?"
"Can I handle them?"
"Can you get some out and let me feel them, please?"

Snake vendor gives me snakes to handle. They felt incredibly smooth, sinewy, and muscular with great strength rippling through their long bodies as they glided up from my hands and wrapped their bodies around my arms. I was fascinated, enjoying their beauty. My horrified wife did manage to snap a few photos.

"Thank you for letting me hold them.You can put them back now."
We wander off along the market street. I 'm telling my wife how exciting the whole adventure was. Kay says "The whole time you spoke to that man, he only ever answered yes!"
Uh oh....

Did that man really know what I had meant when I asked him if they were safe to handle?

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Finding One's Way said...

Okay then I think I am going to slither away now I need a shower my skin is crawling.... The only place I like snakes are on my boots and heels...

Roy Durham said...

got bit by a rattler once don't care for snake i will live and let live but don't want any around. well, you can have my share. i think i will get on down the road before i have the urge to pull my colt to teach them the Texas two step. great post thank you and god bless

Neneng Tarigan said...

Snakes...eeeeuww...no...I have no guts to even near them, but i love the way you write about snake Jim and the way you play with them at least give people a little courage that these animals are not so harmful.

Techmaker said...

Be careful while you handling snakes. They can give you a shot of venom. :D

Saucy Siciliana said...

I can understand your love for snakes Jim, but I personally stay away from them. I once saw a bit pyton in India and I made sure I kept my distance:)

JIM said...

loll great post.. some really good info and then the big kicker at the end, lol I can just see yours and your wife face lol. I shared this on Stumble


S. Susan Deborah said...


I also share your love of snakes and have handled them once during a demonstration.

I guess the Christian concept of seeing the snake as Satan has gripped the Western world. Even my mom does not like it when I talk fondly of snakes.

I am sure many would find this post a bit creepy and nauseating unlike me.

And . . . you look completely different then than what you are now.

Nice one, gentleman Jim!

Joy always,

Alpana Jaiswal said...

I am sorry to say,but I hate snakes,have a phobia..and to mu luck,the place where I stay,is snake infested..the number of snakes I have seen is countless...

Alfandi said...

hey Jim..those are pit vipers...

sheril benedict said...

I m afraid of Snakes Jim ..!!

Anonymous said...

Awww...Jim! I wholeheartedly agree about snakes. So misunderstood, and such wonderful creatures.

I tried to keep a little green garden snake as a kid, and my mother about kicked me out of the house. LOL

The husband HATES snakes...he'd just as soon kill one in the yard (poisonous or not) rather than let it be. It's gotten to the point where I don't even tell him if I see one because he would flip out.

The only time I mess with a snake when I see it is to keep the dog from getting bitten because she would treat it like a toy.

The poisonous ones though...if they all lived behind a layer of glass I would feel a bit better about their existence. =)

lakwatsera de primera said...

Ewww snakes, my greatest fear! I wish I could overcome my fear of this very misunderstood creature.

Andrea said...

I love watching snakes - from behind glass =)

AJ said...

I can't even watch them on TV, Andrea. Haha! But nice photo, Jim! You looked like Sean Penn. :)

The only snake encounter I had was at sea. Yes, it was a yellow sea snake. I was snorkeling and it swam past me. I froze in fear and started sinking! I think I never snorkeled after that. :))

Jim said...

AJ, sea snakes, while have one of the most deadly toxins, are not all that dangerous unless mishandled. Hardly known to bite. Next time, take them time to observe and admire them instead of being a wuss! :-)

Jessica, I reckon snakeskin looks most beautiful on it's original wearer! I will not make shoes out of snakeskin just for fashion, so don't let me catch you wearing any. You'll get a whipping!

Yes Susan, snakes are too indiscriminately killed. Nature's rodent controllers. Where they have been exterminated you'll often find stored crop spoilage from rodents soars, and in places like India poor rural people can hardly afford to loose any of their harvest.

@Alfandi, they didn't tell me they were deadly pit vipers...oops.

@Cicca, pythons aren't venomous so are ideal subjects to observe.

Hey Roy, you got bit by a rattler? Wow, what happened?

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim -

I think snakes are spectacular creatures that are beautiful and exotic. They really freak me out. Unless I was forced into a situation where I had to hold one or let it slither over a shoulder as you in your photo, 15 feet away observing you do that is fine with me. LOL. :)

Natalie said...

Brilliant article. I don't know why but I have a fear of snakes every since I was a child and I nearly trod on one in Zimbabwe.Can not share your enthusiasm but loved the photos!

thepinaysolobackpacker said...

gosh Jim! ur so brave! i cnt even touch them, i;m jst too scared. :( it was only until my last trip that i was able to get closer to one. i guess it all boils down to the snake stories in our province during our childhood days, we here stories of people bitten by snakes. but a few months ago, i saw a tv feature abt snakes. the tv host who is a vet said that not all snakes are poisonous, he felt sad that people in that province kills them everytime they see one bec of the fear of being bitten and poisoned by them. so I guess you're right there. you remind of those 2 guys in my hostel in KK, I overheard them talking about their pet snakes. one guys mentioned there's plenty of snakes for sale in Kuching & Sarawak. I'm not a fan though of keeping wild animals as pets. hehe
and yeah, that last line makes sense. maybe it wasn't safe to handle,the vendor jst ddnt understand you and kept saying yes! haha

Jeremy B said...

Jim, you are a brave man! Yes, snakes probably do get an undeserved bad reputation for most of them. However, even if they aren't poisonous, they are just creepy. Maybe it's all due to their biblical curse that they just aren't liked! :)

Julia said...

Yuk. How can you touch those things, Jim?! I understand all the 'they're more scared of you than you are of them' stuff...but they're still long, slithery, horrible things. we see vipers here - just not pleasant. :)

Anna L. Walls said...

I love snakes and I've handled a few I probably shouldn't have. Fascinating creatures. I'd have one as a pet if it wouldn't be such a torture to have one where I live.

Jim said...

Hi PinaySolo, it's not so much a matter of being brave, more of being rational. Those snakes at the temple have probably(?) had fangs removed- can't have tourists getting killed!Andmost snakes are harmless. While many can't stand pythons, the worst they'll do is bite if extremely agravated.

Hi Jeremy, yes Eve sure got tempted alright! Long muscular things .....

Hiya Julia, yeah, I'd give vipers a wide berth too. What other types does Turkey have?

And Anna from Alaska, you'll have to keep a pet snake in bed with you to keep it warm!

jade said...

ah, snakes give me the creeps- I feel like they are crawling on me right now after reading this!! :)

Cathy Sweeney said...

Sorry Jim -- don't think I'll intentionally be getting close to any snakes in the near future. But I do admire your ability to be so cool with them. Love the pics, too. Cool dude.

Christy @ Technosyncratic said...

Snakes on a plane!!! Oops, not relevant here. That movie actually made me LESS scared of snakes, though (if you can believe it), so now I might not mind touching one....

Unknown said...

Love snakes too - I think they are the most wise and mysterious creatures on Earth - I am with you all the way in this : )