Snake survey inspires wildlife protection efforts

07/24/2013 03:29 PM
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Taipei, July 24 (CNA) 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 Taiwan.

The online campaign, held to dispel the image among some in Taiwan that snakes are evil omens and among the sinister animals awakened on the Dragon Boat Festival that should be destroyed, drew more than 300 participants.

Lin said he hoped to capitalize on the "Year of Snake" momentum to turn the creature into an auspicious symbol and prevent unnecessary killings resulting from superstitious beliefs, Lin said.

"We came up with the plan out of the blue. It was exciting to see support from people not in our field," said Lin Te-en, an assistant researcher with the Council of Agriculture's Endemic Species Research Institute, who organized the survey on his own time.

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 location.

Over 40 of the participants successfully identified a total of 251 living snakes during the campaign, contributing valuable data on Taiwan'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 mid-December to early January instead of killing them, as once was the case during the holiday period.

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, Lin said.

More diverse conservation plans could be developed, such as setting up signs in areas where snakes appear to avoid unnecessary contact between humans and snakes, said Lin, who has initiated several wildlife programs since 2011 to prevent roadkill.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)ENDITEM/ls

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