[permaculture] snakes on wet plain

akiva w kevinakiva at yahoo.com
Sun Aug 20 10:30:29 EDT 2006

me likey pulmacurture, and miso hungly.
this snakedillyicious!

converting amphibians to... well...
bigger amphibians i guess.


ps. it's ok to find humor in foreign accents, just so
you know.
see:  borat or andy kaufman
go ahead make fun of mine, it's all good.


Snake harvest threatens Cambodian lake
By DENIS D. GRAY, Associated Press Writer

PREK TOAL, Cambodia - Deep inside a flooded forest
oozing with wildlife, Ly Vy pries another struggling
creature from a gill net, whacks its head against the
side of his skiff and adds it to a coiled heap that
will add to the world's largest snake harvest.

A day later and across the Tonle Sap, the vast lake
that is Cambodia's most vital ecosystem, it's not a
very pretty sight. Bucketfuls of lifeless water snakes
are tossed into algae-green pools and pits seething
with crocodiles, which gulp them down in a few
power-packed bites.

Some of the farm's 2,000 crocs fall back into their
almost continual sleep with bits of snake still
dangling from their clamped jaws.

"They prefer snakes over fish. They have red blood and
good protein," says Sen Rith, owner of one of
Cambodia's 900 or so crocodile farms, which are
growing increasingly dependent on snakes as stocks of
fish are depleted in the Tonle Sap's once bountiful

Researchers for the Wildlife Conservation Society
estimate nearly 4 million snakes are plucked out each
year, and fear that number can't sustain the snake
population. That raises concerns among both the
thousands who make their living off the catch and
environmentalists monitoring the fragile and already
battered lake.

"The snakes have got to be rated as forming one of the
most important components of the ecology of the Tonle
Sap," says Joe Walston, who heads the New York-based
society's operation in Cambodia.

"They are an important predator, but also an important
food source for large raptors, wild crocs (and other
animals). If they were to decline the effects would be
devastating on some of the world's most important
colonies of water birds and other wildlife."

Ly Vy, who has been catching the nonpoisonous snakes
for eight years, says there are far fewer these days,
and worries both about future catches and possible
government controls on the harvest. This year, he has
been catching about half the number over last season,
which peaks between June and September.

During these months of the monsoons, he lives with his
wife and two young boys aboard a cramped, open-decked
14.7-foot boat deep inside the humid, insect-ridden
forest. He and other snake hunters, among the nation's
poorest folk, spend the rest of the year as fishermen
on the lake in northwestern Cambodia.

"During this season we can't catch a lot of fish so we
try to catch a lot of snakes," the 26-year-old hunter
says as he finishes the morning's inspection of his
437-yard net strung along a narrow water channel. The
50 animals collected, the endemic Tonle Sap water
snake among them, will fetch him about $1, he says.

"It's difficult to live in the forest, but we have no
choice. The children can't go to school, medical help
is far away and the food is poor," says his wife, Hol
Hong, noting that snake is on their menu day after

To a visitor, the family's environment seems anything
but unpleasant.

Dozens of spot-billed pelicans, a species endangered
around the globe, rise with powerful beats of wings,
then skim gracefully over the water. Gray-headed
fishing eagles watch broodingly from treetops, while
spear-sleek cormorants flap over muddy waters burbling
with eggs, seeds, spores, larvae and hatchlings.

This unique ecosystem forms each year as the Tone Sap
expands to five times its dry season size to flood
tropical forests and farm land around Southeast Asia's
largest lake and is the source of at least 60 percent
of Cambodia's protein intake.

>From this primordial incubator slither millions of
water snakes from five species of the subfamily

Most of the catch goes to crocodile farms. Other
snakes are turned into wallets, handbags and other
luxury products. Some are exported or sold locally to
restaurants where they are fried, dried, boiled and
curried, a pregnant female being considered a special

"We do know that the intensity of the harvest is going
up and the quantity of snakes being brought into the
ports and markets is going down," says Walston, a
wildlife biologist.

It's not certain whether a point of no return has
already been reached, he says, but some species like
the Bocourt's water snake, valued for both its skin
and meat, are now rarely found.

Walton says it is essential to have tighter
regulations that take into account both the
livelihoods of the hunters and the lake ecology. The
rules might include protected breeding areas and
restrictions on how snakes are caught.

If fishing and snake hunting don't remain sustainable,
impoverished lake dwellers will inevitably turn to
cutting down the forest and competing for other
already dwindling resources, he says — and Cambodia's
greatest environmental battle will be lost.


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