Sarawak fireman shares his experiences in catching snakes

Kenyalang Portraits

By Nancy Nais

KUCHING, June 3: It is not just human lives or burning buildings that firefighters save. They also protect folks from scaly creatures, including snakes, monitor lizards and crocodiles.

Snakes species are diverse. Some are big, some are small and a number of them are downright dangerous. So, when you happen to spot them and do not know what to do, call the firefighters.

Generally, these limbless reptiles will scare most people. This instinctive response is normal because we recognize the threat they posed.

On the other hand, firefighters will know what to do because they are known for that, and they have various types of equipment to catch them.

Jinat and his creation — a stronger thong that they can use to catch big snakes and monitor lizards.

Firefighter Jinat Ngayup, who is based at the Petra Jaya fire station, said there are many ways to go about catching snakes, but the first thing that should be done is to identify the species. Non-venomous ones will be a lot less challenging to remove than their venomous cousins.

Jinat, 54, who joined the Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) in 1990, has caught no less than 100 snakes to-date.

“It’s not an everyday occurrence, but it’s definitely not the weirdest thing we’ve seen. Our job is helping the public, whether putting out a fire, helping accident victims, getting them to a hospital or getting a snake out,” he told DayakDaily.

He explained that the slithery ones thrive all over the state, where they lurk in sewers and canals. They feed on frogs, rats, cats and even dogs.

“They regularly make their way into people’s homes and, now and then, a python makes headlines by slithering up a toilet and biting someone answering the call of nature,” Jinat said.

Sharing some of his experiences, Jinat said when he answered such calls for help, he would remain unfazed. Being an experienced snake catcher, Jinat can differentiate between the different types and state for certain if they are deadly or otherwise.

“Venomous cobras are usually harder to catch. The black or brown cobras are aggressive. They can stand up to five feet. So, we have to be very careful with these crazy snakes,” he chuckled.

Firefighter Abdul Rahim Rajali from Batu Lintang fire station showing another tool that firemen generally use to catch snakes.

Using special equipment like snake tong has made handling these narrow-bodied creatures easier and safer. Every fire station has its own set of tools to get the job done. However, the current tools are small and suited for catching small snakes only.

Due to frequent emergency calls seeking firefighters to catch snakes, coupled with his interest in this field, Jinat had taken upon himself to make a bigger and stronger thong to enable him and his colleagues to catch not just snakes but monitor lizards, too.

“I have quite a few ideas on how to improve the current tool, so I put it down and started looking for recyclable items to make it. However, there is a lot more to work on because the one I made recently is quite heavy. I plan to make another one using stainless steel material so it won’t be so heavy,” he said, adding that the longest snake he had caught was about 18ft.

For his latest tool, Jinat said it took him about one day to make.

A burly 54-year-old with rugged good looks, Jinat said his thick workman’s boots had seen better days, but they have also saved his feet from numerous snake bites over the years. He had also been bitten by these long-bodied reptiles before, but he considered such episodes as lessons well learned. — DayakDaily