What’s behind the recent rise in snake-human encounters?

Firefighters removing a python from under a car.

By Nancy Nais

KUCHING, July 21: Apart from fighting fires and helping road accident victims, firefighters were also called out to capture snakes at a few locations over the weekend.

Yesterday, Bintangor fire station personnel rushed to a shop at Jalan Dermaga after they received a call at 9.20pm, saying that there was a python inside the storeroom.

Today, Lundu firefighters rushed to SMK Lundu after receiving a call from one of the teachers at 1.14am.

The teachers had a fright when they saw a five-feet long cobra hiding behind the curtains in one of the quarters.

In Miri, firefighters received a call at 11.02am, from a resident of a house at Jalan Akasia 3.

The caller said there was a snake in her car, and upon checking, true enough, a five-feet long python was tucked under the vehicle.

Firefighters responding to these calls were competent and acted fast in capturing the snakes involved using special tools which every fire station is equipped with.

All the snakes were released back into forested areas.

Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department (Bomba) operations centre (PGO) keeps records on special services for capturing animals including snakes, crocodiles, monitor lizards and others. The statistics have shown an increase.

In 2017, the department received 1,082 reports of which 758 cases occurred during the day while 324 cases took place at night.

The numbers increased by almost 50 per cent in 2018, with 1,457 cases recorded; 987 during the day and 470 cases at night.

Between Jan and July this year, Bomba received 992 reports; 695 during the day and 297 at night.

A firefighter in Miri carefully handles a snake which has just been caught.

One of the firefighters believed that there have been more snake cases lately due to development and weather.

“Development is taking place (in locations) where it could have been an ideal home for any snakes, (displacing the snakes) regardless whether venomous or not. At the same time, snakes of all stripes are slithering into the open as the mid-year heat takes hold,” he said, by way of explaining why they tend to receive more cases during the day.

Snakes will usually escape the heat and seek shelter in a cool, moist and secure environment.

Hence, the public, especially those who live near bushes, forests, fields, rivers and sewage areas where snakes tend to reside are advised to be more alert.

So what should one do if one encounters a snake at home or at the work place?

Sarawak Bomba assistant operations director Tiong Ling Hii said first and foremost, anyone who encounters these reptiles should stay calm and not panic.

“Regardless of whether its indoors or outdoors, do not go near them. Refrain from trying to catch or provoke (the reptiles), because it may trigger the snake to turn aggressive and attack. Call Bomba or the 999 emergency line immediately and wait for them to come,” he advised. — DayakDaily