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 Post subject: Community Snake Workshop in Manila
PostPosted: February 12th, 2017, 11:28 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:39 am
Posts: 3483
A few months ago someone got word that I'd be in Manila for a conference (my first time outside India in 1.5 years) and asked if I'd be willing to lead a community snake workshop in their area. The people extending the invitation were a small and quite young network of Christian organic farms and training centers for inner-city workers and displaced slum residents. One of the founders told me there had been a number of different snake-human conflicts (workers killing snakes, retics eating chickens, people getting bit by snakes), and wanted someone to come in and give the workers a broader base of knowledge and appreciation for snakes that might help both parties.

15 participants (13 men and 2 women) showed up, along with a number of children. All of them either worked on the organic farms or were pastors in management roles. Here's a partial photo I took of the group.

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After a introduction where I shared a bit of my own history and experience with snakes.

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I then showed collages of different snake species found in the area. (Huge hat tip to Luke Welton of KU, who provided me with a species list for the region.) I asked the participants to point out which species they had seen before, so Ahaetulla prasina, Boiga cynodon, Elaphe erythrura, Gonyosoma oxycephalum, Hemibungarus calligaster, Indotyphlops braminus, Malayopython reticulatus, Naja philippinensis, Ptyas luzonensis, Rhabdophis spilogaster, Trimeresusus flavomaculatus, and Tropidonophis dendrophiops were identified as species they had observed themselves. I then had them try to identify which of those snakes were venomous and which were not - other than thinking that all of the green snakes were venomous, they did quite a good job of IDing the venomous species.

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In order to make it a bit exciting, I then pulled out a juvi Philippines Water Monitor (Varanus marmoratus) that I had come up with the night before.

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I chose not to mention that it had ripped the hell out of my knuckle when I caught it, though some may have noticed the wound, they didn't say anything. I talked about how the monitor was both similar to and different from snakes, and allowed any participants who wanted to to touch it. The little guy was behaving well during the presentation, but I still didn't trust him enough to let anyone else hold it. I also talked about correct snake handling technique, with a strong emphasis on the fact that you NEVER handle a snake unless you are absolutely certain of the ID.




From there we went into a discussion of my work on the Bangladesh Python Project, where we had some goals which were quite similar to the goals for this community. My emphasis was on the balance of nature when it is allowed to work naturally, how God has each animal fulfilling a particular role in the ecosystem, the idea of predator and prey and ecological cycles, and some specific ways in which having snakes keep these things in balance helps the farmer. We discussed various ways that nature gets out of balance, such as the destruction of different environments or the extirpation of various predator or food species.

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To put some meat on that issue, I then got into more specifics of snake predator-prey relationships, with various slides both of snakes feeding (really emphasizing how they feed on rats), as well as snakes being preyed upon. There was already some great knowledge within the group of snake behavior, and I feel like that base was spread through the group and expanded upon well.

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Next we dealt specifically with venomous snakes, again identifying which snakes were venomous, then talking about how to avoid snakebite and what to do in the case that snakebite does happen. The participants really appreciated this part, and quizzed me specifically on what to do in various situations, giving examples that elucidated my points quite well.

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Finally, we dealt with the issue of the pythons that were taking chickens as well as people in the region eating snakes. I asked them whether they thought they pythons preferred the forests or the farms, and what various factors would lead the pythons to move into the farms. With their previous information they were able to work out some great insights on this question, and again able to see how disruptions in the balance of the ecosystem have repercussions that affect everything else. We talked about how to deal with snakes in a manner that is sustainable to the ecosystem while also affirming of the people. I gave examples from other communities I'd worked in as well, both good and bad.

Overall, I think it was a great experience. The participants gave me a t-shirt and a thank you letter afterwards.


I also got to spend a couple of days on the farms and in the surrounding area, getting some herping in in beautiful habitat. It was a great place. They plan to use a couple of the photos I got to produce postcards from the farm as another income-generation project.


Some scenes from one of the farms:

veggie garden

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fruit trees

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some of the chickens

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A retic caught while hunting for chickens

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Rat snake doing what it does best

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dorms

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scene from the presentation center

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Some of the surrounding area

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Spotted Wood Kingfisher (a species that does not rely on waterways, but lives in forest instead)

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female

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Draco sp. Would like help on the ID - wings appeared red when it flashed by me in the air

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Green Crested Lizard (Bronchocela cristatella)

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Emerald Tree Skink (Lamprolepis smaragdina philippinica)

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Stub-toed Gecko

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Tokay Gecko

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Common Puddle Frog (Occidozyga laevis)

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Woodworth's Frog? (Limnonectes woodworthi?)

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Big-headed Frog (Limnonectes macrocephalus)

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Various Platymantis sp., possibly dorsalis

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Cane Toad, by far the most common herp in the area and quite invasive. If I go back I might just spend all my time killing cane toads. Need to get the residents a good income-generation project for them.

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Green Paddy Frog (Hylarana erythraea), introduced species

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Four-lined Treefrog (Polypedates leucomystax), probably introduced species

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Perhaps Greenhouse Frog (Eleutherodactylus planirostris), another introduced species

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Greater Musky Fruit Bat? appeared to be sick or injured

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Asian Palm Civet

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Thanks for taking a look.


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 Post subject: Re: Community Snake Workshop in Manila
PostPosted: February 13th, 2017, 8:11 am 
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Joined: June 16th, 2010, 7:09 am
Posts: 634
Location: Santa Cruz Co. California
What a great experience! That's for sharing it. :thumb:


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 Post subject: Re: Community Snake Workshop in Manila
PostPosted: June 11th, 2017, 9:40 pm 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:39 am
Posts: 3483
Quite late, I got a really nice follow-up message about the workshop.


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Hey, very very much overdue is this little HUGE Thank you! for the workshop on snakes you did with our crew in February. You are in best (and most memorable!) memory to them. "Jon approaches the forest differently", they told me. "He is not scared of anything and he finds amazing stuff!" :-D

Well, this does not surprise me and I am glad you had some fun while here. Sorry that the snakes got cold feet at the time and did not show themselves. They started to find it more pleasant a few weeks after. But we haven't sighted a retic python just recently. In any case, the attitude towards wildlife has clearly changed for our guys. They now understand more about ecosystems and the role that any animal always has, whether we know about it or not. This is a great gift Jon! Thanks a lot.



Makes me happy.


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