Netizens outraged at video of nature photographers hitting snake
Netizens, nature lovers outraged over viral video showing photographer hitting snake with stick at nature reserve
Moving wild animals from their habitat for a photography session is frowned upon by nature lovers and professional photographers.
But that's what a group of photography enthusiasts did to a venomous snake. They even hit the reptile on the head.
Their foolhardy act was filmed and posted online.
It resulted in criticism from the public.
Last Monday, a 23-second video showing a group of photographers snapping photos of a snake at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve was uploaded on Facebook.
It shows a man and a woman, believed to be part of a larger group, taking photos of a green snake coiled around a branch.
The man snaps five photos, with his camera flash on and his lens just centimetres away from the head of the snake.
The group speaks in Mandarin, discussing the camera angle and how to take the photo.
Towards the end of the video, the man picks up a stick from the ground and hits the snake on the head before moving away.
Comments on the video identify it as a pit viper, a snake species which can kill humans with its venom.
Mr Kennie Pan, 25, a wildlife photographer who uploaded the video, said the snake had been moved from its original spot by the group.
He told The New Paper he had been in the same area a few days before, on July 18.
He said: "I couldn't get good shots of it. So I decided to leave it and come back the next day to hopefully find it in a better position."
But the next day, he could not find it. This puzzled him as such snakes do not go very far. He said they usually only move higher up the trees.
He then bumped into his friend who jogs in the area frequently, and was told that the snake had been moved by a group of photographers.
Said Mr Pan: "He showed me a video he took of them, and it was very upsetting. They moved it about 5m away, and (looking at the video), it was clearly disturbed."
Mr Pan uploaded the video on his Facebook page and as of yesterday, it had been shared 370 times.
One of the shares was by the Herpetological Society of Singapore (HSS), which condemned the actions of the people in the video.
HSS is a group of enthusiasts who photograph snakes in Singapore.
Mr Sankar Ananthanarayanan, 20, who is from the group, said he was outraged, describing the group's behaviour as abusive and irresponsible photography.
He said: "Imagine someone positioning you on a branch, prodding your head with a stick to make you face the right direction.
"I feel disturbed. It's an ongoing trend, to get the perfect shot. But it's not worth it to harass and unduly stress the animal this way.
"Within the nature photography community, there needs to be a code of ethics to prevent such incidents from happening."
Ms Ng Bee Choo, vertebrate study group chairman of the Nature Society Singapore, told The New Paper that such animals in nature reserves should be left alone.
"I think generally people can take pictures of them from a distance but they should not catch or touch them," she said.
Under Singapore's Animal and Birds Act, those found guilty of animal cruelty can be jailed for up to 18 months, fined up to $15,000, or both. For a second or subsequent offence, they could be fined up to $30,000, jailed up to three years, or both.
I feel disturbed. It's an ongoing trend, to get the perfect shot. But it's not worth it to harass and unduly stress the animal this way.
- Mr Sankar Ananthanarayanan of Herpetological Society of Singapore
'Snakes just want to be left alone'
While on a nature walk, Mr Serin Subaraj, 20, saw a group of people trying to kill a snake with their walking sticks.
Instead of running away, he rushed forward to save it.
Mr Subaraj doesn't just love snakes, he is part of a group of snake enthusiasts, called the Herpetological Society of Singapore (HSS). Herpetology refers to the study of reptiles and amphibians.
HSS, which is unregistered, was founded in March. It currently has 21 members.
Over the last two years, its founding members - Mr Subaraj, Mr David Groenewoud, 22, Mr Sankar Ananthanarayanan, 20, Mr Law Ing Sind, 19, and Mr Law Ingg Thong, 17 - would go around Singapore looking for snakes to photograph.
They search for these creatures at least once a week at places like Pulau Ubin and Pasir Ris Park.
All are students who met during nature walks. They started the group to correct misconceptions about snakes.
Mr Sankar said: "A common misconception is that snakes will come and find you. Snakes just want to be left alone."
According to the NParks website, there are more than 60 species of native snakes here. Some are venomous, such as the black spitting cobra, which is common in parks.
Ms Anbarasi Boopal, deputy chief executive of the Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), said: "People are not aware of native reptiles. Reticulated pythons are seen as anacondas. Monitor lizards are seen as Komodo dragons."
None of HSS' members has been attacked by snakes during their excursions.
Said Mr Sankar: "Snakes are beautiful and there's satisfaction in seeing an animal that's so rare.
"But we don't handle them unless there is a direct threat to their safety. For example, if a snake is crossing the road."
- ANG QING
Common snakes in S'pore
Oriental whip snake
Lives in bushes and trees and is found in most parts of Singapore, including urban gardens and coastal areas.
Well-camouflaged and often mistaken for a green vine.
Eats mainly lizards, but also frogs and small birds.
When threatened, it will extend its tongue and will leave it extended as long as it feels threatened.
Its venom is too weak to affect humans.
Paradise tree snake
An adept climber, it is commonly found in mangroves, secondary forests, parks and gardens. Its venom is powerful enough to immobilise small prey, such as tree-dwelling lizards. Can glide from tree to tree by flattening its body and propelling itself into the air from a high branch.
Common wolf snake
Found in forested areas, but is most often seen in parks and gardens or close to habitation. Grows to about 76cm long and feeds on geckos, lizards and frogs. It is harmless but will bite if provoked.
Found in almost all habitats, from forests to mangroves to urban areas.
Among the longest snakes in the world, it can grow to about 10m long but those found in Singapore rarely exceed 5m.
It is not venomous and kills by constricting its victims in its coils.
Can give a nasty bite with its powerful jaws filled with long fangs.
Eats anything from mice and rats, to deer and pigs.