On the boundary oF Hunan, Guizhou and Chongqing provinces in the Woling Mountain area, lives a snake nicknamed “Die In 5 Steps.” Its scientific name is Deinagkistrodon, and it is highly venomous pit viper.
Local legend suggests that once bitten by the Deinagkistrodon, the will die in 5 steps. Though somewhat exaggerated, it is true that the wounded subject may die within 2 hours after being bitten and experience severe pain. from the locals is: once bitten, death will find your door.
Despite the danger associated with these reptiles, an entire niche market has grown up around their very existence. Snake catchers hunt, trap, and sell the snakes to earn a living. With demand for snake and snake products increasing, consumers, distributors, and snake catchers alike form economy in which the snake catchers take the biggest risk but get the least pay.
Several years ago, I accompanied Dr. Tang, one of the snake catchers, on a hunt. It was 5 o’clock in the afternoon; the last ray of sunshine enveloped by the darkness of night. We already spent half the day searching through the mountains around Panxi village in the jurisdiction of Jiangkou County Guizhou province, but found nothing. Pressed for time, we rushed downhill quickly before night fell. I followed Mr. Tang laboriously on wobbly, tired legs.
Darkness surrounded us in the forest, the woods and mountains looked scary and gray Only a few twinkled in the darkness giving a small sense of familiarity and comfort. Suddenly a strange fear arose inside me and I forced myself to follow Mr. Tang as closely as possible while avoiding the weeds on either side of the path. I still remember that day, June 24, 2008.Just a few hundred meters away from us, tragedy struck. As we began heading downhill, 4 staff members from the Jiangkou Meteorological Bureau were checking the outdoor automatic meteorological observation station equipment.
Unexpectedly a struck the vice master officer. The attendants did not know how to administer first aid in this type of situation and by the time the man way evacuated and arrived at the hospital, he was already dead, I heard about the terrible outcome the next day when visiting the Tang family. Mr. Tang discussed the matter sympathetically but also quite matter-of-factly. I sat there in stunned lance Feeling quite frightened. The Deinagkistrodon had long, tubular teeth that punctured the victim’s skin. The injected venom was a complicated blood borne toxin, mixed with a dozen enzymes and poolsides which caused tissue bleeding, swelling, and putrification, These toxins caused severe damage to the heart, muscles, and nerves. Once bitten by one of these vipers, a human would be sedated at first. If extensive swelling occurred, immediate medical treatment would be paramount and without it, the patient would likely die within hours due to organ shutdown.
July and August are the most active months For the Deinagkistrodon. In the central Woling Mountain area, the Red Cross hospital receives 15 to 20 snakebite patients at this time each year. Though dangerous, the local population has adjusted to life the Deinagkistrodon vipers. They wen appeared to have something akin to fondness for the species. Cantonese people loved eating snake, so the demand had increased regularly year by year. Many local people have been willing to risk their lives to make money by catching the snakes.I met Mr. Tang who was willing to help me photograph the Deinagkistrodon. He was Ate apert among the local snake catchers, and once I saw him put himself in danger by catching the snake with one hand. It could have killed him had he not been so careful and experienced. Lucidly a Deinagkistrodon has never once bitten Mt. Tang. Not every snake catcher was as lucky as Mr. Tang. I met an old man with a deformed right hand in a shop at Panxi village while trekking with Mr. Tang. The gentleman used to be a snake catcher until about 9 years ago. While attempting to capture a Delnagkistrodon, he tried to control the snake by holding its neck, but he miscalculated, grabbing too close to the snake’s mouth.
In a last-ditch effort he found to hold the snake, but its lower jaw was broken and a fans pierced his thumb. The accident nearly him, fortunately a villager carried him on the back down the hill and applied some local herbal medicine immediately. Aha 4 months, the herbs revived the catcher, but the venom had permanently disfigured his thumb and hand. Unable to continue in his line of work moved in his son.
For Mr. Tang, danger was nothing. Pursuing to live a better life was his highest goal. A kilogram of Deinagkistrodon flesh sold for 320RMB ($50 USD). If Tang successfully sold a single 1.5kg viper to a wild animal dealer, the income equaled the take From his family selling duck eggs for about 4 months. Numerous wild animal dealers have snakes and other wildlife from the villagers and then turned around to sell those animals at a much higher price,Tang had a long-term buyer named Mr. Hu. He lived in a very private part of town and would have no doubt shut the door in my face if i showed up at his doorstep alone with my camera. Mr. Tang took me to visit and in Mr. Hu’s storeroom I saw boxes packed up ready to be delivered. Different sized snakes curled up in plastic sacks the room. A few of them attempted to jump out of this makeshift zoo prison to attack their jailer, but their attempts were futile. Several were trapped when they accidentally hooked their fangs on the enclosures, hanging with mouths wide open, unable to Free themselves.
Two side rooms were used to freed the snakes. An awful smell rushed from the room, which was filled with boards. Hundreds of wild Elaphe carinata snakes bid between the boards where they were fed until the winter hibernation. This non-poisonous and fleshy snake was quite popular with diners who particularly liked to eat them in the cold months. Because it was more difficult to And these snakes in the wild at that time of year, dealers kept them ready to sell and often earned an 20,0(X)RMB ($3,175 USD) over winter.
Mr. Hu was quite busy as he dealt not only snakes, but other wild animals like the hog badger and the palm civet. Villagers sent these animal one by one and Hu’s overflowed with these poor animals’ bodies. In Hu’s packing room, phone numbers covered the walls. Most of the numbers were from Guangzhou, and the shipping manifests listed the package contents as seafood or meat. In the 19905, the wild animal trade became quite prosperous in Guangzhou. In the market you could buy any wild animal from all over the country and wen some from the Southeast Asia. Some of these poor animals’ legs were broken and most of them were trapped in narrow cages, crying and howling with sorrow and fear. In font of the cages were dead animal bodies and the busy wild dealer hard at work.
When the SARS epidemic broke out in 2003, people began to rethink the wisdom in eating wild or exotic animals. Not long after the SARS scam, I personally event to Guangzhou and did not notice an obvious recession in the snake market. At 3 o’clock in the morning, several heavy parked in front of the. About 5 men from Hunan quickly, discharged their merchandise consisting, of about 10 kinds of snake, including the Deirla.gkistfodon,”the king, and the rat snake.
This was conducted behind the scenes and when the dawn came, someone cleaned up the blood, the dealers and buyers disappeared, and the market was in peace again.
In recent years, a new market For rare reptiles has begun to flourish. O and feeding exotic pets has become Fashionable in some circles, so many dealers have purchased rare and endangered snakes and lizards local people to sell to the pet owners. Dealers have been able to demand higher prices for these rare animals.
Anti efforts to supervising the wildlife trade still have a long way to go by the Guangzhou Forest Section, laws concerning wild or exotic animals are still in their infancy.
Mr. Tang goes into the mountains not only for the Deinagkistrodon, but he will take anything home if he thinks it might be useful or profitable.Rare frogs and snakes that are difficult to find in winter gall for higher prices and can be quite lucrative. Mr. Tang sets traps to catch palm civets afraid ferret badgers. Besides wildlife Mr. Tang also collects mushrooms and orchids to be used in traditional Chinese medicine or for decoration. Sadly, Mr. Tang habitually kills animals he deems, and seems quite proud of his killing. Every time he does this, I try my best to persuade him to free them, but he does not pay attention to my requests.
Years off illegal collecting and poaching are directly responsible for ecological unbalance in the region. Snakes die for human consumption while prosper in the fields. Rats and insects destroy the forest and farmland and the wild bamboo withers, losing its important function of soil and water conservation and climate regulation.
Mr. Ring pulled a pair of galoshes under his shabby bed, put them on, tied the old broad-on his as usual, then turned to me and The snake bit a ma“have gone too far. Let,s go a and see if we are lucky enough to catch It.”
Suddenly, my heart wrenched and I realized that there was an urgent problem we now had to face: How,could we stop-Mr. Tang’s killing and stop the profits Mr. Hu gained so that we could protect wild?