Meeting: “Why the Snake Crosses the Road”.
Tuesday, 14 January 2020.
talk by Dr. Bunchar Pongpanich (บัญชา พงษพานิช), MD.
Since more than fifteen years Sjon Hauser has studied DOR
(Dead on Road) snakes on North Thailand’s highways. He collects them
and takes photographs of the most interesting and relatively intact
roadkilled snakes. Many of them are skinned, many others are preserved
in alcohol. Doing so, he realized that hitherto the diversity of the
snake fauna of the northern region was poorly known. His large
collection of skins, photographs and preserved snakes became the basis
for various studies on snake taxonomy (systematics) and snake behavior
of which the results have been published in a number of regional and
international journals. The talk will focus on several aspects of this
1. Collecting road-killed snakes.
2. New snake species, first records for Thailand and “rediscoveries”.
The cute snail-eating snakes of the genus Pareas, with four species
occurring in northern Thailand, including two “spotted” ones, Pareas
margaritophorus and Pareas macularius. This will lead to an excursion
into the “fascinating world” of snake taxonomy. Recently, Pareas
macularius was synonymized with Pareas margaritophorus in a Chinese
study which “demonstrated” that both were one and the same species (so
Pareas macularius was therefore no more a valid species). Subsequently,
my research on hundreds of spotted snail-eaters from Doi Suthep, Doi
Inthanon, Mae Taeng and other places in northern Thailand, demonstrated
that the Chinese were wrong ─ which led to the resurrection of Pareas
macularius as a valid species.
Observations (and filming) of encounters with living snakes crossing a
road and the various anti-predator responses snakes display when
embarrassed or cornered.
5. Snakes and man: About snake (cobra)
worship in Ancient India and the incorporation of snakes (as nagas,
mythological snakes) in Hinduism and Buddhism and the spread of the
naga(worship) to Thailand. Snakes as representing Evil in both the
Western world and Asian cultures, such as Thailand. At last a few words
on “snake phobia” and the irrational killing of snakes throughout the
country, prove again that not snakes but man = Evil.
will be illustrated with some 80 “slides” and other materials related
to this research. Moreover, visitors are warned that their presence at
this talk is at their own risk.
Shortly after completing his biology studies at the University of
Amsterdam, Sjon Hauser left for Southeast Asia to become a journalist
and (travel) writer. Since about 1990 he has lived more or less
permanently in Chiang Mai. He has written a dozen books on Southeast
Asia (including a “Dutch bestseller” on Thailand) and for several years
contributed articles on Thai culture to de Volkskrant, the second
largest newspaper in the Netherlands. The economic slump in the sector
of printed media forced him to early retirement (in Thailand) and
allowed him to dedicate most of his time to snake ‘research’.
See Sjon's website: https://www.sjonhauser.nl/snakes-northern-thailand.html.
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