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Bangkok firefighters on front line of city’s snake scourge



Bangkok — When the latest distress call came into Phinyo Pukphinyo’s fire station in Bangkok, it was not about a burning home or office building. Instead, the caller needed urgent help with a far more common problem facing Thailand’s capital: snakes.

A 2-meter (10-foot) -long python was dangling from the caller’s garage roof, and after rushing to the scene, it took Phinyo less than a minute to remove the slithering reptile.

The number of snakes ending up in urban homes is on the rise in Bangkok, apparently in part because of development pains in the vast metropolis of about 10 million people. Thailand’s has 300 species of snakes and 10 percent are venomous — including king cobras, kraits and pit vipers — making many city dwellers fearful of dealing with the creatures themselves.

Tara Buakamsri, Thailand country director for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said the city is seeing more snakes because it sits on a “flood plain with a wetland ecosystem, which is a habitat for amphibians, including snakes,” and housing expansions in recent years have curtailed their land.

Bangkok’s low-lying landscape makes it prone to floods during the rainy season, which also invites snakes and other reptiles such as monitor lizards.

The huge python Phinyo’s team caught was not the first of the day, or the last. Hours later, the station was called to remove a green snake found in the bathroom of another Bangkok resident, who apologized to the firefighters for calling them for the third time this year.

“I’ve been living in this house for 20 years and we would very rarely see any snakes,” said the caller and homeowner, Chanun Chisa. “But this year, it seems like we see one every few months.”

Phinyo said his fire station gets more calls to catch snakes than to put out fires.

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