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MEETINGS 2013-2020

453rd  Meeting: “Why the Snake Crosses the Road”.

Tuesday, 14 January 2020.

A talk by Sjon Hauser.

The Talk:

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 research:

1. Collecting road-killed snakes.

2. New snake species, first records for Thailand and “rediscoveries”.

3. 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.

4. 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.

The talk 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.

The Speaker:

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.

Want to read more? ....click "HERE" (PDF File for downloading or reading online - 13 pages).


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