thai snake catcher

Rapid urbanisation and heavy rain mean the number of encounters between snakes and humans in Bangkok are increasing.

Pinyo Pukpinyo’s job is not for the faint hearted – he’s Bangkok’s number one snake catcher.

The Thai firefighter has been doing the job for 16 years and with the number of call-outs rising every year, his services are in high demand.

Already, the force has responded to more than 22,000 snake intrusions this year, and the latest is a 53 year old man who has called to say a python is eating his chickens.

With no trace of fear, Pinyo enters the coup to find the culprit curled up behind a pot.

A big bulge in its belly shows it has swallowed a chick whole.

The owner watches behind the safety of a wall of chicken wire as Pinyo, 50, inspects the python which hisses and lunges for his hand.

“It’s small, just a baby” he tells us unperturbed, before quickly grabbing it by the tail and deftly putting it in a bag to be taken to the fire station.

In just one day this year Pinyo received a record 100 calls.
Thailand, June 27. Bangkok firefighters spend more time catching snakes than putting out fires, with more than 100 snake encroachments a day in recent months, compared to just one or two fires, data from the city's fire and rescue department shows

Bangkok firefighters often spend more time catching snakes than putting out fires
Rapid urbanisation and heavy rain mean encounters are common in Bangkok, with residents reporting snakes hiding under houses, on roofs and even in toilets.

In 2018, city authorities received more than 37,000 snake call-outs, an 8% increase from the year before.

“About 70% are pythons,” Pinyo says, “The biggest [I’ve found] was around five metres long.”

“Can that kill you?” I ask.

“Yes, it can wrap itself around your body.”

The snakes are kept at the fire station until they can be released into the forest

Pinyo Pukpinyo keeps the snake cages clean, watched by one of the ‘inmates’
There are approximately 200 species of snake in Thailand and around 60 are venomous.

A scar running along the length of Pinyo’s hand is a reminder of how dangerous some can be.

The skin rotted away after he was bitten by a venomous king cobra during his training.

Despite this he says people shouldn’t be afraid, adding: “A snake will only attack if it’s scared or we go near it but if we stay away most snakes will try to escape. Most are scared of humans.”

During the morning, he rescues a 2.5 metre python stuck in a net, a bright green snake hanging in a wardrobe and a one hiding under some pot plants.

All of the snakes are brought back to the fire station where they are kept before being given to the authorities who release them back into the forest.

Among those waiting to be freed are four massive pythons caught in the city.

One of them is seven metres long and strikes at the camera as we go near.

Undaunted by its size, Pinyo is calm as he holds it gently while it wraps itself around his leg and waist.

But he believes the high numbers are positive because in the past people may have just killed the snakes they found but now they are being safely removed and released.

It’s a rewarding sight for this snake wrangler as he and his team work to protect the humans and beasts of Bangkok.

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