Myanmar monk creates monastery refuge for at-risk snakes
Yangon, Myanmar, Dec 11 (efe-epa).- A Buddhist monk at a temple on the outskirts of Myanmar’s largest city Yangon has created a sanctuary for snakes, many having been cornered by the rapid development of the former capital and at risk of death or wildlife trafficking.
About 20 snakes slither through two enclosures in Seikta Thukha Monastery in Mingalardon township, where head monk Wilarsa created the refuge in 2015.
“I think I have some kind of love for the snakes,” 69-year-old Wilarsa tells EFE.
The monk, who estimates that in five years he has released more than 180 snakes back into the wild, says that firefighters frequently arrive at the sanctuary to deliver the reptiles they capture in the homes of Yangon residents.
The city, like others in Southeast Asia, is experiencing rapid development and expansion that increasingly encroaches on the natural habitats of many species, including snakes.
Killing living beings goes against the teachings and practices of Buddhism, which in Myanmar constitutes about 90 percent of the population.
Wilarsa estimates it costs $300-400 per month to feed the reptiles, relying solely on donations, and therefore cannot take any more than 20. So he transports them – picked by seniority – to a mountain range about 45 minutes’ drive from the temple to release them.
But there is one snake that he does not “dare to release.”
“My daughter, please come,” the monk in his orange robes says to a huge female python over 5 meters long, before gently lifting her head. Her name is “Shwesar,” meaning “golden word.”
“She can bite and swallow a big cow so if I release her, I’m worried that there will be some consequences to the environment,” Wilarsa ecplains to EFE about the 11-year-old, who has spent the last two years at the shelter.
The monk decided to create the refuge after encountering two pythons who entered the monastery in 2015, shortly after the construction of the religious building was completed, and who were reluctant to leave the premises.
After that, other snakes came to the monastery, so he decided to build two enclosures for them.
“After two or three years we couldn’t keep more snakes,” says Wilarsa, who is also concerned about the trafficking of animals, including a large variety of snakes, and the sale of snake meat in Chinese border markets. EFE-EPA