I find working in the tropics both exhilarating and exhausting. The thrill of finding a snake, lizard or frog in the jungle keeps me going through the tired times. However, one of the most rewarding activities for me is talking to members of the communities near our study sites.
People often have never had the opportunity to see reptiles and amphibians up close and may not have even seen many of the species found in their own ‘backyard.’ This is especially the case where a snakes are concerned.
During our expedition to Alta Verapaz in May 2015 I had several opportunities to talk with Quecchi Mayans from the local communities about reptiles and amphibians. The most memorable of which involved the pitviper known locally as Rax K’aj (Bothriechis aurifer). This is a species I have wanted to see for many years. When I finally did, I was also able to show this beautiful snake to a group of Quecchi women.
Snake education with Quecchi women and Rax K’aj
The Rax Bolay is much feared among the Quecchi and is traditionally killed on sight for fear of receiving a bite from this green jewel of the forest. From a safe distance I was able to show the group this snake in a controlled environment and after the squeaming died down the women were able to observe a Rax K’aj without their normal worries.
I hope that this experience will have helped these women see this creatures in a different light, and certainly some of them were bringing us snakes they had found while tending the fields. One by one attitudes may be changing and that can only be a good thing.
Weighing Rax Bolay