Bangladesh’s endangered python species are increasingly encroaching onto human habitats in search of food, especially in Chittagong which has seen 30 of the snakes caught over the past two years.
Conservation and biodiversity experts have warned that even pythons rescued and returned to the forest could find a way back, urged by the shortage of food and deforestation.
In the last two years, around 25 pythons have been caught in just one upazila of Chittagong alone.
The most recent case was on August 20, when an eight foot-long python was captured by the locals of Mirsarai upazila when it came down from a nearby hill. Later, the snake was released in a nearby forest.
Two months earlier on June 24, a 12-foot python was caught in Hinguli union of the upazila. In Raozan upazila of Chittagong, a total of five pythons were caught in a span of just three months.
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Meanwhile, a mobile court of Chittagong sentenced two people to six months in prison after they were caught red-handed while skinning a python they said they captured from Chittagong Railway Station area.
The duo claimed to have killed the python for its skin, which can be used to make belts, boots and shoes, handbags and wallets.
However, according to Dr Badrul Amin Bhuiya, a former teacher at the Department of Zoology at the University of Chittagong (CU), the main reason for the drastic fall in the numbers of Bangladesh pythons is a food crisis.
“Pythons are facing a tough time as their natural prey like fowls, civets, squirrels, lizards and skunks, small birds, rodents, hares and other small mammals are also dwindling in number,” he said.
According to zoologists, there are around 90 species of snakes in Bangladesh with many of these already endangered.
Dr Ghazi Asmat, chairperson of the Department of Zoology at CU, said the Reticulated Python and Burmese Python or Rock Python are two such species that are mostly found in Bangladesh.
“The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categorised the two species as Critically Endangered and Endangered respectively,” he said.
These snakes survive on large mammals like wild boar, deer, cattle, civets, binturong, primates, cats, and rodents. They also eat birds and reptiles occasionally.
Dr Badrul Amin Bhuiya, said the depletion of forests and hills is also another factor in the python’s slow demise.
“We must conserve endangered species at any cost. Otherwise, our biodiversity will be threatened,” he said.