For my final assignment for my Digital Photograph 1 unit, we were asked to shoot 12 photos that were on a theme of our choosing. I decided to highlight what happens when society and wildlife clashes. This is all about urbanisation and biodiversity conservation. I’ve decided to present this assignment to you over four posts. I hope you will enjoy today’s introductions: Reptiles.
This coastal python (Morelia spilota mcdowelli) came from Mullumbimby. He was noticed by local residents and was described as “not looking well with several infected wounds”. He was very underweight, a condition that wildlife carer Michael McGrath is desperately trying to reverse. Michael says, “We’re not sure what happened to him although the injuries look like dog bites”. He has been in care for about 6 weeks already, and will be in care until he is better. As snakes take a long time to rehabilitate, that may be months. The cost for this snakes rehabilitation so far has been around $70 and has included a trip to the vets for antibiotics, and routine feeding.
Pythons are exceptionally long-lived animals. Some reports have dated them to be in excess of 100 years of age. Research indicates that they are extremely bound to their home range. Removing them from their home range will often cause clinical stress, dissociation and disorientation. The python will search for long periods to find its own home range, exhausting itself in the process. Research suggests that a large majority of relocated snakes starve. This is no small statement, considering it takes up to a year for an adult snake to die for starvation.
Technical side note: I shot this photo specifically for this look. This python was a huge 2 metres long, and I wanted to emphasise that by going out of focus (tail end) to clarity at the head. This image has not been submitted by mistake, but rather, with excitement! I will be interested to see how you feel about the foreground being (intentionally) out of focus.
This red bellied black snake is in care with reptile handler Michael McGrath. It was attacked by a dog, causing extensive injuries to its body. As part of its treatment, it requires regular dosing with an antibiotic to treat the infection caused by the attack. Snakes take a long time to heal, requiring continual handling. This poses issues for both snake and handler, and without techniques such as this tubing technique, care for this animal would be impossible.
It is true that Australia is home to 18 of the top 20 deadly snakes in the world. Despite this fact, we have some of the lowest instances of snake bite, and death resulting from snake bite. Most people who do get bitten are trying to kill or capture the snake at the time. Yet despite these facts, people will still try to kill a snake once they have seen it. People fear that the snake poses a threat to their pets, kids and themselves. There is little evidence to support this fear, however, overwhelming academic evidence supports the fact that snakes are shy and avoid contact with society at large.
Technical side note: Despite the weather being a spoiled sport, I got several good photos from this sequence. I love the intense concentration in Michael’s face during this procedure. The posture of the snakes tail tells me that he is in considerable discomfort from the injection. I think it’s a really powerful image (although, I would have loved for that spray bottle to have been anywhere except there!).’
Working with venomous snakes is dangerous. Over time, handlers have developed many different methods of handling and caring for venomous snakes without being bitten. This method, known as “tubing” involves allowing a snake to put its head into a tube and holding it in place once its head is safely half way along the tube. The diameter of the tube needs to be carefully selected; if it is too small, it may injure or even kill the snake while a tube that is too big may allow him to turn in the tube and put him in range of your hand. Although there is condensation on the tube from his breathing, this red bellied black snake is displaying no obvious signs of stress.
A turtles top shell, known as a “carapace” is made of bone and the turtles whole skeletal structure is fused to it – his spine, ribs, shoulders and pelvis. This poor saw shelled turtle came into care after serving as a chew toy for a dog in Lismore. The dogs teeth punched holes straight through the carapace. While he is no doubt traumatised, physically strained and compromised, he is an amazing story of survival. About a quarter of his entire carapace is missing in what seems to be an old injury sustained in the wild.
This turtle is one of the most amazing statements of survival I have seen in a wild animal. From my experience, an injury of this nature would have taken a year to heal at least in captivity. I can only assume it would have taken much longer in the wild. With the placement of the missing carapace, a good deal of ribs and at least half of his pelvis is missing. Yet somehow, despite all of this, he is alive, and in amazing condition considering his (assumed) history.
How sad and ironic would it be if, after having survived whatever caused his injuries, he dies to a dog attack? Most people have heard the term “responsible pet ownership”, however, most people don’t think about the impacts of pet ownership on the wildlife that inhabits our yards. Luckily for this turtle, he has found himself in the hands of experienced wildlife carer, Michael McGrath. If he will survive this latest threat to his life, the odds are in his favour with Michael to look after him. Michael says, “Its been in care for 3 weeks now. So far we have spent about $20 for its food, heating and antibiotics”.
- Digital Photography Assignment: Amphibians (envirorhi.wordpress.com)
- Digital Photography Assignment: Macropods (envirorhi.wordpress.com)
- Digital Photography Assignment: Reptiles (envirorhi.wordpress.com)
- Digital Photography Assignment: Bats (envirorhi.wordpress.com)