Perspective: Snakes alive! A worry in paradise

THE ingenuity shown by creative man can be astonishing but I find that he can easily be outshone by destructive man.

The experience built up since our ape-like ancestors first picked up a thigh bone and whacked it over the head of an annoying fellow cave dweller is colossal.

Nothing can be safe if we are determined to destroy it.

For example, take what is happening now in the paradise island of Guam, a US territory in the western Pacific which was an important military base in World War II.

Now it is the scene of a different sort of war.


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Around 60 years ago, a brown tree snake and some of his chums secretly slithered onto a ship or plane which headed for the island, probably from Manus in Papua New Guinea.

Since then, it has become one of the most successful invasive species ever, decimating the local wildlife. Ten out of 12 native forest bird species disappeared in 30 years. Not satisfied with that, the snakes switched to feeding on rodents, lizards and small mammals.

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Now there are two million of the snakes which are mildly venomous. People have woken up with them in their beds and the island’s power supply is often knocked out by snakes crawling on the lines.

Enough was enough, decreed Guam’s leaders who decided that their long-term aim was to wipe out the snakes.

A novel way to do this is the use of toxic mouse bombs. Don’t laugh, this is a serious subject.

This warzone strategy involves air-dropping mice that have been laced with poison and fitted with parachutes out of helicopters.

It is said to provide a deadly dinner for any unsuspecting snakes on the ground.

A US Department of Agriculture spokesman explained: “Right now we are using acetaminophen (paracetamol). It is commonly used as a pain reliever and fever reducer in humans, but it is 100 per cent lethal to all brown tree snakes.”

With such high tech devices at hand, the snakes won’t stand a chance – just as long as their combatants don’t run out of mice and tiny parachutes.

When I was a lad, one of the highlights of being a scout was Bob A Job Week. That was when we adjusted our woggles and went around knocking on doors asking if the householders wanted any jobs doing.

They usually involved cleaning something or doing a spot of gardening. For that we were rewarded with a bob which as older readers will know was a shilling (equivalent to 5p now). Each job was faithfully recorded in a booklet which the householder signed.

I see that the 21st century version of Bob A Job Week, the Scout Community Week, is being staged this week.

A shilling when Bob A Job started in 1949 would now be worth �1.34 which is around the amount – between �1 and �2 – more than a third of people questioned in a survey said they thought volunteers should be paid per chore these days.

Times don’t change – it’s still a slave wage.

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