Have snakes returned to the Emerald Isle?
“St. Patrick: Come back. All is forgiven,” read the personals announcement. We’re sorry we’ve turned a religious holiday into an excuse to get drunk, have a fight and wear green jumpers. The snakes are back and we need you.
Ireland, along with New Zealand, Greenland, Iceland and Antarctica, in fact never had a native snake population. Don’t you go believing that St. Patrick legend. Next thing you’ll be telling me the Pied Piper is real too. He isn’t, is he?
Anyway, whether the Piper is real or not, since Ireland has plunged into economic recession and then crisis, many people have been struggling to pay him. Naturally, the nouveau riche of the 90s and 00s have done things like downsize to smaller mansions, sell one of the Bentleys… you know, real belt-tightening stuff. Those of more modest means, some of whom splurged in rather irresponsible ways, have also reacted to the crisis in irresponsible ways – like letting their pet snakes go.
From the New York Times:
A California king snake was found late last year in a vacant store in Dublin, a 15-foot python turned up in a garden in Mullingar, a corn snake was found in a trash bin in Clondalkin in South Dublin, and an aggressive rat snake was kept in a shed in County Meath, northwest of Dublin, an area dotted with sprawling houses built during the boom.
Well, what do you expect? Some macho fool who buys a giant python with his first decent pay check is just the type of individual who would let it go amongst the rolling green hills of the County Westmeath. I mean, look at Florida, which may have up to 150,000 feral pythons slithering around the Everglades. That’s what you get when you mix boom and bust economies with no viable safety net and a particularly immature interpretation of the American (or Irish) Dream.
And though the pythons are living it up in Florida, Ireland is a lot less like Burma than the Sunshine State is. Still, it’s not as heartbreaking as Ireland’s thousands of abandoned horses, who are much prettier and capable of more suffering than snakes and lizards. It’s one thing to open an aquarium in your garden and turn the other way, but to lead a lovely pony to a rubbish heap and then skulk off into the darkness, never to return again? Poverty and austerity can lead people to do some pretty hard-hearted things.