The town of Buntulu, near the Kelawit River in Borneo, has a favourite recipe in which meat is grilled or fried with vegetables and then served with rice. Sounds pretty standard fare – except that the meat in question is actually snake!

So the townsfolk were understandably delighted when hunters recently brought in a massive 20-foot (six-metre) Reticulated Python, along with her much smaller mate, upon which they would feast for days. The hunting party had heard noises emanating from a hollow log. Tinsung Ujang recalled, “I looked down into the hole in the wood and was surprised to see the female mating with a smaller male snake. We had to split the timber to reach them. They were locked together; I have never seen snakes mating before.”

The snakes were extricated with the aid of a chainsaw, before being shot and taken back to town on the back of a pick-up truck. Their arrival was greeted by cheers from hungry locals!
Snake meat has long been considered a delicacy in many cultures. Snake soup, in which the main ingredient is the shredded meat of at least two species of snakes, has been relished by the Chinese for more than 2,000 years, not least because it is purported to have medicinal qualities and represents a symbol of wealth and machismo. The popularity of this dish boomed in Hong Kong in the 1980s, with more than 100 restaurants specialising in snake soup.

Similiarly,the village of La Mat, now a suburb of Hanoi, in Vietnam, is famous for a number of eateries that offer all manner of exotic wildlife. Snakes are prepared in a well-rehearsed pantomime which involves disembowelling the live reptile, and then draining its blood and bile, together with the still-beating heart, into shot glasses, which are then knocked back by patrons in a sort of ‘rite of passage’. The rest of the meat is then served up in an extravagant array of different courses.

Snakes are also widely consumed in West Africa, and snake meat is used as part of traditional medicine in South America.

And let’s not forget the US, where rattlesnake round-ups are still held in at least ten states, and a portion of the catch ends up on the table, often barbecued or southern fried. Although targetted by conservationists and animal welfare groups, these events can be important to local economies, with the largest round-up, in Sweetwater, Texas, attracting around 30,000 visitors every year.

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