A 22-foot-long python, the protagonist – or the villain – in the all too true story of a recent attack in Batang Gansal, Sumatra, is not an animal anyone would like to randomly cross paths with. But attacks from this massive python, sadly are not coming out of nowhere…  and it is, in fact, not fair to call such animals villains. According to the newest theory, they might have a reason that has more to do with human activity than anything else. And that reason is palm oil.

According to a report in The Chicago Tribune, regions where palm oil is harvest in Indonesia also happen to be prime habitat for these giant snakes. Further, the demand for this cheap oil, which can be found in about 50 percent of consumer goods, has caused massive amounts of deforestation across the country. It estimated that around 300 football fields of forest are cleared every hour to make room for more palm oil plantations. Converting this vital forest habitat into flat palm oil plantations has disrupted countless animal species – most notably the orangutan, as well as species of elephants and tigers. It would figure that the destruction of the place where giant pythons hunt and live would similarly damage the species – except in this case, forcing these reptiles into close contact with humans is ending very poorly for people…

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The existence of plantations increases the chances that people in Indonesia will meet a snake. “They’re not coming after us,” Doug Boucher, a scientific adviser for the Union of Concerned Scientists, told The Washington Post. “In various ways, either directly or by our actions with changing land use, we’re coming after them.” The causes are more multifaceted than snakes losing their habitat to deforestation, Boucher says – the palm oil plants attract rodents and other small animals feeding on fatty fruit. Those animals, in turn, attract snakes.

“You have these sudden encounters,” Boucher explains. “It’s not that the snakes are attacking. They’re just not expecting people.”

The results can be awful for people – and not rarely even worse for the snakes. The python that recently attacked Robert Nababan who had come across the giant animal lying across the road and tried to move it, not only did not get away from the scene but was strung up between two trees, photographed when a child was sitting on it like on a horse, then finally cut into small pieces and made into a meal.

The encounters between people and snakes are most often scary and they can have very different results, but one thing is for certain – it would be better for all parties involved if they were not happening on the daily basis.

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That leaves us with quite a quandary if the palm oil indeed plays a big role in making snakes and humans meet more often than ever – and with yet another reason to rethink the galloping palm oil industry and our support of it.

To learn more about how you can remove palm oil from your life, click here.

Image source: Pixabay

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