The snake, everlasting sufferer of our prejudices | EUROtoday

Get real time updates directly on you device, subscribe now.

“Dn Essonne, in Île-de-France, a woman explained to me that before the construction of the housing estate where she lived, viper releases by helicopter had taken place. This is why they have since been invaded by these dirty beasts,” testifies Françoise Serre Collet, herpetologist and writer of 50 Misconceptions About Snakes (Quae, 2024). This perception emerged within the Nineteen Seventies, within the Hautes-Pyrénées, the place it was thought that vipers had been imported from the East to guard younger conifer vegetation from rodents. It resurfaces recurrently and may very well be linked to confusion round scientific applications.

Evening replace

Every night from 6 p.m.

Receive the data analyzed and deciphered by the Point editorial employees.

Your registration has been taken into consideration with the e-mail deal with:

To uncover all our different newsletters, go right here: MyAccount

By registering, you settle for the overall circumstances of use and our confidentiality coverage.

In the Eighties, the Mérieux laboratory, producer of antivenom, took samples from greater than 5,000 vipers, with the duty to launch them. This might have fueled the rumor, identical to the dropping of younger fish by helicopter into high-altitude lakes, positioned in “Vibert boxes”, from which an amalgamation with the phrase “viper” might consequence, the researcher suggests. Regardless, this perception persists. “Sometimes rightly so,” smiles the scientist from the National Museum of Natural History. Some individuals declare that vipers have been launched on land they covet with the intention to decrease costs. »

The snake, unloved or adored

The snake is an ambiguous beast, crawling, unloved or adored. Depending on the tradition, it occupies totally different locations. In Genesis, for having seduced the lady and inciting her to eat the apple, the snake is taken into account a cursed animal. God mentioned to him, “Cursed will you be above all cattle and all beasts of the field; you will walk on your stomach and eat dust all the days of your life. » Which suggests that before this conviction, perhaps the snake was walking. But the Bible doesn't say that.

READ ALSO Emmanuelle Pouydebat: her incredible discoveries on animal behavior

In Leviticus which provides recommendations on religious, social and moral life, the main categories of animals are defined by their type of movement. Beasts that crawl, swarm, swarm, drag themselves do not fit into any of the basic categories. They are neither fish nor birds nor meat animals. They are considered impure. Because it walks on its stomach and is in contact with the ground, the snake is an abomination. In Hindu traditions, on the other hand, naga support the universe, guard the treasures of nature, are attached to water and bring prosperity; fertility and immortality are also their powers. For the yogathe snake is the symbol of kuṇḍalini, the energy coiled in the base of the spine.

Our prejudices against snakes are part of an ancestral history and refer to the primitive fears that they inspired in us. Potentially venomous, and therefore killer, the snake is associated with dangerousness and evil. Don't we say that a bad person who spreads gossip is a viper? From childhood, we prioritize animals based on what they evoke for us. When some are relegated to the category of disgusting or dangerous creatures, others like the cat or the giraffe are entitled to all our admiration, explains Laurent Bègue-Shankland, scientist who revisited psychologist Stanley Milgram's experiment on submission to authority. The consideration given to different animals results from several influences, such as their zoological proximity to humans, their familiarity, but also the more or less cute and childish nature of their appearance, their beauty, but also the attractiveness of the species. , its rarity and even its size. »

Rattlesnake Rodeo

Snakes frighten as much as they fascinate and popular legends are full of stories to describe the strange habits and evil symbols of which they are the recipients. For example, it is said that snakes love milk, that they suckle the udders of cows in the meadows, and even the breasts of sleeping women. They are also said to have the power to hypnotize their prey and even swallow elephants.

Another legend claims that viper liquor confers strength and vigor, and that it has curative properties against rheumatism. However, all these beliefs are unfounded. In her book, Françoise Serre Collet, specialist in reptiles and amphibians, demystifies in a clear and accessible manner these false beliefs and legends surrounding snakes. She also collected stories where these reptiles play a positive role.

His remarkable work on these creatures that make us uncomfortable reminds us that ophidians are among the species most affected by the destruction of biodiversity. “The cruelest is not always the one we think,” she emphasizes. The scientist notably reviews the horror of the good rattlesnake festivals, which happen yearly in Texas, generally known as Rattlesnake Round Uprattlesnake rodeo). During these occasions, snakes are lured from their dens, typically utilizing kerosene, captured, then herded into pits the place they’re massacred, most frequently by decapitation, for the leisure of a big viewers. In France, ophidians are protected animals.