Snakes are often stolen from the wild by poachers in and around Myanmar, where constant poaching feeds the illegal wildlife trade. These snakes are often smuggled into bordering countries like China and Thailand, feeding a bustling black market that can also result in their destruction for ingredients used in traditional medicine, or simply as meat.
Myanmar is a primarily Buddhist country, and some snake donors to the Seik’ta Thukha monastery do so to gain Merit, which is perfectly fine with Wilatha if it means that more snakes can be saved. The monk relies on donations of approximately $300 to supply food for the snakes, and he feels that this modest action helps the ecology of the nation, in addition to protecting creatures like the Burmese python, currently listed as a vulnerable species in Southeast Asia.
When Wilatha feels that the snakes are ready to be reintroduced into the wild, they are carefully released. Of course, he is always concerned that they may be caught by poachers once again, but at least there exists the chance that they’ll still find their way back to his monastery and guardianship.
In a video courtesy of Reuters, the monk states, “I always check in on their health every morning. I feel from the bottom of my heart that they are my sons and daughters.”