China: Snake slaughter after kindness ritual goes wrong

The venomous Asian tiger snake Image copyright Yasunori Koide / WIKIMEDIA
Image caption The venomous Asian tiger snake is among the serpents which have been released into the wild and are now threatening a village in China

A woman in China has released hundreds of snakes into the wild as part of a ritual which shows compassion to all creatures. But now they are being slaughtered by villagers fearful of being bitten by venomous serpents.

"Originally we gave salvation to more than 200 snakes, but we estimate that now there are over 900!" said the woman, who calls herself "Cool Mandy" on the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo. Her post has now been deleted, but not before it was picked up and circulated by state media.

The snakes were reportedly set free in a mountainous area in southwestern Sichuan province and quickly slithered their way to nearby a village. In the ensuing upheaval, its fearful residents caught and clubbed the vermin to death by the dozen, the Shanghaiist website reports. "Villagers said that they have had a few restless nights in the last week," it reports. "For instance, one anxious villager surnamed Lei couldn't help but circle around his house once every hour to make sure it was clear of snakes."

The villagers' fears appear to be well-founded. The Chengdu Economic Daily, a local newspaper, reports that at least some of the serpents have been identified as venomous.

Releasing captured wildlife is considered a righteous deed that brings good karma in China, says Yashan Zhao from BBC Chinese. The ritual is particularly popular among Buddhists, and normally involves purchasing fish, frogs, birds, turtles, etc. at local markets before releasing them into the wild.

But "Cool Mandy's" stint earned her few karma points among Chinese bloggers. "I condemn this releaser, she should be punished, she has created a dangerous situation for the villagers" is a popular view, and one Weibo user wonders: "Why didn't she just release them in her own bedroom?"

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