The Bangkok snake hunter

The Bangkok snake hunter

Famed local serpent chaser Sompop Sridaranop gets bitten for a living. And he loves it

We go along for the ride with Bangkok's most famous snake catcher, Sompop Sridaranop. (Video credits -- Narrator: Jatechan Kirdsuk. Camera: Joel Gershon, Jatechan Kirdsuk. Special thanks to Sompop Sridaranop and Jariya Thongrod)

According to Bangkok snake catcher Sompop Sridaranop, Bangkok is crawling with snakes, including giant pythons and deadly cobras. They slither through underground wastewater pipes to all parts of the city, even in the main thoroughfares, from Sukhumvit to Sathorn.

And he should know. Sompop has been nabbing serpents around the city for 20 years, removing thousands of them from homes, businesses and facilities.

Sompop is officially employed by the Marine Department but he runs a private business picking up dead bodies and blood donations (all mutually exclusive activities, of course).

Some days he'll be called out on as many as five snake-fetching runs, but he charges nothing for his services.

I admit that I was scared of snakes before, but now I’m used to them, it’s fun. It’s like an adventure— Jariya Thongrod

He does accept tips -- although it’s usually just a couple hundred baht at most, barely enough to cover his transportation costs.

So why does Sompop do it? He says he enjoys helping society and has grown so fond of snakes that he wants to keep them from being killed. After catching a snake, he’ll usually bring it to the Queen Saovabha Memorial Institute, known to most as the Bangkok Snake Farm on Rama IV Road. Or he’ll drive it out to the forest and let it go.

Sompop catches snakes using a special tool: a metal rod equipped with an adjustable rope at the end, which lassos the neck of the snake. One advantage of this tool is that snakes can’t see it coming from behind, as their sense of sight is usually weak.

More than once bitten -- not shy

Once caught, Sompop will step on the snake's tail to make sure he has it under control. But more often than not he simply uses his bare hands. He’s been bitten so many times he's unfazed at this point. (When we went out with him to do this interview he was bitten. Check out the above video.)

Sompop advises Bangkok residents and visitors that if they see a snake, not to touch it or try to catch it. Instead, try to remain aware of the snake's location so that when Sompop comes, he’ll be able to quickly swoop it up.

Sompop works with a team of fellow catchers, all of whom wear an official uniform, complete with a snake logo stitched in. One of his helpers, Jariya Thongrod, said she originally starting working with Sompop to help with blood donations, but started dabbling in snake catching about a year ago.

“I admit that I was scared of snakes before, but now I’m used to them,” says the young Bangkok snake catcher. “It’s fun. It’s like an adventure.”

Got an unwelcome snake in your home? Give Sompop at call at +66 (0)89 043 8455.

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