Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Give a snake a good name

Can't help ourselves, can we? Have to give things a name. Names lend a sense of control, of entitlement, of ownership. On the other hand they can protect the named. Didn't help Moby Dick, but who'd dream of attacking Migaloo, the famed Australian white whale? And even the hardest hearted Japanese harpooner might baulk at the slaughter if the target was Michiko or Matsui Minke.

Anyway, Amy is my python pal's name. I thought she was Morelia amethistina, a scrub or amethyst python. I've since been told she's more likely Morelia spilota, carpet python. I think she's female, but what does a Kiwi birdo know? She basks in a sunlit spot on a deserted rainforest track near Ingham in North Queensland. And mostly ignores me and my intrusive camera. She prefers not to be touched. So I don't. Mostly.

But her beauty touches me and since I've named her a bit of proprietorial arrogance arises. After all, she's "my" Amy. There's a seam of ethical truth to be mined from under the surface Green exhortation: Take nothing but photographs; leave nothing but footprints.

Amy's not alone near Ingham. A 4m amethyst python 14 times in 2007 spent up to a week coiled in an island paperbark tree close to a lookout in the Tyto Wetlands Nature Reserve. I once saw it plunge down upon a Wandering Whistling Duck family at the base of the tree, but suspect the tree was more refuge rather than ambush spot.

Let's hear it for Amy. Let all creatures be cherished and allowed to live on their terms, falling victim neither to wanton ignorance nor to loving stranglehold.

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