Ken Lee, a registered snake catcher, grapples a 10-foot-long Burmese python in Hong Kong. (AP/Handout Ken Lee)

Ken Lee, a registered snake catcher, grapples a 10-foot-long Burmese python in Hong Kong. (AP/Handout Ken Lee)

Ken Lee, left, puts the Burmese python that he has just grabbed into a cloth bag held by a policeman. (AP/Handout Ken Lee)

Ken Lee, left, puts the Burmese python that he has just grabbed into a cloth bag held by a policeman. (AP/Handout Ken Lee)

Ken Lee, holding a python, speaks during an interview at the Hong Kong Society of Herpetology Foundation. The foundation is dedicated to the study of amphibians and reptiles in Hong Kong. (AP)

Ken Lee, holding a python, speaks during an interview at the Hong Kong Society of Herpetology Foundation. The foundation is dedicated to the study of amphibians and reptiles in Hong Kong. (AP)

There are many types of snakes in Hong Kong, including this king cobra. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife/AP)

There are many types of snakes in Hong Kong, including this king cobra. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife/AP)

Would you try a bowl of snake soup? (oldandsolo/CC BY 2.0)

Would you try a bowl of snake soup? (oldandsolo/CC BY 2.0)

No Snake Soup!

Posted: March 1, 2021

Got snakes? Call Ken Lee. He is Hong Kong’s snake catcher.

Hong Kong has many different kinds of snakes. Some, such as the king cobra, are venomous. Others are downright enormous—like the Burmese python. When an unwelcome reptile slithers into a neighborhood or—EEK!––a home, Ken Lee is the guy to call. Mr. Lee doesn’t just know how to capture snakes. He also knows what to do with them.

Snake catching is a vocation (job) in Hong Kong with a long history. Traditionally, snake catchers serve up their catch in the city’s soup kitchen. Not Mr. Lee! He arranges to release them back into the wild.

At 31 years old, Mr. Lee is Hong Kong’s youngest registered snake catcher. He started handling snakes at age 17, when he worked as an apprentice at a snake shop. Next, he studied biology at a university in Taiwan. Today, Mr. Lee is a research assistant at four universities in the city. He also volunteers at the Hong Kong Society of Herpetology Foundation. That’s a nonprofit organization that studies reptiles and amphibians.

Mr. Lee’s snake skills made headlines in December when he captured a 10-foot-long Burmese python in a village outside of Hong Kong. The same month, he caught a green bamboo pit viper in a high-rise residential building. His go-to tools include puncture-proof gloves, sticks, hooks, a torch, and bags. But sometimes he uses his bare hands!

What happens to the snakes? Mr. Lee sends them to the Kadoorie Farm and Botanical Garden. That nonprofit organization shelters wild animals. First, all snakes get a check-up. Then the healthy ones are released back into local parks. Liz Rose-Jeffreys is Kadoorie Farm’s conservation officer. Talking about snakes, she says, “They are our wild neighbors. They’ve been here a lot longer than us, and I think we have a duty to respect nature. They form an important part of our ecosystem, so if we have to remove snakes, then it would upset the balance that has been established for many years.”

Mr. Lee agrees. “I hope all these wild animals could be returned to nature,” he says.