KORAT — A university’s postgraduate program in cobra biology has drawn all Western students and a lack of interest by Thai students.
Pongthep Suwanwaree, a biology lecturer at the Nakhon Ratchasima province school, said no Thai students have enrolled in the program and all five master’s students and two doctoral students are from the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Portugal.
“This specialized biology major at the university is the only one in the world. It is for people who are interested in snakes, particularly tropical-region snakes like cobra and king cobra,” the associate professor said, adding that students get to visit the serpents’ natural habitat for research, as it is only 30 minutes from the university.
The university, established in 1990, is one of the nine national research universities in Thailand.
Asked why there no Thai students enrolled, Ponthep said Thai students feel they don’t know what they could do with such specialized knowledge.
“Thai children have been inculcated to fear and despise snakes,” the lecturer said.
Foreign students, he added, said during application interview that they love snakes, find them charming and cannot find them to study in nature back home.
“At the department, we conduct in depth studies, particularly field work and how to catch snake and radio tag them, be it cobras or king cobras, so we can monitor their movement and life until we can understand their true natures,” Pongthep said.
The snakes’ human neighbors couldn’t understand it either, at first.
“When I first took them out for a field work, local villagers were surprised and wondered what these farang were doing,” the herpetologist said. “When I said we were going after king cobras, they laugh and said don’t you people have better things to do?”
Since then, the local residents have become more understanding and now volunteer to catch the snakes.