x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

St Patrick's Day and return of snakes to Ireland

St Patrick's Day has brought an influx of abandoned pet snakes in recent years.

According to legend, the Christian St Patrick expelled all snakes from Ireland 16 centuries ago, after one or more of them attacked him during a 40-day fast he was undertaking on a hilltop. But as Irish people around the world celebrated the saint's annual feast day yesterday, news reports revealed that his good work has been undone.

The snakes are back, as a by-product of Ireland's "economic miracle" (which even the most pious Christians do not attribute to St Patrick).

As the Irish economy flourished, from about 1995 until the crash of 2008, pet snakes became a favourite status symbol for the Irish rich. As there are no indigenous snakes, these pets had to be imported. But as recession set in, the reptiles became a burden for their owners, and many snakes of different species were abandoned in the wild.

This phenomenon is not unique to Ireland. The number of pet animals being discarded worldwide is estimated to have risen by 65 per cent since the financial crisis hit.

In fact, experts warn that climate change may even make Ireland a congenial environment for reptiles. But this will not, we predict, stop the Irish from celebrating every March 17.