Saving biodiversity: Start here

            SPLASH! CLUNK! SPLASH! He and his 5 year-old boy were chucking rocks. Is it for fun? No. It looks like the father is aiming at something. He stopped. I walk over cause I knew and had a feeling he was throwing it at something.

            “What were you throwing those rocks at?” I asked. He turns around and looks to me.

            “Eh, there was a snake,” he said casually. My heart sank.

            “Oh no…” I mumbled under my breath. I walked past him quickly into the water and see her. She wasn’t moving. Red color oozed from her body, tinting the water. Lying motionless in the water was a large northern watersnake.

            Honestly, I am having a hard time writing this. I am fighting back tears of anger and sadness. That day is forever etched into my memory. This actually happened two summers ago. I was out looking for reptiles and amphibians like I normally do during the summer because they have always fascinated me since I was little. My parents got my sister and I outdoors whenever they could and taught us what they knew about nature. This pushed me on to try and learn more and understand the curious lives of the creatures that crawls on the ground, living secretive lives separate from mine. On this day, however, I learned of another reason I pursue my passion. On this day, I realized there needs to be change.

            As I hunched over the limp body of the snake, I slowly lifted her up. I saw the blood seep out from cuts and puncture wounds from her body from the rocks. I glared at the man. He gasped because I picked up the snake he thought was a threat. I told him that it was a nonvenomous species and that he hurt a terrified animal. He grabbed his son and just left me there with the snake. My emotions were all jumbled up. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. I wanted her to live. This was the second time I had ever seen a snake purposefully killed and for no reason. The first time was when I lived back in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Some kids had taken a small brown snake and for fun, were whipping and slamming it against the cement. It disgusted me but I was too little to say anything. I thought I would never have to experience that again. I was wrong.

            I looked over her body and found out that a rock had broken her spine. She started to slowly wiggle in my hands but she couldn’t move the lower half of her body. I knew this was bad. I looked her over more and found out why she couldn’t escape her assailants. By her tail, there was a hook embedded into her. Someone might have used her as bait when she was little because the hook was rusted a bit and deep in her tissue. String was still attached hook and it was wound around and stuck to a few rocks. I decided to try to take the hook out of her and hopefully put her somewhere where she could rest and possibly heal even though I knew her spinal injury was fatal. I tried pulling the hook out but it was deep in her. She was in pain because she wiggled more and struggled as I tried to pull it out. I tried whispering, to calm her even though I knew it wouldn’t help. I treated her like a beloved dog that I had for years. I kept tugging and she kept twisting and I knew that was bad for her injury so I tugged a bit more. That is when she really didn’t like it. She twisted so much that she snapped the little tendons holding her spine together. She stopped. Then the convulsions started. I cried out. I lost her. I swore. I screamed. I let her go and punched the water. I was livid. I was upset. I fell to my knees in the stream. I looked to her body. It was now just twitching a little. She was definitely gone. Dead. Just like that.

            I buried her body and then was headed back and noticed the murderer across the stream with other people. It looked like he was there with his family and friends. I didn’t care. I stormed over, not knowing what to say. I asked to talk to him and told him how he killed the snake, an important animal to the ecosystem here and that he shouldn’t be teaching his son to kill innocent animals. He shrugged me off.

            “It’s over now. It happened,” he said. I bit my lip. I was about to lose it. Ignorance at its greatest. I didn’t say a word and walked back to my car.

            The fact that he came there with his son, out in nature, where he knows is inhabited by all walks of life, and he decides to go there and harm it. Not walk away and maybe tell his son to avoid it. No. He went out and killed it with his 5 year-old son at his side. I want to be a conservation biologist so I can prevent this. I want to educate the public and prevent ignorance like this to be passed on to the next generation. I keep my passion alive because I know this happens around the world and I want to end it.

            In order for us humans to preserve our ecosystems, we need to start here. We need to start with ourselves, our children, parents, friends and anyone else around us. Biodiversity is crucial in all ecosystems, not just the rainforests in the Amazon or the sea life in Australia. On the contrary, it starts in our very own back yard. We must take a step forward to setting an example of respecting the lives of other organisms whether it may be the annoying neighbor’s cat or a small spider in our house. We have to teach others that these lives matter, no matter what organism it may be. This is how we foster the need to preserve biodiversity in the world, by setting an example just to even care about the animals in our very own yard. The more people do this, the more it will radiate out to other communities, then other states, and then possibly other countries. We just have to start here.

How do you move the Planet Forward? Tweet us @planet_forward or contribute to the conversation with your own story.