Buddhist monk Wilatha holds a rescued Burmese python at his monastery that has turned into a snake sanctuary on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar, November 26, 2020.
Rescued Burmese pythons lie in a cage at the monastery. The 69-year-old monk has created a refuge for snakes ranging from pythons to vipers and cobras at the Seikta Thukha TetOo monastery in the bustling commercial city of Yangon.
Wilatha feeds a rescued Burmese python. Since the snake refuge launch five years ago, residents and government agencies, including the fire department, have been bringing captured snakes to the monk. REUTERS/Shwe Paw Mya Tin
"Once people catch snakes, they will likely try to find a buyer," said Wilatha, who also uses his saffron robe to clean the snake, one of the many he looks after and describes as "my children." REUTERS/Shwe Paw Mya Tin
A Buddhist monk holds a Burmese python. The Southeast Asian country has become a global hub in the illegal wildlife trade with snakes often smuggled to neighboring countries like China and Thailand, according to conservationists.
A Buddhist monk and firefighters release Burmese pythons into the wild at a forest on the outskirts of Yangon.
Buddhist monk Wilatha feeds a rescued Burmese python. Relying on donations for the roughly $300 a month needed to feed the snakes, Wilatha only keeps them until he feels they are ready to go back to the wild. REUTERS/Shwe Paw Mya Tin
A Buddhist monk prepares to release Burmese pythons into a forest on the outskirts of Yangon. REUTERS/Shwe Paw Mya Tin
During a recent release at the Hlawga National Park, Wilatha said he was happy to see them slither into freedom but worried in case they were caught again. "They would be sold to the black market if they are caught by bad people.
A rescued Burmese python peeks out of a monk's robes. REUTERS/Shwe Paw Mya Tin
A rescued Burmese python lies on a Buddha statue. REUTERS/Shwe Paw Mya Tin
Buddhist monk Wilatha holds a rescued Burmese python. REUTERS/Shwe Paw Mya Tin