Question time on reptiles

``ARE WATER snakes venomous? Do turtles have teeth and what is their prey? Do crocodiles live in salt water? Do reptiles have backbones?'' These are a sampler for reptilian queries that starry-eyed kids below 10 years answered with elan at a quiz contest on Monday.

Quiz master Dr. R. Aengals, Education Officer at the Chennai Snake Park Trust had some difficulty in breaking the tie between Aditya P. K. and Aditya Bandla. It eventually took identification of a rare species of snake for the former to emerge victorious.

Mr. N. Krishnakumar, the director of the Arignar Anna Zoological Park who inaugurated the contest which will be conducted till May 31 found the students highly enthusiastic about studying nature.

The swiftness with which the children gave correct answers to questions like whether snakes are fork-tongued or on endangered species of common lizards baffled the audience in the tiny packed hall of the Snake Park Trust in the Guindy Children's Park campus on Monday.

Mr. Kalaiarasan of the Snake Park said that the registrations for the contest were taken over telephone on a first-come first serve basis and there was an enthusiastic response from students for whom this was a first opportunity to study the reptile family.

To avoid a repetition of questions, a bank of 400 questions was prepared on the topic and over 20 questions will be selected for each programme. A similar contest was conducted for students of the age group of 10 to 15 years. The other contests will be for a mixed group of up to 15 years.

The contest which was mooted by the Snake Park honorary secretary Dr. R. J. Ranjit Daniels to encourage students to spend their summer usefully learning more about their creepy and crawly cousins, will focus on the need for education on the importance of species for healthy survival of Man and his place in the ecosystem.

With the quizzing being conducted by a group of herpetologists, the need to catch students young and turn their focus to saving endangered species was highlighted.

Says Kalaiarasan, ``Without education, students will not know the existence of endangered species. Without knowing the existence of such species, research on synthesis to preserve dying species will be of no avail. A particular species would have become extinct by the time the research techniques can be implemented''.

This quiz contest is a first step to graphically tell children all about snakes, lizards and other reptiles besides creating an awareness and enthusiasm in them to know more.

By Akila Dinakar