JavaScript must be enabled in order for you to use the Site in standard view. However, it seems JavaScript is either disabled or not supported by your browser. To use standard view, enable JavaScript by changing your browser options.

| Last Updated:: 11/08/2017

Snakes face threat from humans, superstitions surrounding them










AGRA: Every month, wildlife officials get around 100 calls on the Delhi-NCR-Agra helpline regarding snakes turning up at homes and public places. This goes up to nearly 400 a month during monsoons. Officials said lack of awareness about the role of the reptiles in the ecosystem, superstition and poaching has made them vulnerable. 




Every year, with the help of the forest department, a larger number of snakes are rescued from temples and streets. In 2016 and 2017, during Nag Panchami, 50 snakes including 35 cobras, 10 rat snakes, a 3-foot-long red sand boa, an Indian rock python and a common sand boa were rescued. Cobras, frequently found living in horrific conditions, live perhaps up to two months with proper medication and care. 




India is home to around 275 species of snakes. Of these, around 4% are known to be poisonous and can kill people. Generally the 'Big Four' venomous snakes are responsible for most human deaths — cobra, krait, Russell's viper and saw-scaled viper. 




Baiju Raj MV, director, conservation projects, for the NGO Wildlife SOS and a person who has been handling snakes since three years of age, said, "Snakes are among the major predators of rodents, especially rats. In the old days people called them 'friends of farmers'. But now the system has changed. The tolerance level of humans has gone down. They do not want to live or co-exist with any other form of life, even those which are important for maintaining a balance in the environment. Snakes help to control rat populations and save us from several diseases." 




"There are many instances when we try to convince people to co-exist with snakes. The key to this is to take precautions like we do in our day-to-day life to avoid accidents on the road, from electricity or fire. If we can be careful about these things, why can't we a torch while going out in the night to avoid stepping on a snake? The reptiles don't just wait around to bite us, they are merely searching for food and shelter," Raj added. 




According to wildlife experts, over the years religious beliefs surrounding snakes have slowly turned into superstition. Snake charming is one among them. Snake charmers earn their livelihood using snakes. "But the dark side of this is unknown to many of us. Snake charmers capture the reptiles from the forest and defang them with thin metal wires. They split open the venom gland or sometimes pull it out completely. All this is done without anaesthesia," Raj said. 




The main victims are venomous snakes, most commonly the cobra. "If it is a non-venomous snake like a rat snake or a python, snake charmers stitch their mouth to avoid bites. These snakes hardly survive for two to three months. Some are just thrown away to die silently. Other are hunted and traded or their venom, skin and meat. Most snakes are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 and snake charming is a punishable offence," Raj added. 




The NGO has been conducting awareness programmes from time to time in this regard. "Given the rising number of calls, we have decided to make people aware that snakes are not as harmful as they are perceived to be," Raj said.







Source: The Times of India