Learning to handle our slithering friends

Workshop to teach methods to prevent killings of reptiles

Learning to handle our slithering friends

Big cities, including Bangalore and Mysore, continue to be plagued by the man-reptile conflict, despite rapid urbanisation.

Tens of snake bites and subsequent deaths are reported even to this day, while killings of snakes, especially the non-venomous ones, have become a commonality.

Though there is increased awareness about reptiles, most times urbanites become clueless bystanders, unable to prevent “unscientific” handling of snakes.

For City-based Kausar Parveen (30), watching the almost everyday routine of snakes entering empty sites—people panicking—and the reptile being victimised, was a “disturbing sight”.

Unsure of what do, or who to call during such situations, Kausar would remain reticent. Today however, she is more confident about conducting herself in such situations.

After having enrolled herself in a three-series programme called, STORM- Scientific training on Reptile Management, conducted by herpetologist Gowrishankar, Kausar has learnt the basics about reptiles and ethical rescue methods.

“I have seen a lot of unscientific rescue operations which resulted in the snakes being displaced from their habitat. Back home in Mangalore, it’s quite common to see snakes roaming around in empty sites, and most times they are non-intrusive. Yet, a snake catcher is called and the reptile is disturbed. I never knew what to do in such situations.
That’s the reason I enrolled into the workshop, which has given me an insight into the world of snakes,” she said.

For Phanindra Bharadwaj (26), who has been handling snakes for over 10 years, the workshop was an “eye-opener”.

He recently rescued a Russell’s viper from his manager’s cabin in Hennur. “I had never dared handle a venomous snake before. I had my own notions about snake handling and rescue, but all that changed after the workshop,” he says.

Gowrishankar, who is starting his second such workshop on September 8 in Mysore, feels educating people about the reptiles has become essential, especially because the snakes have made urban areas their home.

“The umpteen number of television shows on snakes has made people blindly try what herpetologists do after years of experience. There are also people who rescue snakes, but they are ill equipped in terms of knowledge, equipment or protection. It is pertinent to educate and empower people on the right and ethical methods of handling snakes or any other reptiles,” he says.

By the end of the course, participants would have learnt to consciously rescue snakes with minimal stress, be in a position to explain to people about reptile conservation, understand herpetological issues or may be inspired to pursue further studies, he adds.

The workshop

In level 1 of the workshop which is going to be held in Mysore, it’s going to be about the basics, from learning to identify snakes to rescuing and relocating them.

Level 2 of the workshop will in October at the Centre for Herpetology, Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, near Chennai.

Here, participants will learn about captive management of crocodiles, their habitat and their maintenance. There will also be a visit to the venom extraction centre managed by the Irula tribe who are expert snake locators.

The third level, in Agumbe, will focus on sharing scientific methods of studying snakes in the wild. Participants will learn about sampling techniques, methods of surveys, data collection and photo-taxonomy.

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