In a tragic incident, Dhanush Mudiraj, a snake rescuer recently died of snakebite after he was bitten by an Indian cobra that he was trying to rescue at Komsettipally village of Mominpet in Vikarabad district. A rescuer in his late twenties, who had risked his life several times for the sake of snakes, finally lost his life doing the very thing that he loved the most.
In the recent past, there have been a number of cases where so-called snake lovers and rescuers have been bitten and lost their lives. Others have suffered grotesque necrosis of the limbs or other body parts where the envenomation occurred. However, despite the grave risks involved, the number of snake rescuers is only swelling with each passing day.
“Dhanush, who was trained by Friends of Snakes Society, succumbed due to snakebite. Despite having very stringent rules and exhaustive training regimes, we lost an individual while rescuing a snake — the first case of snakebite death since the organisation’s inception in 1995,” says Avinash Visvanathan, General Secretary, Friends of Snakes Society.
While anyone who poses with a reptile is looked upon as a courageous hero, handling of reptiles should be done as carefully as handling guns, warns Er. Nihar Parulekar, Curator and Education officer, Indore Zoo Park. Says Nihar, “Sadly, many self-made rescuers find pride in scoring free handling pictures of venomous snakes. That is where the problem is. A human life is bigger than any snake rescue or handling. If you are alive, you can do much more for conservation. This is what individuals need to understand in the first place.”
Misreading a snake’s behaviour is common, even amongst professional snake handlers. As with other pets, owners often attach emotionalism to their snakes, but reptiles do not respond emotionally.
“Steve Irwin, the ‘The Crocodile Hunter’, was a legend in his field. He took lot of risks but was a pro at what he did. Even then, the unpredictable behaviour or reflex of a sting ray fatally got him. That is a wild animal for you. Strong, smart and full of surprises,” adds Nihar. Principal Secretary Rajiv Trivedi, who is a self-taught expert at catching snakes in the wild, feels, “There is always an element of risk while handling anything dangerous. The planning, preparation and precautions in each situation have to be assessed each time. There should be a clear aim of removing the reptile safely and not any type of showmanship,” says Trivedi....