Mysuru: “Snakes are not among 26 priority species listed for conservation by the Central Zoo Authority. Scientific studies on snakes in the country have been ignored or restricted to field observation and venom, because of the prevailing misconceptions. To clear them, zoos should become places of education and research on snakes,” said Dr S. Shishupala, Chairman, Davangere University.
He was speaking on “Snakes and Science – Management issues in captivity” at the national conference of Indian Zoos, hosted by the Mysuru Zoo with Central Zoo authority, in Mysuru on Tuesday.
He said that though there are over 270 species of snakes in the country, only four, the Indian cobra, common krait, Russel’s viper and raw scaled viper, are venomous. However, the microbial effect of a snake’s saliva and secondary infections when bitten cannot be ruled out. The belief that the red sand boa would bring wealth is a myth. But twin-headed conjoined snakes or siamis do exist, he said.
It is also a myth that snakes cause herpes. “When the chickenpox virus stays in one’s body for long, it surfaces as herpes whenever there is immune suppression,” he said.
He suggested that zoos should involve local snake handlers to create awareness on snakes, on their availability in the region and their importance. It is essential to find out geographical distribution of the species and maintain them at region-specific zoos, which can act as source of samples in coordinated research programmes.
“Besides exchange of best practices, there will be a discussion on Vision 2030 on zoos in India. Unlike other countries, like Singapore, recreation is not the priority, but education and research is, as per the Zoos Wild life Act. While the Mysuru Zoo houses 35 percent of exotic animals, there have been CZA norms to reduce the number to 10 percent and they are asking us to house indigenous animals. But since hardly 10-15 percent of the people in India visit zoos abroad, we would like to retain the exotic species for the benefit of the local people. The process of animal exchange among foreign zoos is too lengthy and takes almost two-three years. We are planning to discuss all these issues at the Conference,” Mysuru Zoo Executive Director Ravishankar said....