As humans take over verdant land owned by animals, snake rescue has become a lucrative business
Certified naturalist, forest volunteer and naturalist for Jungle Lodges, Subhadra Cherukuri has deep connections to animals and nature, and is even an animal whisperer, or what she calls a telepathic animal communicator.
Usually Russells vipers are irritable. This one was catatonic, curled up on a barbecue on a rainy day for five hours. It was at this point that a family living in a mango orchard in Bengaluru became concerned as the snakes, although spotted often, usually go away without interruption. A frantic call to snake rescuer Subhadra Cherukuri brought Indiana Jane from Bengaluru who settled in, her Duster’s boot gear in hand, strolled around and in five minutes cuddled and pushed the hissing reptile in a bag.
It’s second nature to Subhadra as she saves 85 snakes a year. Eight years ago, she left her management consultant position at EY, and has been with Hiss-tory ever since. Certified in the Rescue and Safe Snake Relocation by the Kalinga Center for Rainforest Ecology, the Canine Behaviorist is also certified by the British School of Canine Studies, has a day job at Wag-town, an animal service center therapy and animal assisted therapy in Bengaluru. A certified naturalist, forest volunteer and naturalist for Jungle Lodges, she has deep connections to animals and nature, and is even an animal whisperer, or what she calls a telepathic animal communicator. And no, there’s no voodoo involved, she laughs, just a deep intuition.
As humans take over lush green land owned by animals, snake rescue has become a lucrative business costing an additional Rs 1,500 per rescue. For Subhadra however, it is a labor of love as she saves at no cost.
“My exposure to wildlife came from my mother Asha Cherukuri who was with Doordarshan and is a wildlife documentary maker. I had a weakness for reptiles even when I was a child. What makes me good with snakes, horses or other animals is understanding and respecting their needs, and working with them in a way that makes them feel safe, ”says the defender. of the environment which timidly admits its phobia for birds.
Her encounters with snakes began with her first rescue in her backyard with instructions over the phone from her snake rescuer husband. Each year, she makes more than 85 meetings and no longer counts. “About three years ago we rescued a huge Cobra about 7 feet long. We discovered that she had a nest of eggs, but unfortunately we could not save them, ”adds the mother of an eight-year-old girl. “Snakes in car hoods, living rooms, elevator shafts, we recently found a huge Cobra inside the spice storage unit of a masala factory,” recalls the mom. who taught her daughter well – she knows how to save a snake, and can identify species expertly. “I’m not going to risk letting her handle poisonous snakes, but she’s comfortable with snakes and helps me with non-poisonous rescues,” she says.
Ethically, rescued snakes must be released within a 2 km radius for a 100% snake survival rate. Rescuers like Subhadra and her husband Mark Anthony get permission from the forestry department to release them in demarcated areas.
That snakes and reptiles must be saved is due to the impending conflict between man and animal. As an environmental advocate, working with the government of Karnataka, Subhadra believes: “We need to raise awareness of how to appreciate urban wildlife and how to coexist rather than trying to ‘keep them out of our space’. Every animal has its place in the ecosystem, and it is sad that even educated people do not understand. There is greater acceptance among the rural and uneducated. “
Many rescue calls are due to snakebites, often from unethical rescuers unfamiliar with the MO, or those looking for an adrenaline rush or photo ops. “There is so much rubbish floating around on social media. So panic and paranoia became a style statement, ”she adds.
Indian mythology has also done little to help the cause of snakes. “Common myths – snakes are vicious, will chase and bite or if you accidentally kill one, then its mate will come after you – these are not true. The most dangerous concern is the myths exacerbated by jadoo-mantar (magic potion) medicine – charlatans. The scariest reality is that when they are bitten, people are persuaded to call a priest or a relative who touts a cure, ”she explains. His advice is categorical: go to the hospital because there is no cure other than the anti-venom. “One important fact that many don’t know is that the anti-venom available in India is just for the big four. For the other 31 poisonous snakes, we have no anti-venom. Not even for the King Cobra! She has been bitten countless times by non-poisonous snakes, which is due to their extremely hyperactive nature.
Get to know your snakes and let them be
India has 130 different species, of which 31 and the big four Russells Viper, Cobra, Kraite and Soskild Viper are poisonous. Pythons are native to the Western Ghats, northeastern and northern India, and the common non-poisonous ones are rat snakes, keelbacks, wolf and Kukri snakes, etc.
Superstitions have made the serpent a disturbing entity. Subhadra talks about Sand Boassold for lakhs because people believe they bring good luck and money. “There is an illegal sale of snakeskin, turtles prized for the aphrodisiac content of meat or monitor lizard testicles sold as aphrodisiac (dried and powdered). The government is doing a lot to curb these illegal practices,” he adds. she does. .
Warning of unethical rescuers, a highly irregular industry, she says: “Unethical rescuers are more interested in selfies. These trends are common in northern Karnataka and Maharashtra. “
Sensitize the child
“It is essential to expose young children to wildlife and educate them beyond academics. All the responsibility lies with the parents, the minute they put fear in their child, panic ensues, as these are learned fears. Stop that. I urge parents to educate children with documentaries, books and tours to observe animals in their habitat and not just game drives.
Subhadra has a calm and intuitive understanding of animals – especially snakes, dogs, and horses. In Wag-ville with her husband and their partners Krishnan and Rachel, they provide dog training, therapy dogs and are training guide dogs. She also offers equine assisted therapy to children (and adults) on the autism spectrum, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, emotional problems, depression and ADHD.
“It has been scientifically proven to be particularly effective in autism and neurological problems. Sitting on horseback with a thoroughbred helps. The horse’s gait helps open up certain vestibular problems in the body, ”explains the conservationist who is also instinctive with horses. “With horses, it’s about respecting their sensitivity. They are beautiful, gentle and sensitive creatures, very insightful, communicative and expressive. They have the ability to gauge the emotions of humans. “
Any advice for amateurs? “It is important to use gentle methods to work and interact with these majestic creatures. Using methods that involve force or pain can quickly prevent a horse from climaxing. Or for that matter, a snake too.
Snakes are extremely shy creatures, respect their need not to be disturbed or manipulated too much.
It is important not to use methods such as pinning the head, clamps, etc. to save a snake, because they can cause a lot of damage and injury.
Crowd management is very important during rescues, as too many people around can stress a snake.
If you see a snake in the open, stay clear. Don’t stand there or take pictures. It will disappear.
A snake is stressed if people bite and push it. They can overheat and freeze. Being in cold blood, they can die.
If you are not a professionally trained person, leave it alone. Call an ethical rescuer who is human.
Interestingly, Indian or endemic birds and reptiles are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, which states that the possession, breeding or rearing of animals for the purpose of research or for for medical purposes is prohibited, even though people keep snakes as pets, especially since foreign breeds are allowed.
To avoid snakes around your house, make sure there is no trash or rubble lying around so there are no rats or overgrowth.
If you see a snake at home, check to see if you can open a door or window to let it out. If not, call a rescuer and observe quietly from a distance.
Do not try to take pictures or approach them.