R S Tejus
Are snakes being mistreated and mishandled just for the sake of a photo or trading? Well, such a case was seen on the fringes of Bandipur Tiger Reserve when some so-called snake experts pulled and pierced the mouth of a Cat Snake to get better pictures and maybe, later trade it. The Bandipur authorities are investigating the matter as even earlier such a case was reported in the protected area.
It was noon and a few people rushed hither and thither on Bandipur forest fringes screaming “snake, snake.” There was panic all around and the few forest staff who were present on the spot struggled to identify whether it was a venomous or a non-venomous snake.
However, suddenly after a few minutes, some self-proclaimed snake experts arrived. The snake was immediately recognized as a non-venomous “cat snake.” There was ecstasy, thrill, and shock in the eyes of the people even as the snake started hissing after being handled very badly.
To my utmost shock, the snake was badly beaten on its hood to capture its photo from different angles. Further, a couple of self-proclaimed snake handlers pulled the snake and pierced its mouth with a stick to check on its fangs. Then its genital area was checked to ascertain whether it was a male or female.
Mishandling the snake for almost 2 hours, then a call was made to another self-proclaimed snake expert from Mysuru. Later, this person arrived within an hour to take the snake back with him. It was decided by these experts that the snake will be packed off to some place – far away from its home. However, with the forest department staff raising objections, the so-called snake handlers became angry and were found resisting to release there. Fortunately, the cat snake was released back to its home range but only after hours of torturing it.
Speaking to local activists, it was found that such incidents have been happening and snakes are being traded illegally by such snake handlers and experts. Local informers said the trading price varied for different species of snakes. For example, for a venomous snake; the price is higher and it ranges anywhere between 10 to 20k. For this cat snake, the price was within 5k as it was a non-venomous. Now imagine, if the snake handler had been allowed to take away the cat snake, then it is likely, trading would have taken place.
Speaking to Green Minute, Bandipur Tiger Reserve Director, Ramesh Kumar P said, “I will investigate the matter and appropriate action will be initiated against the wrong-doers. “
He added, “We will possibly explore if there was a case of illegal snake trading. Apart from this, there will be a capacity-building program for forest staff to help in identification, rescue, and bringing about awareness about snakes.”
The need of the hour is to educate the public about snakes and its conservation and the forest department needs to come out with dos and don’ts whenever a snake is found in anyone’s vicinity. Most importantly, a database must be maintained by the forest department in each range office on snake handlers, both authorized and non-authorized. Action must be initiated against those people who are illegally catching and either torturing snakes for good photos or illegally trading it to south east Asia as the market for snakes is phenomenal there.