Hyderabad: R Sushma, a resident of Ayodhya Nagar in Balapur, had a panic attack on Monday evening, induced by the sight of a nine-foot long cobra slithering away in a corner of her compound. The petrified woman raised an alarm and alerted her neighbours who had the presence of mind to immediately buzz the Friends of Snake Society Club. The five-year-old male cobra was rescued soon enough much to the relief of Sushma and her neighbours. This isn’t an isolated incident of venomous snakes making their way into the concrete jungle that is the city.
“On an average, we get seven to 10 such calls every day from different parts of the city. A good number of calls are made by residents on the outskirts of the city. This is happening because of the simple fact that we are encroaching upon forest land and the snakes have no option but to stray into residential areas,” explains Avinash Vishwanathan, joint secretary, Friends of Snakes Society Club. Since June 1, the number of calls has increased as due to the change in weather, snakes too come out to find a cool, dark place to hide.
The club has rescued as many as 800 snakes in the twin cities so far this year. The snakes commonly found in the GHMC limits are of six types. The problem, however, is that some of them are venomous. In fact, around 55 per cent of the snakes rescued in the last couple of months were found to be poisonous. “90 per cent of the snakes were cobras and the rest were mostly rat snakes which are non-venomous,” says Avinash. As per his club’s records, Of the 800 snakes rescued, 290 are spectacled and black cobras, 220 rat snakes, 55 patched sand boa and the rest are red sand boa and banded racers.
The forest department and the Bharatiya Prani Mitra Sangh (BPMS) divert emergency calls to the club several times. “We attend to emergency calls only if the snakes are venomous. In case, snakes are non-venomous, we counsel the residents not to harm them. In the meantime, the Sangh or the forest department officials rescue the snakes,” says Avinash.
The anti-poaching squad in forest department with the help of NGOs like Friends of Snake Society Club and the BPMS rescues the reptiles and frees them periodically in the Kawal Wildlife Sanctuary in Adilabad or at the Nagarjuna Srisailam Sagar Wildlife Sanctuary, according to V Tirumala Rao, a forest range officer in the anti-poaching squad. When contacted, Mahesh Agarwal, a member of the BPMS, said they get calls to their helpline regularly from areas such as Gachibowli, Jubilee Hills, Banjara Hills, Miyapur, ECIL, Kushaiguda, Medchal, L B Nagar, Uppal and Moosapet among others. “After rescuing the snakes, we give medical treatment to them for some days if they are wounded. Moreover, we make sure that the rescued snakes are able to eat and digest,” he explains.
He has a word of advice for the people. “Snakes generally try to get into houses only if gardens and surroundings are unclean and if there are dump yards in the vicinity. They prefer cool, dark areas where they can find their food,” he points out. He believes there has been a marked change in people’s attitude towards snakes. “Earlier, people used to blindly kill snakes, assuming them to be venomous. However, with helplines immediately responding to the alerts, things have changed in recent times particularly in urban areas,” he says.