Mumbai: Guess who's giving the city's upper-crust some unlikely company in the swank five-star hotels these days? Snakes. With an exponential increase in the number of construction sites, snakes in the city seem to be the new 'guests' however abhorrent and unwelcome seeking accommodation in the city's upscale resorts.
The Haffkine Institute in Parel has been receiving numerous requests from major hotels recently, for their premises to be made 'snake-free.' "In the last few years, there has been a steep rise in construction activity, forcing these reptiles out of their habitats. We suspect that the need for refuge and the availability of prey is forcing the snakes to seek shelter in the hotel premises.
Also, there are huge quantities of garbage in the city's bigger hotels, an environment in which rodents thrive. And with rodents come snakes," said Dr Abhay Chaudhary, director of Haffkine Institute.
According to researchers in the Zoonosis department of the institute, three species of venomous snakes are common in the city the Cobra, the Krait and Russell's viper.
After inspecting five major hotels in the past few months, Haffkine has written letters to 170 other hotels which it feels may require similar inspection. "Many of the hotels near the airport and near the Aarey forests have reported snake sightings. As these hotels have visitors coming from other countries, the sight of a snake crawling inside the premises can act as a major deterrent to their clientele.
In course of our recent visits we learnt that the maintenance staff is not always aware of the precautions that need to be taken to keep the premises reptile-free," said Dr Mrunal Ghag Sawant, who heads the inspection teams. After conducting their inspections, the teams from Haffkine fumigate the area with a chemical-based solution that is known to be an effective snake repellent.
"Most hotels have huge gardens with many rodent burrows in them. These serve as comfortable hiding places for the snakes. Rodents also found in the garbage outside the kitchen, and the snakes, which have a keen sense of smell, come out in search of prey, scaring staff and guests in the process," said Sawant.
Dr Chaudhary added, "We are sending our teams for annual and monthly inspections to various hotels, to rescue the snakes in their premises and suggest precautionary measures to the staff. There are a number of snake catchers, but as we are the only licensed institute in the city authorised to catch snakes, it becomes easier for us to offer this service."