CHENNAI:Yes, they may be cold blooded. But snakes seem to need some ‘chill time’ away from the kathiri heat as much as we do. Or so say the statistics on the Forest Department’s registry book that seem to be stacking up at top speed as we near the end of May. With the department getting an average of 350 calls — a sure increase from their off season average of 200 — Forester Clement Edison tells us his five-member team of snake rescuers have their work cut out for them.
He says, “This is quite common for us during the summer and rainy months.” Seeing a cobra coiled on the motor room can come as quite a shock to most city folk in apartment complexes. And this is precisely when they need outside help.
In fact, when we talk to Shravan Krishnan, a wildlife enthusiast, who often gets roped into these rescues by the Forest Department as well as friends and activists in animal welfare circles, our jaw drops when he says, “I just finished bringing in my 75th snake of the month.”
Corporate buildings, lone houses, apartment complexes — any space with a garden or generous pile of garbage in the backyard are where the snakes in your area may be headed next.
“So, the best thing you can do is to memorise what the 16 varieties of snakes found in the city look like,” adds Shravan. “This way you know the species and whether it is venomous or not.” On the bright side, only four of the 16 are venomous.
“Whatever you do; never try to handle it yourself. Just make the call, isolate yourself from the snake by locking the house door or garden gate and wait for us to come,” says Edison. Those, who have tried to be gutsy in the past with no knowledge of the snake’s breed or degree of danger, have often ended up in the hospital or worse. And with old wives tales not helping the matter, panic often spreads faster than venom in these cases.
However, the silver lining is that if you stay in central Chennai — most of the snakes found are non-venomous, such as the rat snake. The venomous spectacled cobra, Russell’s Viper, saw-scaled viper and common krate are more often found in areas such as Avadi, ECR and Sholinganallur.
“But don’t fret,” Edison assures us. “We’re just 30 minutes away, whatever time of day,” he says.
If you find a snake in your vicinity, dial 222003355 to reach the Forest Department 24x7.
What to do when you see a snake
- Isolate yourself first, and then lock the door or gate so that the snake is secured inside
- Stand and wait at a safe distance, but don’t take your eye of the snake or it may disappear and the rescue call will be a wasted effort
- Try and identify the breed to understand to give your rescue person a better idea of the situation on the phone
Hide and Seek
Any cool part of your home or compound could make a comfortable napping spot for your low bellied guest
- Motor room
- Garbage can
- Water tank
- Bathroom floor
- Under the bed