THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Vava Suresh may be the king of snake catchers in Kerala but city-based Ajesh Lalu, popularly known as Lalu, is also a daredevil in his own right. So strong has been his passion for rescuing and releasing snakes that he has been in the trade for around 19 years now. Ajesh who has previously worked at the Poojappura snake park, was honoured recently for his activities. The snake activist says his fascination with reptiles began early, right from his school days. It was in class VIII that he caught his first snake. “We spotted it during our Physical Training class on the school compound. Having read a lot on snakes I recognised it as a Bronzeback treesnake which had slid and fallen down from a tree. I caught the snake and then released it outside the campus.”
The next time Ajesh caught a snake was during his college days. This time, it was a Cobra! Ajesh has been pursuing snakes since then and had even worked at the Poojappura snake park for three and a half, choosing to quit the job to pursue snake rescue full time.A member of the environment conservation organisation called Sahyadri nature conservation society, he says, “ I get approximately twenty calls daily. Once I catch a snake, I try to release it the very same day at a remote place where there is no human habitation. I have travelled far as part of my work.”
Lalu has caught over 10,000 snakes till now. Of this, 5,000 were Cobras and two King Cobras. A sea snake and other species including Pythons, Vipers, Rat snakes, Kraits and many more are among his other catches. The interesting fact which he shares is that most of the limbless reptiles which he has caught are from heavily populated areas in the city, for instance around the banks of Karamana river.
He adds, “There are 52 varieties of snakes that are seen in Kerala, and five varieties of venomous snakes here-Russell’s Viper, Krait, King Cobra, Cobra and Sea Snake.While one may expect the snake activist to advocate being fearless of snakes, Ajesh chooses to differ and adds that fear of reptiles are needed to a limit. He admits he has felt the fear many a times. “The very reason snakes bite is because of fear. However, if we choose not to go into their territory or harm them, they will also not attack.”
In the midst of speaking, he points to one of his fingers which has a long scar- a reminder of a Cobra bite, the only fatal one that he has encountered so far. Ajesh, who has been spreading awareness and demonstration sessions to students in schools and colleges in the city for the past five years, has now broadened his activities to Tamil Nadu.Speaking more about the same, the expert snake handler states, “Snakes are interesting creatures, as a lot of superstitions surround them. Infact, most of the deaths from snake bites happen due to fear. Thankfully, awareness on snakes have increased to a great extend now and as a result there have been fewere deaths.”
According to him, there are many people, especially students, who are venturing into this field. However, most of it is because of the adrenaline rush. Currently one of the few snake catchers devoted to saving the reptile species, Ajesh hopes to pursue the activity and save snakes as long as he can. Interested folks can contact him at 9495922051.