THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Two weeks back, Baiju S, a snake handler from Pattom, rescued a king cobra which got stuck inside a water pipe. As the reptile was stuck deep inside the pipe, Baiju had to make an immense effort to take it out without harming it through the rough edges of the pipe. After several hours, the snake handler was finally able to rescue the slithering reptile following the recent guidelines framed by the Kerala Forest Department for rescuing snakes from human habitats and releasing them in uninhabited places.
Amid allegations of unscientific approaches by the snake catchers resulting in creating stress in the reptiles and thereby posing danger to their and people’s lives, the forest department had made it mandatory for the snake handlers to seek certification. Based on this, the assistant conservators of forests had shortlisted snake handlers in each district.
Shortlisted snake handlers had to undergo mandatory training in scientific handling of snakes. About 35 snake handlers from Thiruvananthapuram were shortlisted and given certification. Baiju is one of the certified snake handlers who underwent training.
Baiju, who has been a snake handler for 20 years, says, “There are only a few people in the city who are experienced in handling snakes. A snake can be identified based on the location, time and climate conditions,” he said.
Highlighting the guidelines given during the training, Baiju says, “These reptiles are very powerful and you need to grip them well using a hook or a tong but never catch it by its neck which can prove to be dangerous. I always refrain from shooting photos or videos of them or making a public display of the creature.” Baiju has handled and rescued venomous and non-venomous snakes such as king cobra, Malabar pit viper and mud snake from various parts of the city.
Kattakada resident Sreedevi T who has successfully completed the snake-handling training is the only woman among the 34 snake-handlers who have received certification. “From catching to releasing the snakes in the presence of forest officials, everything is monitored in the ‘Sarpa’ application by the forest department. We have been given instructions that need to be followed while handling snakes such as a tong should be used while catching the snake. It should never be caught by its tail.
The rescued snake should be carefully placed in the bag and handed over to the forest officials,” says Sreedevi, who recently rescued a cobra from a stack of bricks in the residential area. Sreedevi added that the certified snake handlers are required to wear protective gear and take necessary precautions while on the task.
Another snake handler, Prabhath Saji, who is currently working in the Poojapura Snake Park, has always been working closely with these reptiles. “It is very important to follow a scientific method while handling and catching snakes. I handle at least 50 snakes per day.”