CHENNAI: With downpours lashing Chennai over the past week, and reptiles coming out of their burrows to the streets, 22-year-old Vedhapriya Ganesan is busy with calls for help. A snake rescuer from Gerugambakkam, with an experience of three years in handling over 500 snakes, she now volunteers for the Tamil Nadu Fire & Rescue Services (TNFRS), and has handled over 50 calls to rescue snakes within the city and its suburbs during the rains.
At TNFRS, where she claims to be the first woman snake catcher to have volunteered, she shares her techniques of snake catching, and trains the other personnel too. According to her, the monsoons are the stressful seasons for her not because of the hectic works she is put into, but due to the mistakes that residents tend to make before she arrives on the spot.
“Even if we assure them that we will be there, residents don’t wait and proceed to hit the snake or agitate it. By the time we get there, they would have made the snake aggressive, making the rescue operation more difficult. They do not know that more often than not, the snake will find its way out if left alone,” she said.
Vedhapriya would also like residents to know that if one spots a snake, the chances of it being non-venomous are high. Of the 30 species of snakes seen in Chennai, only four are venomous, she said. Residents also commonly misidentify most snakes, including the commonly seen non-venomous checkered keelback as Nalla pambu (the spectacled cobra) and vice versa.
‘Snakes can be rescued without even touching them’
Vedhapriya was once called to rescue a rat snake that was trapped inside a rain water harvesting tank. After she jumped inside the tank, she realised it was a cobra. “It (the cobra) was very patient. It didn’t turn aggressive, though it gave me several warnings to keep me away from harming it,” she said.
According to her, when a snake enters the house, people should open all doors and windows and not disturb the snake until a snake catcher gets there. If done properly, most rescues can be done without even touching the snake, she added.
She attributed her connection with the reptiles to an incident that happened about three years ago. “I saw a group of people preparing to hit a cobra to death. I don’t know what came over me; I simply picked it up and left it near a hole,” she said. “When I left it there, I thought it would go on its way. But it did come back before slithering away into the bushes. I was touched by this,” she added.