The warden of serpents who maintains a delicate balance
Firm in his belief that snakes are instrumental in upholding the delicate balance of the ecosystem, Chella, over the past decade, has orchestrated the rescue of 50,000 serpents across the district.
CUDDALORE: In an awe-inspiring display of courage and conviction, V Selvam, aged 36, popularly known as ‘Cuddalore Chella,’ emerged as an unsung hero, safeguarding snakes in the region. Unperturbed by the venomous nature of the snakes, Chella valiantly rescues them.
Firm in his belief that snakes are instrumental in upholding the delicate balance of the ecosystem, Chella, over the past decade, has orchestrated the rescue of 50,000 serpents across the district.A native of Manjakuppam, Cuddalore, Chella stands tall as a symbol of selfless service in the district. His journey, carved out by an apprenticeship under renowned snake-catcher Poonam Chand, evolved into an individual endeavour by 2016.
After Chand’s unfortunate demise, Chella embarked on a mission to carry forth his legacy. A regular day in the life of Chella would revolve around at least 10 rescue operations. Earlier, he used to rescue about 30 snakes a day.
This transformation mirrors the urgency with which Chella strives to educate the masses. He says that not all snakes are venomous; yet they are killed out of fear, asserting that even non-venomous water snakes - often mistaken to be dangerous - call for protection. They play a vital role in the ecosystem, maintaining Chella. “Snakes, inherently timid, prefer solitude.”
Their presence near residential areas is often dictated by the availability of food sources, primarily birds, traced through their droppings. Chella clarifies, “Snakes venture out solely in pursuit of sustenance. Non-venomous snakes typically hunt during the day, whilst their venomous counterparts emerge at night. Most snakebites occur due to self-defense, even in the case of non-venomous bites.”
Beyond snakes, Chella extends his work to animal welfare in general. ‘Help Today - Animal Rescue,’ the trust he founded, is committed to the rescue and rehabilitation of abandoned pets and injured strays. Chella even collaborates with the forest department to safeguard the eggs of turtles along the coastal expanse of Cuddalore.
Nearly a hundred thousand turtle eggs have been nurtured, fostering the release of young hatchlings into the open sea in the past seven years.Chella is dedicated to spreading awareness about snakes, conducting programmes for both the public and student volunteers, who assist in egg collection. “I sustain my family through a home-based pet animal sale business,” says Chella.
Chella has been ardently advocating for governmental recognition of snake catchers, putting forth the need for stipend assistance. With around 350 fellow volunteers forming a cohesive network in Tamil Nadu, Chella underscores the power of collective action through social media channels.
Reflecting on his journey, Chella recalls an instance in August 2016 when he was bitten by a baby cobra. Despite the inherent risks, this episode did not deter him from pursuing his mission.His wife, Yasmine, is a survivor of the Bhopal tragedy. They have two daughters, Hari Sri and Vinsiya. While his wife assists in caring for their pets, Cuddalore Chella tirelessly traverses the district, ever ready and determined, carving out a legacy entwined with nature.