BHUBANESWAR: Amid rise in snakebite deaths and ‘unscientific approach’ towards handling the reptiles, the state government has issued fresh guidelines that make it mandatory for only certified snake handlers to carry out snake rescue and release operations.
Any deviation from the guidelines will invite penal actions as per Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, stated the Forest and Environment Department. Anyone causing hindrance to rescue operations by certified snake handlers will also be liable for penal action, while creating mob panic, display of the rescued snake in public and other specific display of the snakes, even by the handler concerned, will attract penal action.
The Forest department has underlined though most of the snake catchers are skilled and are known to act in a responsible manner by understanding the ecology and behaviour of the snakes, some of their actions have come under scrutiny due to unscientific approaches that include not taking protective measures, performing stunts, displaying snakes in public that leads to unwanted stress to the animal and risking their own lives and that of people around them.
As per the guidelines, rescue of snakes will be attempted only in cases where their presence is a threat to life. The rescue has to be limited to the snake entering the human habitation irrespective of whether the reptile is venomous or not. The Forest department will use the services of certified snake handlers to create awareness among locals on the ecological importance of the reptile, their identification and ways to avoid snakebites.
The guidelines also call for creation of a pool of trained and certified snake handlers and exclusion of the snake rescue and release operations in a scientific manner, taking into account their behavioral patterns and ecological needs. A database of rescued and released snakes will also be maintained and updated.
While interested persons not more than 65 years of age, including forest staff with such acumen and skill, can apply for certification as snake handlers, an ACF rank official at the divisional level will scrutinise it through a committee of experts headed by him and submit the list to DFO for certification.