Derived from a Latin word ‘Reptilis’ also ‘creepy crawling’, reptiles are cold blooded animals, that lay eggs and have scales on their bodies. These are air breathing vertebrates which include snakes, alligators and crocodiles, lizards and turtles.
Wildlife SOS rescues close to a 1000 reptiles every year which includes monitor lizards, turtles, crocodiles as well as various species of snakes. When a rescued reptile is brought to our Rescue Centre, a physical examination is carried out. If the reptile’s health is compromised, necessary veterinary care and treatment is provided. Thereafter arrangements are made and proper permissions are acquired from the concerned authorities to release the reptile into a suitable habitat. The release is done in the presence of representatives of the Forest/Wildlife department.
There are around 270 species of snakes native to India only four are responsible for the majority of human casualties. Known as the, “big four,” these snakes find themselves in the middle of human dominated environments due to habitat destruction and urbanization.
The big four are as follows;
The cobra is the most common venomous snake in India. One can identify Cobras very easily as they raise their head and spread their hood in defense. The color varies from dark brown to jet black. Cobras are associated with Indian mythology and are worshipped across the country.
It is a thick set, ground dwelling snake with a small conical head and large nostrils. Its colour is dorsum-brown, with three rows of spots along the body and the belly is cream colored. It lives in grasslands or scrub forest. They are only aggressive once threatened or disturbed. Once agitated, they produce a high pitched hissing sound which is audible from even a few meters away.
A small viper found across the Indian sub-Continent, even the slightest disturbance turns them aggressive. The snake makes noise by rubbing its scales together. The venom of this snake is hemotoxic, and highly toxic.
The Krait is largely nocturnal in nature, so it becomes very alert during the night. The body is glossy black with paired bands. Usually looking for a cool place to hide, and in search of small preys, they find their way into houses across the country. Their venom is stronger than that of the cobra.
FAQ’s Rescues and the Rapid Response Unit
Mammals we work with include monkeys, most commonly Rhesus Macaques, and civet cats. During winter, car accidents escalate due to the fog and calls for larger mammals like nilgai (blue bulls) are fairly frequent. We’ve even rescued pangolins, which are an endangered, highly protected species found in India. We also rescue birds like kites, peacocks and pigeons, as well as the occasional owl, particularly during chick season when they fall out of nests and during the summer when dehydration cases skyrocket. There are also the occasional calls about vultures, storks, parakeets and so on.
Of course, these numbers vary from day-to-day, and even the frequency of a particular type of call changes with time and conditions.
For example, in the summer (May-June) the number of calls for dehydrated animals (particularly birds) increases manifold. The monsoons (July-August) bring up the reptiles, and we’re generally swamped with snake rescues. As the winter approaches (November-January) cities get foggier, and road accidents with animals become more frequent, so we get lots of calls for nilgai (blue bulls) getting hit by cars.
The rescue team has to think fast and be innovative with its approach to every rescue, to keep the animal, and any people that may be around, safe.
In the case of a snake rescue, while only one person is required for the actual rescue, it’s always smart to have someone around for backup.
For animals that might be aggressive, or have proven difficult to handle in the past, we ensure that a minimum of three people attend to the rescue call. For example, with an adult nilgai (blue bull), a leopard or even monkeys, it is always safer to have a minimum of three people on-hand.
We try to have at least two people on a rescue so that if one person is driving, the other one is free to attend calls for updates on the situation, other rescue calls that come in etc. while also being able to care for or comfort the animal once it has been rescued. During a rescue a second person comes in handy for handling additional equipment like a flashlight or containment box/bag or if documentation of the rescue is required.
Typically, a rescue involves
1. A call on the helpline
2. Dispatch of the team
3. A call to the person for details about location, species etc. as well as instructions on protocol
4. Reaching the location and assessing the situation
5. Crowd control
7. Safely containing the animal and transferring it to the vehicle
8. Transporting the animal to the place of release or to the shelter
This entire process is repeated throughout the day (and through the night).
What remains the same day after day is the excitement of the job. There’s never a dull moment when you’re rescuing wildlife, and knowing that you’re saving lives every moment of every day is an exceptionally rewarding feeling. Of course it’s exhausting work, and there’s a lot of frustration and heartbreak when an animal doesn’t make it, but that’s all part of the job.