By Resham Beri
With the advent of the monsoon season, our 24 hour animal rescue helpline has been buzzing with distressed calls from people across the city. People are calling about snakes and other reptiles that are being spotted in their backyard or hiding somewhere in their home.
In Delhi, it might be surprising that although it is urban, there are many species of wild animals that can be found in the city. Some of the species are different kinds of cobras, kraits, sand boas and monitor lizards. People are unaccustomed to finding wildlife in their houses and therefore panic when an animal finds its way into the home. That’s when everything goes wrong.
The reason why there is so much wildlife in Delhi is because wildlife is being displaced as the city sprawls outward. The forests are being cut down and the wildlife is losing out to development or commercialization. The wildlife then moves to find other forms of shelter and ends up seeking refuge in people’s houses and offices.
A few days ago, our team rescued an Indian Cobra from a house near Najafgarh, Delhi. In an unfortunate series of events, one child living in the house accidently stepped on the snake and was rushed to the nearest hospital. Sadly, he did not survive. He was one of four children of Mr. Kamal, a street food vendor (name changed). Here is a link to the story that appeared in ‘The Hindu, 14 Aug 2013
Deaths that result from snake bites are not uncommon. It is our experience that people are confused what to do when they find a snake in their home. We interview Baiju Raj, a Wildlife Biologist working for Wildlife SOS and somebody who has many years of experience with handling snakes. He gives valuable advise on keeping your family safe and preventing harm to snakes if you find them on your property.
Can you tell us something about the type of snakes found in Delhi and NCR?
There are a total number of 274 snake species found in India. The most venomous of them are called the ‘Big Four.’ These includes cobras, Russel vipers, Saw-scaled vipers and kraits. Out of the four, the two most common species found in Delhi are cobras and kraits. The greatest demand for our reptile rescues in this region happen between June and August.
How should a person react when they spot a snake on their premises?
First of all, people should learn to keep calm and not panic and shout when they see a snake. The snake will not jump off the floor to bite you. People should not mess with it or try to kill or harm it. Doing this will only agitate the snake more and often leads to injuries. Everyone should remember that not all snakes are venomous and if possible, people should learn to identify the difference between the snakes. The best solution is to lock the snake where it is found, vacate the premises and immediately call the animal rescue helpine for help. People should keep the helpline numbers handy, expecially during monsoons.
What precautions should a person take in case of a snake bite?
In case of a snake bite, the victim should be rushed to the hospital immediately. In the recent past, I have come across cases where rather than taking the patient to the hospital, people resort to their own ways of treating snake bites. In my opinion this can prove to be even worse for the victim.
Many people live with this belief that ‘babas‘ (Hindu Godmen) can treat snake bites. This is only a myth and by utilizing this method you are risking the person’s life. So the next time you see a snake or any other wild animal in your house, office or backyard, immediately call Wildlife SOS Helpline. 9871963535