On December 6, 2008, 15 members from CTC went for a Snake Walk! organized by Pramod and his friend Sujaan (a wildlife enthusiast and ex-education officer at Crocodile bank from Bangalore.) This educational trip was to help us understand these reptiles better and protect them (and ourselves) from unnecessary harm.
The Crocodile Bank on the ECR was our rendezvous point. All 16 of us gathered up by 6:00 am and then we got into cars to go a few kilometers ahead to some open fields where two snake experts from IRULA were waiting for us. We soon started off to look for some snakes in the fields, with the experts well ahead of us, of course. 🙂
Before describing the trip… here are a few things we learnt right at the beginning. I feel that every one of us must keep in mind, these simple notes on snakes.
- Snakes are venomous and not poisonous Check this link to understand the difference. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venomous
- Snake are reptiles and all reptiles are cold blooded, i.e. they depend on the environmental temperature to regulate their own body temperature, unlike us hot blooded mammals who regulate our own body temperature.
- In Tamil Nadu, out of the 50 or more species found, only 4 are venomous. To find out which are the venomous ones… Read below.
- These snakes do not run after people (as shown in movies). They usually prefer to back off if confronted, and attack humans only if they are cornered or feel threatened.
Pls go thru the following link for the first aid for snake bite http://www.lfsru.org/firstaid.htm (Do it R.I.G.H.T)
“Oh man,… when are we going to catch some snakes at this time?” Was running thru some of the minds when suddenly… Sujaan came in. Ok… not exactly a snake… but at least a guy who can explain snakes in simple plain English, which is much easier than comprehending the words of the local experts. Sujaan proved to be a lucky charm(er) as very soon we encountered our first snake… a young rat snake.
Sujaan handled the snake and tried to calm it for a while, and after it was de-stressed (yeah… snakes get stressed up too… just like you would if woken up suddenly) explained to us some characteristic features of this snake species (yellowish white belly). After a good acquaintance with our first friend (not sure if the snake enjoyed it), we let it go and headed off to find more new friends.
Next was a buff striped keel back, a lil’ snake who had a small frog in its mouth for the morning breakfast. The bright white stripes running along the length of its black body are a vital feature of this snake.
Barely had we acquainted ourselves with this one, when we heard a holler from the snake catchers about another snake they had found. Some of us ran over and witnessed a green vine snake with a vicious death grip on a lizard/gecko. This snake is mildly venomous. But most of us were awestruck by its beautiful green body. Also called “Pacha Paambu”, Sujaan informed us about a misconception among people that these snakes pierce the eyes of people (probably glorified by parents trying to discipline their children, who then grew up with this theory.) Sujaan proved that this theory is absolutely false.
We were nervously awaiting an encounter with a venomous cobra or viper, and finally the snake catchers found one. This was a small Saw-scaled viper. The viper seemed calm and docile, while the snake catchers held it up and opened its mouth to reveal the teeth.
As if our appetite wasn’t whetted enough, the snake catchers found a huge adult rat snake. Well it was only 6ft, but that was longer than most of us guys. The snake started emitting a foul odour (musk) due to stress and also pee-eed on Petter. Man…. It did put up a stink… (Pew!)
In all we were able to spot 5 snakes and 3 scorpions (1 dead) mainly… The snakes we found are:
1. 2 Rat Snakes
2. Buff Stripped keelback
3. Vine Snake
4. Saw scaled viper (venomous)
Apart from saw scaled viper all the other snakes are non venomous and almost all the participants got a chance to handle them. Few were able to feel the scales of the saw scaled viper also.
Post lunch we went to Croc Bank, where Pramod works as a volunteer. You can be a volunteer by paying an annual fee of Rs. 500/-. Volunteering does not mean just petting and feeding the animals (which we usually like to do). You also have to clean up their poop and their enclosures. So to get started, first take a look at your room, if others think it is clean, then think about volunteering at the Croc Bank.
At the croc bank, we got to see a large variety of crocs and alligators, from many different parts of the world. Slow moving and easy going, only food seems to get them look aggressive and dangerous.
Finally we saw all the four venomous snakes and the extraction of snake venom at the IRULA Society.
Special thanks to Mr Sujaan Bernard to come all the way from Bangalore and to be a part of this Snake walk.
Overall this CTC trip was sssssimply ssssssuperb. Thanks to the organizers for not just this trip, but also for removing our fears and learning more about these amazing reptiles..
Written by: Ravi Shankar
Organized by: Pramod
Participants: Prabhu, Arunkumar.M, Kannan K, Partha, Sajish S Kumar, Prasanna Pandian, Shankar, Ravishankar, Payam Yavari, Petter, Dheeraj, Vinoth, Samyak Kaninde, John Immanual & Pramod.