The tragic death of 22-year-old who died of a snake bite on Monday brings to light the dangerous practice of untrained city youth catching venomous snakes without taking any protective measures.
In a city where environmental NGOs are plenty, many youth who are part of these organizations consider such practices heroic and resort to them unmindful of the perils attached to it.
“While the claim of green activists that snakes need to be protected from killing is a welcome practice, allowing untrained persons to rescue snakes is a crime and should be banned immediately. The forest department is responsible for such activities and only they should do it,” said a city based activist and a close associate of the deceased youth Nirmal.
Senior herpetologist and former director of the Madras Snake Park Dr. V. Kalaiarasan points out catching snakes are not meant for common public. “Firstly, it is a grave offence to catch snakes without obtaining permissions from the Wildlife Warden. Forest department officials and Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services have trained staff to rescue snakes that sneak into city homes,” he said.
Dr. Kalaiarasan said that the Madras Snake Park regularly trains forest department and fire services personnel to catch snakes without harming the reptile as well as themselves. “Only trained persons can catch snakes properly. Even if they do get bitten by the snakes, there are standard first aid procedures that they will be aware of. Untrained and unauthorized persons should never be allowed to do this,” the senior herpetologist said.
Senior forest officials here claimed that they have never encouraged individual citizens to go and catch snakes on their own. “The forest department has provided with the necessary equipment such as tongs etc. to catch snakes in a safe manner. We also have persons in our department who are interested in catching snakes,” District Forest Officer (DFO) Thirunavukarasu said.
The DFO clearly pointed out that the forest department does not endorse anyone engaged in the practice. “If it comes to our knowledge that people are catching snakes for making money or other reasons, we will prosecute them” he said.