During the day, Santosh Kumar (27) from Edayarpalayam works as a collection agent for Aircel Cellular Services in the city. The lean youth who sports a baseball cap most of the time however claims that his heart is not in his day job but in his hobby, which is to catch snakes from urban homes and neighbourhoods to release them later into the wild.
Santosh claims that he has been attracted to snakes since childhood and has caught thousands of the reptile over the last several years. “Recently, I decided to form an organisation and announce to the public about my service,” Santosh says. “So I formed the ‘Mother of All Snakes Organisations’ with a few friends who also enjoy catching snakes.”
As the name of his organisation implies, Santosh’s new outfit is one among the several groups that have sprouted recently claiming to be experts in catching snakes. Around two years ago, a group of graduates from in and around the city formed an organsiation called ‘Save our Snakes (SOS)’ with the same agenda.
“We wanted to form an organisation and publicisize this service as we do not want to encourage unscrupulous elements from catching snakes for a huge price,” said Ratheesh of SOS after forming his outfit.
Since then, atleast two other groups of youngsters in the city continue to advertise themselves in public places and through word-of-mouth about the service they render. Most of these modern-day snake charmers catch snakes from neighbourhoods when they receive a distress call and accept a sum of money for their work.
Fifty-year-old Murugan from Sembatti Colony popularly known as Snake Murugan is the predecessor for all these snake catchers having made catching snakes as his profession for the last three decades. “I have not done any other job besides catching snakes and releasing them into the wild. As far as I am concerned, it is a noble service,” says Snake Murugan, who was recently bitten by a venomous snake and was seriously injured. “I do not demand any money but when people give me out of love I accept it gracefully. I have caught snakes in several government offices and commercial buildings as they approach me for help,” he says.
Even as the forest department guidelines clearly indicate that all wildlife come under the chief wildlife warden and that only licensed persons are allowed to catch snakes, these new age snake charmers, most of whom do it for a hobby, go scott free and release these snakes into the wild without maintaining any data on the reptile. According to one snake catcher, he has released atleast 1000 snakes in the forests surrounding Anaikatti alone, which could alter the balance in the region.