In three months since flood struck Vadodara in September this year, over 1,700 snakes were found entering residential areas within the city, including highly venomous cobra, viper, as well as non-venomous rat snakes and chequered snakes. Forest department officials and wildlife observers said the number is higher compared to years before, adding that spotting of seven Indian rock python during the same period reflected on widespread human encroachment on their habitat along city periphery.
Experts and forest officials said that flooding during monsoon, including the three-day long September city floods that covered a large swathe of areas along the Vishwamitri, Mahisagar and Dhadhar rivers under water affected the abode of reptiles, especially pythons that are generally found in bushes along the rivers as well as in green belt areas between Kalali and Por and those along Koile and Umetha villages on city’s western periphery.
“In three months alone, seven pythons were found from various parts of the city and from villages on city outskirts. They are coming in close contact with humans for two reasons: one, their own abode is getting disturbed due to large-scale construction activities going on in areas that were once covered with trees and bushes, and two, because of change in weather pattern that has caused humidity to stay for longer period,” said Arvind Pawar of Wildlife Rescue Trust.
Volunteers of the NGO Wildlife Rescue Trust rescued five pythons and a number of other snakes in the last few months. Construction activities along Dhadhar river near Vadodara led at least two pythons — each measuring 9.2 feet and 7.3 feet — move inside Itola village while yet another python was spotted inside a well near a temple at Vadsar village. Two pythons were rescued from city areas — each from Manjalpur and Atladra.
The forest department plans to study the movement pattern of the reptile that falls under schedule one of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, said DFO VK Saxena. “We plan to see their movement pattern and understand if they have shifted their base from one area to another,” he said.
As per data available with forest officials, as many as 340 rat snakes and 180 cobras were rescued from various residential societies in the last three months. Among venomous snakes, vipers were also rescued in large numbers, with the forest department putting their number at 101. A large variety of snakes such as banded racer, common kukri, common trinket, bronzeback, green killback, stripped killback, wolf snake, common sand boa and red sand boa were also rescued in different numbers from different places within the city.
Changing weather pattern this year has also given rise to incidents of snake spotting in human habitat. “High humidity drives snakes out of their habitat. Couple this with long monsoon and floods, and snakes will have no other options. Also, rising population of snakes and increasing construction activity will cause the increase of such instances,” said Snehal Bhatt of NGO, Gujarat Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Forest officials said that the number was high this year when compared to years before but attributed the rise in numbers to a more strict approach to rescue operations by NGOs which now require them to bring the reptiles to the rescue centre run by the forest department within 24 hours of operation and keep department officials in the loop while carrying out the activities.
“All wild animals rescued by the NGOs are required to be brought to the rescue centre and registered. We are taking snakes to as far as Pavagadh and Shivrajpur, as also at Chhota Udepur forests to be released,” said range forest officer, Vadodara, B Chauhan.