With an aim to streamline snake rescue operations in the state, the Karnataka forest department Monday released a manual titled ‘Effective Human-Snake Conflict Management and Mitigation – An Operation Manual for Certified Snake Rescuers’.
Through the guidelines, the forest department has reiterated the need to identify, train and certify genuine snake rescuers across the state and curb any illegal activities pertaining to snake rescue.
The guidelines were drafted by herpetologists Padma Shri awardee Romulus Whitaker, Gerard Martin, and Sumanth Bindumadhav, after consulting other snake rescuers in the state as well.
According to the manual, the forest department will conduct periodic certification programmes in the forest training institutes for people who wish to be involved in the rescue of snakes. The certification programme with a duration of four-five days will cover essential topics such as crowd management, understanding snake conflict, humane snake handling practices, snakebite management, recognising the need for snake rescue, and understanding snake biology and ecology among other relevant topics essential for any snake rescuer to have knowledge about.
“These guidelines and certification programmes to follow are the need of the hour in the state. We will launch this programme systematically with the intention of recognising, validating, and certifying all well-intentioned rescuers in the state soon and setting an example for other states to follow,” said Vijaykumar Gogi, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), Karnataka.
One of the authors of the document, Sumanth Bindumadhav, senior manager, Humane Society International/India, hailed the move by the state government to recognise rescuers and empower them with the right knowledge and skills as it relates to snake conflict management. “Through this process, rescuers will come to identify that the best rescue is one when you enable amicable coexistence between communities and snakes around them. Several years of research has shown us that removal or relocation of snakes only increases conflict and does not solve the problem,” Bindumadhav said.
The manual stipulates all rescuers submit a monthly report of their rescues, in the manner prescribed, to the jurisdictional deputy conservator of forests.
Gerard Martin, founder trustee at The Liana Trust pointed out that human-snake conflict has a higher cost to life and limb than all other human-wildlife conflicts in India combined. “However, it is one that can be solved with largescale education and the introduction of effective practices. Snake rescuers have the potential to be catalysts for this change. This manual is the first step in the Karnataka Forest Department’s efforts to bring about positive and effective change in the field.” Martin said.
The Karnataka forest department in October published a draft manual to provide standard operating procedures (SOP) that guide a rescuer to successfully manage a conflict situation, including a humane handling of snakes.