The Rescue Forcehttps://indianexpress.com/article/cities/pune/the-rescue-force/

The Rescue Force

Around 300 snake rescuers gathered at an event that aimed to bring uniformity in how they operate at various levels.

“There are numerous snake rescuers in Pune district,who are working either individually or are associated with some organisation. Each one has got his own way of rescuing and rehabilitating snakes. But since snakes are protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act (1972),the reptiles should be rescued and rehabilitated in co-ordination with the local forest officer,” says Ram Bhutkar,one of the experts who anchored an event held recently at Sus Village near Katraj. Over 300 snake rescuers from Pune district attended the event that was jointly organised by Wild Animals and Snake Protection Society,The Group of Snake Friend and Pune District Wild Animal and Snake Protection Organisation.

The event aimed to gather all the snake rescuers under one umbrella and educate them with the know-hows that can bring about uniformity in the manner they operate,whether individually or along with some organisation. Besides Bhutkar,who is the founder president of Sarpa Vishwa,other experts who participated in the event included Varad Giri,deputy director of Bombay Natural History Society (Mumbai) and a conservationist and Anil Khaire,director of Kavyatri Bahinabai Chaudhari Pakshi Udyan.

When the event was organised for the first time in 2012,very few snake rescuers turned up. “However,the attendance this year was very impressive,” says Bhutkar. Elaborating on the topics covered at the event,he adds,“There are issues regarding release of captured snakes by volunteers. There have been researches worldwide which have proved that snakes tend to return to their natural habitat. Therefore,snakes should be released in the vicinity of capture. Volunteers should try and record similar observations locally. Venomous snakes should only be handed over to registered agencies involved in producing antivenin,” he says. The participants were also educated on why they should avoid publishing “stunt” photographs on social media sites,showing them holding a snake.

The programme,which went on for around seven hours,saw experts discussing several relevant facts. For instance,Giri stated that all snake rescuers should document their observations because it plays an important role in conservation. Similarly,Khaire pointed out that every rescuer should carry at least one anti-snake venom serum injection to use in case of a mishap. In case a snake like common krait,which is active only at night,is rescued,it should not be left during the day time because it will not be able to protect itself and might get caught by some snake catcher,Khaire added.

Bhutkar shares there have been several instances in the past wherein snake rescuers have been bitten by venomous snakes,leading to the loss of a limb and sometimes even death. “Considering the high level of risk involved in the job of snake rescuing,in 2008,the forest minister had announced that every snake rescuer should get a life insurance with Rs 10 lakh cover. However,no step was taken after that. Now,since all of us have come together,we plan to meet the concerned officials about the matter,” says Bhutkar.