City’s forests home to many rare snake species

  • Abhinav Rajput, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jul 20, 2016 19:14 IST
Many species have been spotted at Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary. (HT File)

If you venture deep into the forest areas of southern ridge, chances are that you might spot a snake. Around 40 species of snakes including venomous ones like Indian spectacled cobra, common krait, saw scale vipers, Russell’s viper and non-venomous ones like rat snake, wolf snake, cat snake etc are found in south Delhi.

“While Indian spectacled cobra, common krait and saw scale viper can be found in Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Sanjay Van or other city forests like Jahanpanah and Aravalli Biodiversity parks, saw scaled viper and Russel’s viper’s sighting are rare in Delhi,” said Abhishek Narayanan, officer-in-charge, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI).

Read More: Spike in snake sightings this monsoon

Saw scale viper was last sighted in JNU and Bhatti Mines in 2012 and 2013 said wildlife expert Surya Prakash. While there has been no official photograph of Russsel’s viper in recent past, it has been sighted and had also bit a person who had to be hospitalised for a month.

Prakash said venomous snakes have been classified according to nature of the venom they contain like neurotoxins, haematotoxins, cardiotoxins and myotoxins.

Indian cobra: The majority of adult specimen range from 1 to 1.5m (3.3 to 4.9ft) in length. The Indian cobra’s venom can paralyse muscles. In cases of severe bites, it may lead to respiratory failure or cardiac arrest. (Surya Prakash)

Experts consider krait as more dangerous than the cobra as its venom is 15 times more toxic compared to a cobra’s. Also, often during the rainy season they come out of their hiding places to find refuge inside dry houses. If bitten by a krait while sleeping, a victim may not realize he has been bitten, as the bite feels like that of an ant or mosquito due to the small size of its fangs. The victim sometimes may die without waking up.

Animal expert and a JNU faculty member, Sebastian Thejus Cherian said, “Though the cobra is venomous, I consider krait as more dangerous because many times victims don’t realize they have been bitten, its bite does not pinches like a cobra’s.”

Common Rat Snake (Surya Prakash)

Indian rock pythons, one of the largest snakes, can be sighted in Delhi at various places viz. JNU and Bhatti mines area and the forest areas near Vasant Kunj as they prefer larger open area surrounding burrows and caves, away from disturbance. The only time they get spotted by humans is when they come out to bask in the winter sun.

Among the snakes that are not very common in southern ridge but have been sighted in recent past is ribbon snake. It averages 16–35 in (41–89 cm) in length. It was sighted a couple of years back in JNU, Aravalli Biodiversity Park and Sainik Farms, said Naraynan.

Common Krait: It can size between 1m and 1.5m although some specimens as large as 2m have been observed. It is among the most venomous land snakes in the world. Its venom can induce muscle paralysis. (Surya Prakash)

Among the uncommon non-venomous snakes that are spotted in the southern ridge is Black-headed Royal Snake which was sighted last year in Bhatti mines area. Black-headed royal snake is a nocturnal species which can also show activity at dim light during daytime. This number of this snake is dwindling due to loss of habitat (undisturbed dry lands). This species is exploited by Indian snake charmers for display.

Another snake known as Ramphotyphlops braminus, commonly known as the brahminy blind snake, a blind snake species is also found everywhere in Delhi and is widely distributed due to its small size. They are small and thin, averaging 6.35-16.5 cm.

Saw scaled vipers: A small snake, the largest species staying slightly below 90cm. Most victims are bitten after dark when these are active. Venom toxicity varies among the different species, geographic locations, individual specimen, sexes, seasons etc. (Surya Prakash)

Other snakes found here are checkered keelback or Asiatic water snake, a common species of non-venomous snake found in Asia; common wolf snake, barred wolf snake, red sand boa, common sand boa, Banded Russell’s kukri.

Cherian said, “Within JNU alone we have photographed and documented more than 20 species including Indian rock python. The presence of snakes signifies good ecosystem and biodiversity of a forest. These snakes do not harm you unless you disturb their habitat.”

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