Snakes on a Plane may have been pure fiction, but crew members of the Shipping Corporation Of India's (SCI’s) Lt Rama Raghoba Ram, Param Vir Chakra, who found a 12-foot Indian rock python on their ship on Saturday, found the episode only too real.
The snake (Python molurus molurus), which was caught after a 10-hour operation, was first discovered by a crew member on the upper deck at 8.30 am, said Captain GC Das, superintendent of the ship. The crew has no idea how the snake got on board.
The oil tanker (which can carry about 75,000 tons of oil) had set out from Mangalore and was sailing to Butcher Island, 10 km off Ballard Pier.
After the crew alerted the SCI office at Nariman Point, officials there began calling the fire brigade and wildlife organisations, finally reaching the Bombay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (BSPCA), who agreed to send snake catchers to the ship.
"I had instructed my staff to ensure that they do not harm the python and also to take care that they were not harmed by it," said RK Mitra, director, bulk carrier and tanker division, SCI. Mitra admitted that there was tension throughout the day since 48 personnel were stationed on the ship.
After being alerted at 4 pm, BSPCA officials swung into action. “It was a risky operation as pythons are known to wrap themselves around bodies and crush bones. Another factor was the rough sea, but we had to take up the challenge,” said BSPCA Secretary Dr JC Khanna.
Sunil Ranade (36), an expert snake catcher, was summoned from a relative’s wedding. He and BSPCA inspector Sandeep Raul boarded a small trawler at 6 pm from Ferry Wharf, Mazgaon. After four-and-a-half hours of pitching and rolling, the duo finally boarded the ship. “I climbed onto a big stool and caught the python by its neck. It entangled itself around my hand, but I was able to put it in a sack,” said Ranade.
The snake is currently at the BSPCA hospital in Parel and will shortly be released into the wild.