The legendary tales of army commandos feeding on snakes to survive in jungles are fast becoming history.
With the reptiles vanishing from the jungles around Belgaum in Karnataka, home to the army’s commando school, battle-hardened soldiers are now carrying chocolate bars, dry fruits and other high-calorie food items to endure the punishing three-day jungle survival course.
It is compulsory for all infantry officers to qualify the one-month commando course to assume command of a unit. Depending on the availability of vacancies, officers from other arms of the force are also allowed to opt for the course.
“Snakes have virtually been written off the menu as they are rarely found in Belgaum’s local ecosystem. Some of us were excited about trying out roasted snake meat and snake broth. But there was no such luck,” said an infantry officer, who has done the course.
Preparing a snake meal is quite easy. “Just catch a snake, chop its head off, slice it into small pieces and roast it over a fire. The problem, however, is finding one,” said another officer.
Snakes, which are also a good indicator of the health of an ecosystem, have been the protagonists in the jungle survival game for years and there are several instances where thesoldiers have lived off snake blood and meat when there was nothing else to eat.
Lieutenant General O.P. Nandrajog, a former army commander, said commando-training plays a vital role in removing the fear of snakes and teaching the soldiers how the creepy crawlies could be the best bet for survival under extreme conditions.
A senior official in the army headquarters, who refused to be named, said: “We have feedback that snake population is on the decline around Belgaum. Commandos often end up without sighting snakes though they were there in abundance at one time. So chocolates and dry fruits have become key elements of jungle survival.”