When 21-year-old Gargi Raghavan’s father was bitten by a cobra last year, her first instinct — after admitting him — was to rush back to the site and rescue the reptile.
“My father was being attended by many people, but who would look after the cobra, who was scared too?” said Gargi, a student of environmental studies at Somaiya Vidyavihar and resident of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) colony at Trombay.
The young animal lover is full of stories that would terrify most people. But she beams with enthusiasm as she talks about her dangerous adventures.
Gargi and her father Vijay Raghavan have rescued more than 2,000 snakes over the past nine years. Apart from snakes, they have also rescued several monitor lizards and turtles.
The duo was felicitated for their work in 2010 by the then Mumbai mayor Shraddha Jadhav.
“Rescuing snakes has always been my passion. I was fortunate to have a father who taught me how to identify different snakes and handle them and what safety measures need to be followed when I was very young,” said Gargi.
She gets around three to four calls a week, for rescuing various animals. The usual suspects include snakes, birds of prey, small mammals and other reptiles.
“During monsoon, we get two to three calls a day, mostly at night when snakes tend to venture out,” said Gargi.
J Rajagopalan, a resident of New Mandala, BARC, was saved by the duo a year ago, when a five-ft snake entered his house. “Even the fire brigade calls the duo in tight situations, where reptiles are involved,” said Rajagopalan.
The father-daughter has made it a mission to spread awareness about the reptiles. They do not charge any money to rescue the snakes.
For Vijay, the journey into rescuing reptiles began when he entered a supermarket in 2006 and found it in utter chaos, thanks to a snake that had found shelter there.
“People had panicked and were ready to kill it. I then stepped in and rescued the snake easily as it was a non-venomous rat snake. I have not stopped rescuing them since,” he said.
Once they rescue a snake, the duo keeps it in their home for a day, where they educate people on identifying a species through its scale and colour. They then release it near their habitat.
Gargi gets maximum support from her college towards pursuing her passion. “The role of our youth in protecting the natural environment and educating the community on the importance of all animals is very important,” said Samir Somaiya, president, Somaiya Vidyavihar.