WL-SOS, foresters rescue 24 reptiles from Agra snake charmers
Agra In an anti-poaching operation, the Wildlife SOS and the Uttar Pradesh forest department jointly rescued 24 snakes from snake charmers outside five different temples here. The snakes are currently under the care and treatment of Wildlife SOS, a non government organization for animal welfare.
A total of 16 cobras, 4 Indian rat snakes, and four common sand boas were rescued from snake charmers from outside Kailash, Balkeshwar, Mankameshwar, Rajeshwar and Rawli temples and transferred to the Wildlife SOS rescue facility.
All snakes were found to be starved and dehydrated. The mouth of a harmless, non-venomous rat snake had been stitched.
Veterinarians from Wildlife SOS immediately removed the stitches from the rat snake’s mouth and hydrated all snakes as the first step. The NGO is treating and observing all reptile, determining if they are fit enough to be released into their natural habitat.
The month of ‘Shravan’ or ‘Sawan’ which started on July 25, is highly auspicious for devotees of Lord Shiva, also known as the Lord of the Snakes. The Mondays of this month, known as “Shravan Somvar,” have special significance, with devotees observing fast on the day or flocking to temples to receive blessings.
Taking advantage of Lord Shiva’s association with snakes and people’s innocent reverence, snake charmers (saperas) often lure devotees with snake displays and promises of blessings. With the intent of gaining alms, some snake charmers even encourage devotees to offer milk to the snake, which is detrimental to the reptile’s health.
Wildlife SOS and the forest department urged tourists and locals to steer clear of snake charmers and discourage exploitation of snakes for display or entertainment. Snake charming promoted the illegal possession of protected wildlife species and was an illegal offence under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, they said.
Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder & CEO of Wildlife SOS, said, “These snakes are kept in the most dreadful conditions and the gruesome reality of snake charming needs to be exposed. Snakes are injured and mutilated to the point that they often can’t return to their natural habitat. Our team is dedicated to ensuring that these snakes receive all the medical attention needed.”
Dr. Ilayaraja, deputy director veterinary services, Wildlife SOS, said, “The rat snake with the stitched mouth was exhibiting aggressive behaviour due to pain. We carefully removed the stitches and no major bleeding or swelling has been found since. No animal deserves such barbaric treatment.”
Akhilesh Pandey, divisional forest officer, Agra, said, “Snake charming is an illegal and punishable offence that has been going on for years. To combat this, the forest department teams up with Wildlife SOS to rescue snakes from snake charmers every year.”