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Cobra, krait, python: Sharp increase in Delhi’s encounters with snakes

Experts said that it is mainly because of the rampant construction and destruction of the city’s green patches that snakes and other animals are losing their habitats and entering human habitats.

delhi Updated: Aug 07, 2018 12:25 IST
Joydeep Thakur
Joydeep Thakur
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Delhi,Wildlife SOS,snakes in delhi
A python rescued by Wildlife SOS. An increasing number of snakes have been spotted in houses and residential complexes in Delhi in the last few years before they could be captured.(HT File Photo )

With the national Capital concreting whatever remains of its green patches, the encounters of Delhi residents with snakes, including deadly ones such as cobra and kraits, are increasing every year.

The data available with a city-based NGO, dealing with rescue of wild animals when they stray into human habitat, states that such encounters have shot up by more than 60% since 2015, particularly during the monsoon months.

What is more worrisome is that more than 70% of these snakes were spotted in houses and residential complexes in areas such as Greater Kailash, Vasant Vihar and Dwarka among others, before they could be captured.

“Incidents of snake encounters have been increasing over the past few years. The total number of snakes rescued in the months of June and July in 2015 was 59. This year, the figure in these two months have shot up to 99. This doesn’t mean that population of snakes is going up; it just means that our conflicts with snakes are on the rise,” said Kartick Satyanarayan, chairman of the NGO, Wildlife SOS.

Among the snakes that have been rescued, the maximum are spectacled cobra, common krait, python, Indian rat snake, common sand boa, wolf snake and black headed royal snake among others.

“Out of the 99 snakes we have rescued this season (June and July), 74 were captured from houses and residential complexes, while around eight were captured from schools and educational institutes. At least 12 were caught from office buildings,” he added.

The maximum calls were received from areas such as Dwarka, Chattarpur, Sainik Farm, JNU, Noida, Greater Kailash-I, II, III, and Vasant Vihar among others.

Experts said that it is mainly because of the rampant construction and destruction of the city’s green patches that snakes and other animals are losing their habitats and entering human habitats. Increasing awareness among people could be also one of the reasons, as more people are now reporting these wildlife encounters instead of killing the animals.

“Destruction of dense forest patches and construction activities are primarily responsible for this. Most of these areas in Delhi, from where the snakes have been found, are either near some forest patches or are undergoing heavy construction activities such as Noida. During construction, the ground is dug deep and this destroys the snake’s habitat. They then try to take shelter in houses,” said Surya Prakash, a scientist with the School of Life Sciences in JNU.

Snakes in the city
Destruction of Delhi’s green patches has led to snakes losing their habitats
  • More than 70% of the snakes were captured from residential complexes in areas like GK 1, 2 and 3, Vasant Vihar, JNU, Chhatarpur, Sainik Farms, Noida
  • At least 30 species of snakes are found in Delhi, of which only four — spectacled cobra, common krait, saw scale viper and Russell’s viper — are venomous
  • Experts say construction activities, destruction of forest and falling prey base are pushing snakes into human habitats.
Snake rescue figures by Wildlife SOS
What to do after a snakebite
  • Wash the wounds
  • Rush to the nearest hospital
  • Don’t panic, as it would increase the blood flow and venom would spread fast
  • Don’t tie the wound with a rope or cut it
  • Don’t have stimulants such as coffee or tea
  • Try to tell the doctor if you can identify the snake as it would save valuable time.

The India State of Forest Report 2017 published in February 2018 says that even though Delhi’s forest cover and tree has increased marginally in the past two years, the city has lost portions of its thick forest during the same duration.

“While very dense forest cover has more than 70% canopy, medium dense forest cover has a canopy of 40% to 70%. These are habitats for wildlife and excellent carbon sinks. Losing them is not a good sign for any city,” said an official of the Forest Survey of India, which prepared the report.

While the very dense forest cover has declined from 6.94 sq km on 2015 to 6.72 sq km in 2017, the medium dense forest cover has dropped from 57.1 sq km to 56.2 sq km during the same time.

Around 30 species of snakes have been recorded from Delhi out of which only four are venomous — spectacle cobra, common krait, saw scale viper and russell’s viper.

“Climate change could be one of the many factors. Snakes are cold blooded animals and hence their activities depend much on the ambient weather. During winters, they hibernate and during summer and monsoon they become active. Another reason is their falling preybase. Rampant construction activities are not just destroying the snakes habitats but even of other smaller animals like rodents which forms the prey base of snakes. Snakes could be coming out more often to find food,” said Dr Debanik Mukherjee, a reptile specialist with the Aravalli Biodiversity Park.

First Published: Aug 07, 2018 11:05 IST