Snake in your backyard? Wildlife rescuers say don’t panic!
When Rakesh Nagpal, a resident of Gurugram, spotted a snake in an empty plot near his factory in Dhankot, he did not fret; instead, he asked his employees to keep an eye on the snake while he dialled Anil Gandass, a city-based wildlife conservationist. Within 20 minutes, Gandass was on the spot, and carefully rescued a very rare Red Sand Boa, his third rescue of the day. Recalling that day, Nagpal says, “I’m used to seeing snakes near my factory, but for the safety of my employees, I always call Anil. We believe in harming no living being.”
In the months of June to October, several such incidents get reported more often in Delhi-NCR, and there’s usually a massive surge reported in reptile sightings. Needless to say, environmentalists credit the growing human-wildlife conflicts to the encroachment of forest areas for residential establishments. A recent viral video of a monitor lizard in someone’s backyard created much hue and cry on social media, and in a more recent case, a snake was rescued from an autorickshaw in the Capital.
“I rescued many snakes in this season from residential areas in Gurugram, in sectors along Golf Course Extension Road and Pataudi Road, which have forests nearby,” says Gandass, from Environment and Wildlife Society. Explaining why we see more reptiles in the monsoon, he adds, “These animals are all cold-blooded and have to feed, mate and soak in some sunlight before they retire for hibernating months in the winter.”
Wildlife SOS, an NGO that runs a helpline for animal rescues also tells us that most of their rescue calls during the monsoons are regarding reptiles. They get calls from all over Delhi-NCR including Jawaharlal Nehru University campus, Okhla, Rajokri and Sainik Farm. “On an estimate, we have responded to over 300 calls this season. We always advise people to maintain a safe distance from the animal, and call professional rescuers, Police or the forest department. Never take matters into your hands as it might lead to untoward incidents,” says Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder and CEO, Wildlife SOS.
But the task of rescuers doesn’t stop when an animal is taken into custody. Many wildlife rescuers say that the lack of knowledge, preconceived notions and the fear in people make their job a tough one. “There were around 14-15 villages near Garouli in Gurugram which used to kill monitor lizards under the misconception that they were poisonous. After many awareness programs, they have now stopped hurting reptiles, and they just call me,” says Gandass. Wildlife SOS has also organised workshops in the past to sensitise people and train them to tackle such situations. Satyanarayan says although incessant calls keep their staff on toes, it’s a welcome change. “An increase in the number of calls we receive over the years is a positive sign. This means more and more people are becoming aware and are showing more compassion towards urban wildlife,” he adds.
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- This evening he is stationed beside a zebra crossing in Connaught Place, standing amid a continuous motion of shoppers going about in all directions.