Friday, August 26, 2011

Rescuing a Snake

Q: How does one rescue a trapped, tangled snake?
A: With a lot of trepidation!

Yesterday morning, our domestic help, Ramani, was fretting about a big snake that she'd found trapped on a neighbor's fish-tank netting. She said it was just a matter of time before the crows descended on it. My curiosity aroused, I tagged along with a camera in hand, hoping to get some frames before it was too late.

Attempting a rescue was something that never crossed my mind - until I saw this magnificent creature twisting helplessly. About five feet long and yellow-brown in color, it was lying entangled on a nylon net, atop  a rusty, metal grill. Ramani expressed her sympathies from a safe distance, along with the house-owner, a middle-aged lady  who kept saying this was a "pambu" not a "sarpa" (a hooded cobra), hinting that there was no sin in ending its misery by just killing it.

Luckily my enthusiastic  nephew, Appu, turned up and volunteered to run and get the necessary things to attempt a rescue: a pair of scissors and some sticks. While waiting for him to return, the snake too seemed to sense that we meant no harm. She stopped twisting wildly  and moved her head below the metal grill, flicking her forked tongue close to the water surface. By the time the equipment arrived, the chances of getting bitten during the operation had diminished and we set to work.

The snake remained absolutely motionless as we slowly snipped at the nylon wires. The outer ones were easy to cut but the ones closer to the scales were difficult to reach. These wires had cut deep into the skin squeezing out white tissue and blood. The snake remained absolutely still while the scissor blades dug through the scales to reach the wires.As soon as the tightest wires were snipped, the snake sprang up, sending us both jumping backwards!

Finally, after slithering out of the nets, it rested for a couple of minutes outside the tank, savoring freedom, before slithering out of the gates, into the undergrowth.

The crows were, no doubt, upset about being deprived of a feast but I just cannot stop wondering: how did the snake figure that we meant no harm?


Last week I had sighted another snake - and a dozen snake-eggs - while clearing some backyard rubble. It looked like a krait so I had called up Vava Suresh, who is apparently the preeminent volunteer-snake-catcher in Thiruvananthapuram (contact - +91-9387974441). A tall man with a restless mien, he was dressed in black shoes, formal trousers and a full-sleeve shirt, and looked  as though he had rushed out of an office meeting. One look at my specimens and he pronounced that the eggs belonged to a rat-snake. My "banded krait" was demoted to the rank of a wolf-snake - a danger only to lizards!

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