Friends for Snakes’ demonstration was aimed at breaking common myths about this mostly misunderstood reptile

Ayan is probably three-years old. He is clinging on to his dad and since the time he knew he was there to see snakes, he hasn’t stopped asking about the King Cobra. He was part of a curious crowd that came to watch a live demonstration of snakes organised by ‘Friends of Snakes’. The original plan of the organisers was they would help GHAC (Greater Hyderabad Adventure Club) members and others recognise commonly found snakes. The venue was planned to be an open rocky place near Ammuguda in Sainikpuri. But as the rain played spoilsport one of the members of Friends of Snake offered the open space in his house for the live demonstration. The group of people were mostly first-timers with snakes. Fathers brought their children and were seen goading them to pay attention as they would be quizzed later on the session.

The introduction was simple and planned with an idea to break the myths about snakes — their attacks and about their venom. Parthasarathy, the member who was to do the demonstration began, “There are 280 species of snakes. Out of which 52 are venomous and of the 52 species, 27 are sea snakes. Most of the snakes we see are non-poisonous and it’s a rarity to sight a King Cobra in the city.”

King Cobras, the members clarified, are very shy and one can only catch a glimpse after camping for five days in the dense forest. As the members pulled out different species of snakes, they also gave a little story to go with it. Mostly fables, they were narrated so that none rushes or provokes to kill a snake when spotted. The members explained how snakes do not prey on humans specifically. He said, “Attack is a defence mechanism for the snakes when provoked. And it is very unlikely that every snake you spot would rush to bite us.”

The snakes displayed were mostly captured by the members from in and around the city. Another member explained, “these are all rescued snakes and will be released in the wild in a couple of days.”

As the session moved ahead someone from the crowd enquired if snakes actually drink milk? Parthasarathy laughed and said yes it does only on a specific day—Nagpanchami. He explained further, “on that day even if a snake is offered fruit juice it would drink.” On a serious note he stated, “No, snakes do not drink milk. Snake charmers starve captured snakes after breaking their fangs and stitching them up. Naturally after remaining hungry for so long, snakes do drink up the milk that’s offered to them. However, the milk is convulsed later. This is a trick used by snake charmers to make money and fool devotees,” Parthasarathy clarified.

The best was kept for the last and they showed a russels viper and a spectacled cobra. “If while camping outdoors, you hear a pressure cooker out of no where, don’t get excited thinking someone’s preparing biryani for you. That would be the russles viper making its presence felt,” he laughed.