Young World

Hiss story

Herpetologist: Gowri Shankar  

They are slithery and slimy and most of us are petrified of them. But, for people like Gowri Shankar, snakes are not something to be afraid of. He is a Wildlife Biologist who specialises in king cobras. A typical day in his life would involve reading about snakes, going on a king cobra rescue call, taking a walk in the jungle and interacting with students and locals on his favourite topic — snakes.

“I remember getting a call one afternoon asking me to rush over as someone had found the faeces of a king cobra and it was now resting in their attic. My research and prior experience told me that the king cobra would have been around for at least two to four days. Climbing up a slippery tiled roof, I had to remove a few tiles and all the while keep a look out for the cobra! I wanted to catch the snake unawares, pick it with the help of a hook and drop it in the snake bag,” says Gowri Shankar.

How did you get into this line of work?

“I always wanted to be around snakes. My studies, however, followed later. I felt sad watching a cobra being killed, and people’s reaction grieved me. I tried finding a solution and figured rescue was the only way. I was 13 years old when I first caught a buff striped keel in my back garden. The experience was great and that was the wonderful beginning.”

What does the role of a herpetologist include? “It’s about studying and exploring the secret lives of reptiles and amphibians that may include frogs, toads, salamanders, newts, snakes, turtles, terrapins, crocodiles, alligators, and lizards. Understanding the science behind their lives, conducting research, and deriving findings to draft plans for their conservation is what our role is all about,” he explains. To be a herpetologist one would need to do a Bachelors in Science and then a Masters in Science (wildlife). “An internship with an eminent herpetologist will help you gain field knowledge.” Also, you could read scientific and herpetological journals, attend seminars and conferences.

A herpetologist need not only be on rescue calls or researching. Creating awareness and educating people about these amazing reptiles is what’s important. “Working closely with the forest department often gives us better insights especially when we work with human-animal conflicts.

For details log on to

Our code of editorial values

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jun 21, 2021 12:25:27 PM |

Next Story