Kerala to have certified snake handlers

Kerala chief wildlife warden Surendrakumar shows how to catch a snake during a training programme for forest officials.  

Becoming the first to institutionalise snake handling in the country, the Kerala Forest Department has framed guidelines for rescuing snakes from human dominated places and releasing them in uninhabited areas.

The move to certify snake handlers comes amid allegations of unscientific approaches by snake catchers that tend to create stress to the animal and pose risk to their and others’ lives. Kerala has reported 334 deaths and 1,860 other cases of snake-bites during the last three years, according to Chief Wildlife Warden Surendrakumar.

There have also been allegations of snakes being supplied for criminal purposes. The murder of Kollam native Uthra after being bitten by a snake that was allegedly planted in her room by her husband dominated the headlines recently.

The guidelines make it mandatory for snake handlers, aged between 21 and 65 years, to seek certification. The applications will be screened by the Assistant Conservators of Forest (ACF, Social Forestry) to prepare lists of snake handlers in each district. Various parameters, including experience, age, health as well as track record will be considered during the selection process. Those short-listed will be required to undergo mandatory training on safe and scientific handling of snakes.

While the certification will be valid for five years, the respective ACFs can withdraw or cancel the same if the snake handler is found to be involved in any illegal or unethical practices.

The protocol tasks certified snake handlers with responding to alerts of snake presence in human habitations, informing the caller of the immediate precautions to be adopted, and to intimate the concerned ACF of the activity. They will be required to wear protective gear and equip themselves with safety equipment while on the task.

Rescued snakes will also have to be released in the presence of forest officials at the earliest. If found injured, the snake can be released only after ascertaining its fitness. Non-native species, however, cannot be released and have to be handed over to the Forest Department.

Beat Forest Officers will also be imparted training on safe handling of snakes at State Forest Training Institutes. As many as 318 Forest Officers completed the first phase of training recently.

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2021 7:01:06 AM |

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