Environment

Stop the hiss-teria!

Don’t kill them; it is a punishable offence, warns Hari Mani M who has rescued more than 1000 snakes from certain death

Hari Mani M calls snakes the “most misunderstood creature in the animal kingdom.” He should know because he has rescued nearly 1,000 snakes from certain death and set them free inside forests. “Snakes play an important role in the ecosystem by balancing the food chain. They prey on rodents and insects and control their numbers,” he says.

Hari’s day job is that of an Indian Railways employee. But his passion is wildlife conservation and he has been following his heart for 20 years. So far, he has saved snakes in Dharmapuri, Viluppuram and Kasaragod.

His fascination for snakes began, perhaps, on that morning when he was on his way to the pond with his dad. “We spotted a young saw-scaled viper. My father’s friend who was with us immediately picked up a stick to kill it. But my father stopped him. I remember this incident clearly and I was only five years old then.” Now Hari assists the Forest Department and also trains its staff at Dharmapuri to catch snakes.

What to do if you get bitten
  • Wash the bitten area with water and antiseptic soap
  • Do not panic or cut open the wound.
  • Immobilise the area and loosely tie two pieces of cloth above and below the sting
  • Check the bite mark. One or two deep wound means the snake is venomous and four or six shallow marks mean it is not.
  • Get medical help immediately

When he was in Std X in 1994, Hari rescued his first snake. “We were on the playground when we spotted a green vine snake. I lifted it with a stick and set it free in the woods near the ground. This is not the scientific way to do it but, luckily for me, it was not venomous.” Hari now uses snake hooks and bags to catch the snakes safely.

“It is a wrong perception that most snakes are venomous. Out of 300 species of snakes found in our country, not even 10 percent are so. There are only four venomous snakes that can be found in areas of human habitation. They are called the Big Four and include the Indian Spectacled Cobra, the Common Krait, the Russell’s Viper and the Saw-Scaled Viper. The others are usually harmless,” he says.

Hari adds that he has rescued 20 species of snakes that include the Big Four, python, green vine snake, bronzeback tree snake, common sand boa and red sand boa.

Info you can use
  • Humans have destroyed forests and cleared the agricultural land. So, snakes come out of their natural habitat in search of food.
  • The easiest way to keep them away from populated areas is to keep the surroundings clean and clutter-free.
  • If you see a snake outdoors, walk away and do not scare them.
  • If the snake is indoors, inform the forest department.
  • Do not kill snakes. It is a punishable by the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972

He says his toughest challenge was when he had to rescue a deer and a snake at Villupuram in 2014. “ It was a Sunday and I was home when I got a call from a farmer saying that a cobra and a spotted deer had fallen into his well. When I got there, I found that the well was 40 feet deep. The water was chest high when I lowered myself in with a rope. I caught hold of the cobra, but the deer was terrified and attacked me. I had to calm it down before I could haul it out of the well too.” Hari got four stitches on his head, but was delighted he had saved both animals.

More recently, he rescued a five-foot python from a home in Dharmapuri. “It was handed over to the officials from Forest Department,” he says, adding “It hid in a stack of firewood in the kitchen. I cleared the logs, and found it.

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 11:06:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/hari-mani-m-has-rescued-more-than-10000-snakes-in-the-past-20-years/article27284422.ece

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