Snake slithers to safety thanks to IAR Goa
At IAR Goa we are used to dealing with all sorts of emergencies. Most commonly our calls are about injured or sick dogs and cats but we frequently receive calls about local wildlife as well.
One call, received on 31st October, was from a local lady who had located a snake under the stairs in her house. She was unable to tell what type of snake it was but since we have a trained snake catcher - Sarvesh - working at the centre we did not hesitate to go to the location to check it out.
The snake turned out to be a Russell’s viper, one of the most dangerous and poisonous snakes in Asia. This type of snake alone accounts for numerous deaths every year (thousands across Asia). When bitten the victim experiences symptoms such as vomiting, kidney failure, dizziness and swelling. If left untreated the bite is certain to cause the death of the victim. Bad luck would have it that Sarvesh had completed his training on all the local snakes apart from this one. There was no doubt that we were not going to take any risk and make him challenge the snake in an attempt to catch it, so we called our local contact at the Forestry Department, Sainath.
Sainath is an experienced snake catcher and he confirmed that he would leave his office straight away. Being situated in Panjim we knew it was going to take him at least half an hour to reach Calangute by jeep so our next challenge was to prevent the snake from escaping. We were not aware at that point that it was in fact caught in some fishing net, which was being stored under the stairs, so we took turns in watching it closely from a safe distance.
Word quickly spread that a Russell’s viper was on the property so neighbours and friends all came to catch a glimpse and a photo of the creature. To avoid the animal experiencing too much trauma and to keep people safe IAR staff had to control the onlookers which in itself was quite a task.
When Sainath arrived everyone was ushered out of the building so he could get to work. He immediately invited Sarvesh to have some preliminary first-hand training on how to catch this type of snake. In order to move the snake, catchers use a metal hook on which they hang the snake holding the tail in one hand and keeping its head away from them with the hook. Before moving the snake a cloth bag is positioned so it is open for the snake to crawl inside (they will instinctively seek out the dark).
Needless to say our snake was not too impressed with being handled and there was a lot of hissing and wriggling going on as it tried to break free. It was while trying to move it that we discovered its tail was caught in the fishing net and we furthermore saw that the net had cut through its skin.
With extreme skill and precision Sainath lifted the snake out from under the stairs, examined it, and lowered it towards the cloth bag where quickly it sought out the dark. It was decided to take the Russell’s viper to the IAR centre for treatment. After just a week at the centre the snake was fit to go and it was taken to Cortigao in the South where there is a sanctuary for snakes. From there it was released and we have no reason not to think that it isn’t wriggling its way happily through the jungle as these words are being written.