Forget stories of snakes taking revenge, they don’t know how to attack, and they only bite in self-defense. These are tips suggested by experts at Kalinga Center for Rainforest Ecology as they go about conducting awareness and snake assessment programmes in the city, telling gated communities and layouts how to make these less inviting for the reptiles and how to co-exist peacefully with them. Thanks to them, the residents of Adarsh Palm Retreat in Bellandur look forward to a more peaceful summer and monsoon with less snake sightings and less unfounded fear of them
Residents of Adarsh Palm Retreat Villas in Bellandur are optimistic about a peaceful summer and quiet wet days this year. The uptown layout with over 800 villas spread over 100 acres has had multiple snake sightings over the past many years and has been living in fear so far.
“We have had snake sightings without fail every summer and rainy season. It has mostly been Russell’s Viper, both adults and babies. We have also had deaths due to snakebite a few years ago on the campus. The layout area is big, has multiple common expanses and it was becoming difficult to feel safe, especially with about 600 kids around. While a handful of the residents has an idea on how to manage this issue, it was difficult to bring everyone on the same page and thus snake sightings continued,” says Sadhana Sureka, a resident.
Snakes are magnificent creatures. While most of us cannot take our eyes off a fully grown snake with its hood flare, hissing and striking, on the screens of our high definition television sets, even the thought of one slithering in our neighborhood makes our blood curdle; especially while living in a country of more than 300 snake species. We witness about 46,000 deaths due to snakebite annually and around half a million get bitten every year. While these numbers might make a chill run down your spine, the good news is that most of these deadly bites come from just four groups of snakes. If you can learn how to not cross path with ‘the deadly four’, it is almost certain you will never die of snakebite.
As humans expand their settlement, encroaching upon animals’ and that of snakes’ too, human-snake conflicts are becoming more and more prevelant. It’s not only in rural settings, gated layouts and high rise apartments in cities are also getting a glimpse of this gorgeous reptile on regular basis. While some sightings go harmless, many turn into accidents.
To help resolve this conflict and make people understand the importance of co-existence with the snakes, Kalinga Center for Rainforest Ecology (KCRE) has come up with a ‘Snake in our neighborhood’ project. Through this, KCRE will help people overcome their fear of snakes by knowing more about these slithering creatures. The center provides awareness and assessment plans to gated communities, apartments and even factories and firms alike, on how to not invite snakes inside their homes and residential compounds.
“We began in 2012 with the awareness programmes but soon realized that most of it was generally forgotten and the problem continued to persist in a big way. The snake assessment programme was added recently to bring about a comprehensive solution. Apart from giving information on how to handle the snake and situation or about their attitudes at snake sighting, we decided to help them access their area and point out the places that are likely to invite and harbour snakes. This makes them more aware about their campuses and actions that can be taken to resolve the issue,” says Sharmila Gauri Shankar, assistant director, KCRE.
According to experts, while a snake’s territory is not as big as a tiger’s or a lion’s, they too become familiar with the area and establish a prey base with time. When we encroach into their space, they become totally puzzled.
“While the puzzled snake is trying to figure out its totally distorted home and looking for food, people think that it is making for their houses. People have reached out to us asking for pest control help, but in reality, none of it works with snakes. The only solution is to co-exist with them and try not to cross their paths,” says Sharmila.
KCRE’s project includes detailed sessions for security staff, housekeeping employees and gardening maintenance teams of the layouts and communities to identifying the common species of snakes and to educate on snakebite protocols. The team then carries out a comprehensive survey of campuses to determine existence and possibility of existence of venomous snakes. This is done by locating micro habitats, water holes, access routes, micro-climate zones, ‘feeding opportunity’ zones, and suggesting measures to clear these zones to make them less inviting for snakes.
This is when Sadhna and few other residents of Adarsh Palm Retreat decided to seek professional help and contacted the KCRE team. Snake walks were held, snake villas were identified and the layout periphery was scanned from a snake’s eyes. According to the KCRE team, the layout was inviting snakes in all ways possible.
“They pointed out snake-friendly villas on the basis of garden landscaping, holes in the compound walls, drainage pipes, storm drain, dense green patches in common areas and gardens, rain water harvesting systems, the wooden dockyard, humungous creepers, untrimmed bushes… basically, we had been inviting snakes all along,” says Sadhna.
According to Gauri Shankar, director, KCRE, humans have a deep-rooted fear of snakes and it stems from various myths surrounding the majestic creature. “The only way the fear can be handled is through knowledge. The more the knowledge you have of anything, the less scared you are. The same principle applies to the fear of snakes. We conduct awareness sessions and do a survey to tell the societies how not to invite snakes inside their houses or layouts. You cannot get rid of them from the face of the earth or even urban spaces. You should learn how to co-exist with them. They have learnt it and do their best to avoid us. Why cant we learn about them and co-exist with them?” asks Gauri.
The KCRE team, while conducting the programme, stresses on identification of venomous and non-venomous snakes. “Snakes always bite in self defense. They don’t know how to attack, forget stories of taking revenge,” adds Gauri.
The Big Four