Snake rescue after the floods in Chennai
One’s contribution towards the conservation of nature, however small, must be one of the few fulfilling moments of his life. Recently I had the opportunity to embrace such a rare moment when I rescued a rat snake.
The drama unfolded when a few locals came rushing into the office of Care Earth Trust situated in Thillaiganga nagar. They were looking for Mr.Doss, our community organiser, who rescues snakes. It is due to his absence at the time of the incident, I volunteered to help. The locals feared that it was a cobra but I was suspecting that it could be a rat snake.
When we arrived at the site we found that the snake had taken refuge inside a concrete hole under the staircase in the flat. As I had predicted, it was an adult female rat snake. The locals were armed with sticks and crow bars, all set to kill the snake. I somehow convinced them that I can safely rescue the snake without inflicting any harm on the reptile.
Although the emerging snake was caught easily, traumatised by the human presence, it tried to escape. However, the snake was safely carried till our office where it was released into a basket. After taking a few photographs of the snake, it was later released into the Pallavaram hills, in its natural habitat. But the real question here is how the snake landed up in a flat surrounded by concrete structures. One possible reason could be that it had come in search of rats which are its natural prey. The other reason could be that the snakes’ original burrow could have got flooded by the unseasonal heavy rains.
Rat snakes are diurnal, large and have shiny scales varying considerably in colour. Like all other animals surrounding humans, they have certain activity patterns too. When threatened, they puff their throat, hiss and strike with force. The female lays 6-16 eggs between the months of March to July and also during the winter months.
Since they have the ability to adapt to any environment, they are found widely throughout India. As the name suggests, they feed on rats. Rat snakes and Cobra keep a check on rat population which could be considered a pest to mankind. Because of this they could be considered a friend of mankind. Naturally these snakes are easily encountered in certain areas of the city where the presence of rats are pretty common. Although rodents form a part of their basic diet, they also consume frogs, lizards, birds and even smaller snakes at times. Young rat snakes are frog eaters, but during the first year of their life they begin to feed on rats and mice.
Rat snakes and Cobra had been the victims of the large and uncontrolled activities of industries involved in snake skin export. This led to the extinction of the species in local areas where they were once found in abundance. After the enactment of the Wildlife Protection Act (1974), export of snake skin was banned thereby ensuring that these friends of Man are protected.
The author, Dr. J. Subramanean is a Herpetologist with Care Earth Trust, who has vast experience in handling snakes and studies in Reptiles.