Everything you want to know about ISRN: a model project designed to address current problems in snake rescues in the most effective manner by increasing transparency in the handling, rescue, rehabilitation and release of snakes in India.
Every year over 45000 people die in India from snake bites and countless snakes are killed, making human-snake conflict the largest man-animal conflicts in the country. While there are a large number of people who have become “rescuers”, in reality most are not trained to handle snakes ethically, legally and effectively nor have an understanding of their ecology. Many instances have also emerged of these catchers performing dangerous stunts for the sake of getting photos for posting on social media. These stunts not only stress out the snakes but also endanger the life of the handler as well as the people around. All snakes native of India are a protected species under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. While the Forest Department’s of a few states have tried to roll out registration processes, unfortunately with literally hundreds, if not thousands, of people catching snakes in towns, villages, cities all over the country, most cases go unreported and there is little transparency. Many snakes are taken out of their territories and released in far away areas, reducing chances of survival for the species, which becomes an even bigger problem when non-venomous snakes are taken out their territories which leaves it open for venomous snakes to take over.This compounded with issues of illegal venom extraction, hoarding etc. of the protected species, makes illegal and unethical rescues a very serious problem today.
The India Snake Rescuer Network application has been designed to address these very problem in the most effective manner by increasing transparency in the handling, rescue, rehabilitation and release of snakes in India. Through this model project, we are currently working with 10 rescuers in different states of India ranging from Mizoram to Rajasthan to Kerala, who are all seasoned and experienced ethical rescuers also working towards generating awareness about snakes and snake bites in their respective regions. This IndianSnakes’ initiative is being supported by the International Fund for Animal Welfare-Wildlife Trust of India’s (IFAW-WTI) Emergency Relief Network (ERN). As a first of its kind initiative in India, the project plans to standardise snake rescues across India, bring forth a new guild of rescuers equipped and trained in the modern way, who are proficient in ethical and scientific way of addressing the snake conflict
The project currently facilitates live mapping all responses to distress calls on a snake conflict situation. This enable us to not only gather the GPS location and live photographs from the site but also has provisions for the rescuer to provide first responder details which include if the snake was dead or alive upon reaching the location, if the snake was in a natural habitat or in a human domicile etc. While submitting photographs, a rescuer cannot go into the gallery and send a photo of an old rescue. This provision has been made to avoid any false data from being entered as well as to avoid any confusion in identifying the species being rescued. The map is visible on our website and anyone can check for realtime updates on the rescues. Our team privately gathers data on every snake’s release and this information is not displayed in the public domain to protect potential poachers or other people with ill intent from gaining access to the snakes. The data should help us analyse spatial-temporal trends followed by rescuers vis a vis rescues and release, which helps us gain insight into the ethics and legality of each rescue, with the intent of projecting these model rescues to others across the country. Guidelines on rescue and release have been made keeping Indian conditions in mind and every rescuer is being equipped with snake rescue kits especially designed by IndianSnakes.
“Resolving human-wildlife conflict has become an important aspect of conservation especially in the biologically rich and densely populated country like India. After WPA (1972) prohibited displaying and keeping snakes in captivity as an illegal activity and the profession got banned in 1991, in the last decade or so there has been a consistent rise in the number of “snake rescuers” in small towns and cities, who often volunteer to take snakes out of people’s houses.This makes snakes as one of the most commonly ‘rescued’ group of wildlife in India. Despite an evidently increasing trend in the number of so called ‘rescue calls’, reliable data documenting this increase is scarce.
Given the extent of such issues reported from all over India, Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) with International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) in collaboration with Indian Snakes (IS) have taken up the mantle to reduce the negative effects of human-snake conflict and aims to push for a healthy co-existence between the two,” says Debobroto Sircar of Wildlife Trust of India.
The ISRN model project is just a start in standardising snake rescue and establishing safe protocols. We hope that this project heralds in a new era for serpentine rescues in the country.
I must have been around seven years old when I saw my first wild cobra. I was walking with my grandfather around our farm and we saw a cobra, a little over four feet, cross the path ahead of us. When it spotted us, it raised its hood briefly and then continued .
It was 10 am, on a cloudy day in June 2017, when Manas Bandhu Majumdar, the ISRN member from West Bengal, got a call about a “big” snake trapped in the bedroom of a house and had just bitten an 11 year old girl.
For any doubt, question or query you may have, or if you want to involve with our cause, here is how you can get in touch with us. Send us an email or come visit us!
Tropical Institute of Ecological          Science(TIES)
Ecological Research Campus
K K Road, Vellore P.O 686501
Kottayam, Kerala, India
Phone: +91 481 2503988
Phone: +91 8383947126