Archive for the ‘CME’ category

The Reptile Rescue Squad – Baby Cobra

11 July 2011

Story by Aditi Baindur

by Aditi Baindur

The phone rang, it was Abhinav Chawla Uncle to speak to Dad! But Dad was out walking the dog! Abhinav Uncle told me that there was a cobra in his room. When Dad got back, I once again pleaded to come along reminding him of how I had helped him rescue the Russell’s Viper. Reluctantly he agreed but ONLY if I obeyed him without exception.

The Baby Cobra in the basket

Gathering our kit, we got into our car and reached Chawla Uncle’s room next to the tennis courts. Chawla Uncle was standing outside adjusting his camera and his lenses – he is a very enthusiastic photographer. Apparently Chawla Uncle’s passion for photography was known to the subordinate staff, one of whom had caught a baby cobra and brought it to him for photography, no doubt excepting some “traditional” fauji appreciation (bottle of rum).

The basket he brought it in was one of the fruit baskets made of thin bamboo slats and which had disintegrated with the cobra inside it. The basket was intact with the snake trapped in it but lifting it or moving it would most probably cause it to fall apart and the baby cobra to escape. Chawla uncle neded Dad’s help to to photograph and then release the snake.

The baby cobra raises its hood

Now, baby snakes are delicate. A hard grip can easily damage their slender jaw bones or their soft internal organs with a lingering painful death following. Yet a baby cobra is venomous from the moment it is born, a miniature version of its parents. Now dad is unfazed by large, strong snakes but handling a juvenile venomous snake calls for a different set of technique. So we did what every person who is out of his depth should do – call in an expert. In this case, the expert was Dad’s good friend Col Christopher Rego who is posted in the Bombay Sappers. Dad and Chris Uncle were YOs room-mates.

The handsome juvenile

Chris Uncle came onto the scene – fortunately he was free that evening.We procured another basket while he was on the way – this time akin to those used by snake charmers.

Chris uncle took the bottom half of the snake charmer’s basket and reverted it on a piece of cardboard. He then had it propped open with a shoe and slid it close to the fruit basket now on its last legs. He offered the entrance under this basket as a new sanctuary for the snake while disturbing it from the other end with a snake stick. The baby cobra bought the trick and slid under the new basket. Then uncle flipped the cardboard over and placed the top cover before the infant realised what was happening.

Chris uncle shows the cobra to some kids who were watching.

We then took the baby cobra to the Demonstration ground where the snake could not escape and adequate safety distances are available. Contrary to urban legend, man can easily outrun snakes. Here Christopher Uncle showed Dad and Chawla Uncle the correct technique to catch baby cobras without endangering oneself and without hurting it. Then we released the baby snake in the marshes nearby and it immediately swam into a large puddle and entered a hole just to be sure we could not recapture it again.

Another Babushka!

9 May 2010

The little pink snake

Its rescue season in CME! The last time it was a lissom damsel, now its a teeny toddler but with all the attitude of an adult.

My daughter Aditi and her friend Sunayana  were cycling along the CME Lake road when they came across a small pink strand moving next to the road. It was a baby snake. Naturally Daddy-O was called upon to drop whatever was doing and come to rescue it!

When I remarked mildly that the snake was in its natural habitat and that nothing need be done, animal-loving Aditi pointed out the dry grass-less environs, two stray dogs nosing the bushes on the other side of the road, some jungle crows perched above and the clear daylight which would highlight the baby to those out looking for a snack.

The miniscule snake found itself ensconced between two Grecian Goddesses armed and ready to war with those who considered a small snake as an item on the Bill of Fare. It was having none of this,  it formed a coiled S shape with the front part of its body,  flattened its body and lunged with its tiny yaw at the girls in turn, quite oblivious to the fact that it’s gape was too small to even hold onto a proffered finger. While I drove to meet them, the snake kept them busy with its tiny antics.  The girls passed the time in IMPORTANT DEBATE! The snake, they decided was a female and accordingly they named it Gaga after the latest goddess in pop music. Unfortunately for the girls, a brief cloudburst drenched all three before I could reach there! Finally, I reached and their vigil was over.

Gaga - the feisty little trinket snake! Note the S-shape coil and laterally flattened neck.

They watched with great concern as I nonchalantly  picked the little pink snake up by its tail and dropped it into my butterfly net. Soaking wet, they leafed through my copy of Whittaker & Captain and correctly identified it as a juvenile Common Trinket Snake (Elaphe helena).

Home the snake came, to be photographed and released in our garden in a clump of bushes and grass next to our concrete pond bordered with a small stand of bulrushes.

A damsel in distress!

20 April 2010

A damsel in distress!

An unusual damsel, extremely beautiful, touchy and unlike the normal variety – highly dangerous in reality. She was found wandering around behind the bachelor’s quarters. The bachelors were loth to keep her but feared her vicous temper.

Sadly, if any one other than Abhinav had spotted her first, it would have been her end! Serendipity ensured that there was a basket of the kind that snake-charmers use in a pile of odds and ends in the cubby hole under the stairs. Placing it on top of her and sliding a cardboard below, he deftly trapped her.

It was a young Indian Cobra – Naja naja.

Since she was kept for a few hours only, no attempt was made to feed her and the basket was kept in a quiet place away from disturbance.

In the words of the late Steve Irwin, "Ain't she a beauty!"

Then the experts were called in, or rather, my friend Christopher was called in and I accompanied him. We took her to the wild area of CME to release her. En route, Chris, who is an expert though cautious snake catcher, taught us the correct technique to catch her.

One has to take great care with young poisonous snakes – the head has to be held firmly from behind and above. Too much pressure and you could fatally injure the young creatures. Too little pressure, you risked the little creature getting free from your grip and biting you.

Svelte & sundar!

The cobra was released near a stream and she went and hid in a hole under water.

A note of caution – don’t try to bootstrap yourself into catching snakes. Learn from the experts and that too with non-poisonous snakes. There number of snake-experts and scientists who have died from snake-bite is very large. The only need to catch a poisonous snake is for its own welfare – when you need to rescue it from Man and take it to sanctuary.

On the road to precious freedom!

NOTE :

Since I am a reputed m.c.p., I refer to the young snake as a female. The truth is we do not know whether the snake was male or female. The technique of determining the sex of the snake can injure it if done by other than experts. Since our only requirement was take the creature to safety, this was not attempted.

An avuncular Christopher shows local kids that snakes are lovable creatures too.

Image Credits : Abhinav Chawla. Released by him under Creative Commons License 3.0 Share-alike (Unported).

P.S. Strangely between the writing of this post and its publishing,  I had to interrupt the dinner party I was hosting to rescue a Russel’s Viper. Unbelievable? Yet true!

The CME wetlands are featured on DNA

24 March 2010

The CME wetlands have been featured today on page 2 of the DNA Newspaper (Pune edition). The occasion had been a visit on 7th March 2010 by the students of an extra-mural ecology course conducted by  Dr Prakash Gole’s Ecological Society. Our wetlands have featured prominently. Authored by Rahul Chandawarkar, a reporter and columnist with DNA.

Image credit & copyright : DNA Pune Edition. Click on the image to enlarge.