Snakes have a nasty reputation because of widespread ignorance about the nature of equilibrium in the wild. And our impact on the environment. They aren’t superficially considered cute like baby seals or magnificent like tigers either. The truth is that they are beautiful and peace-loving creatures who want nothing to do with us.
We don’t leave them in peace though. We take from this planet beyond what we need. We give back nothing. Even animal conservation, in many places – especially third-world countries, is a cruel joke. One that finds its roots in pretentious altruism and the commerce of greed.
In reality we treat every other species with utter disdain and disrespect. We barely even respect ourselves, hurting each other over the stupidest of reasons. Yet it the snake that is considered to be an evil force that slithers into households, waiting – with murder in its breath – to sink its fangs into unsuspecting humans.
Two years ago, while trekking through a rocky terrain, a friend of mine found the discarded skin of a cobra that looked fresh. He warned me about it and then proceeded to draw a knife. He posed threateningly, tightening his grip on the tiny handle.
He was on alert mode in case the cobra “suddenly tried something crazy”. It was one of the most ridiculous things I had ever heard. A grown man experiencing the wild, with a pen knife – ready to protect himself and a friend from a kamikaze cobra that was endemic to the area.
A more troubling version of this kind of primal urge has men preying on animals for sport and commerce. This collective insensitivity towards the dignity of life has made it difficult to remain objective about non-vegetarianism as a sustainable form of nourishment.
Human-animal conflicts have risen over the years too. Land has become more a commodity than a habitat; it never seems to be available to those with ancient birthrights. Elephants getting mowed down by speeding trains. Leopards being caught in snares found in tea estates. Tigers turning into man-eaters.
The conflict has taken a toll on both sides. It is a sad state of affairs without any conclusive solution in sight. If giant bladderworts from space were to invade our planet, it would be neither a cruel nor an unusual end.
Until then the best we can do is be respectful of other species irrespective of how idiotically they have been misrepresented by culture and history. And stop compensating for our ignorance with reckless abandon.
For those living in the city of Chennai, here are a few do’s and don’ts in case you ever encounter a snake in your locality.
- Don’t panic and scare everyone, including the snake
- Don’t be distracted with the Instagram caption
- Don’t get intoxicated by your own machismo and try to kill the snake
- Don’t handle the snake unless you are trained for it or assisting an expert
- Most of all, do pick your phone and contact Chennai Wildlife Rescue (9176160685 / 9884461090)
Chennai Wildlife Rescue team does a lot of great work in my city, rescuing all sorts of reptiles, mammals and birds. They comprise Dr Doolittles and trained handlers who really care about wildlife. You can follow their rescue operations on Facebook.
(Photographs: Chennai, Masinagudi, Vedathangal)