f I were a snake, there is no other state I’d want to be in other than Odisha. About one-third of the land in Odisha has been classified as forest land, so I’d have plenty of space to slither around without running into humans. But if I happened to stray from the forest, the humans would be eager to rescue me and return me to my home.
Odisha is truly a paradise for snakes, and if you don’t believe me, just look at all the snake rescues taking place around the state. Just a few days ago, a woman found a snake coiled up in her scooter cabinet. According to a report, the woman was about to start the scooter when she spotted the snake and ‘jumped out of her skin.’ I don’t blame her for jumping out of her skin, because I would have jumped out of my skin, my hair and my clothes.
What was the snake doing on her scooter? It was obviously hoping for a free ride. It had heard that people in Odisha do not harm snakes, but give them rides back to their natural habitat. This is exactly what happened to the snake. The woman called Snake Helpline and volunteers from the Bhubaneswar-based organisation rescued the snake and released it near the banks of River Mahanadi.
Snakes hoping for rides can be quite sneaky. In early July, a seven-foot cobra crawled into the engine of a parked car in Sindhekela area of Bolangir district. According to local media, a snake charmer was summoned and he managed to rescue the snake. I am not sure if the snake really wanted to be rescued, but at least it managed to get a ride. It was released in the nearby forest.
About a week ago, a King Cobra that was about 15 feet long was rescued from an abandoned well in Burujhari village of Ganjam district. Volunteers from Snake Helpline were summoned to rescue the reptile. This lucky snake didn’t just get a ride to the forest, it also got a check-up. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it also got a meal, a bath and an astrology reading.
I don’t know how many snakes the volunteers of Snake Helpline have rescued over the last few years, but it probably numbers in the hundreds, if not thousands. I admire their dedication to this dangerous task. When I spot a snake, I don’t think about the words ‘rescue’ and ‘release.’ I think of another word beginning with ‘R’ – RUN!
A few other words come to my mind: ‘scream’ and ‘hide.’
Volunteers of Snake Helpline do not believe in needlessly harming animals. That’s why they practise ‘rescue’ and ‘release.’ But I hope that when they release these snakes into the forest, they have a good talk with the snakes.
Volunteer: “Here you go. I brought you home.”
Python: “How can I repay you? Can I give you a hug?”
Volunteer: “No hugs please. Just make me a promise. Please promise that you will stay in the forest. We do not want to keep rescuing you.”
Python: “But I enjoy the rides. Can you come to the forest and give me rides?”
Volunteer: “No, I cannot. But can you promise not to return? You are causing a lot of fear in people.”
Python: “I am a snake. That is my hobby.”
Volunteer: “So you enjoy scaring people?”
Python: “I like to see them jump out of their skin. It’s an amazing sight, seeing humans shedding their skin like snakes do.”