The absence of proper guidelines on catching snakes opens up the field for unprofessional snake catchers.
Bangalore: Many wildlife rescuers say that lack of awareness and absence of helpline numbers has led to an increase in the number of snakebite cases in Karnataka. Even though the World Health Organization recognizes snakebites as an important public health issue in India, the Karnataka government has no guidelines to protect wildlife rescuers and people from snakebites. .
Karthik Kumar, the curator at People for Animals in Kengeri, said, “The lack of guidelines in Karnataka state has led to an increase in the number of unprofessional snake catchers whom the Forest Range Officers end up calling for snake protection.”
“We face a lot of trouble figuring out how to relocate and rescue the snakes after they have bitten people. We don’t even have the equipment to catch them but still, there is no response from the government yet,” said Prasanna Kumar, Sharath Babu, and Manjunath, a group of wildlife rescuers in Bangalore.
According to the Clinical Epidemiology and Global Health Report 2020, more than 81,000 people die every year, undergo amputations and suffer other permanent disabilities due to snakebites, and half of these deaths are reported in India.
“Mostly snakes come to our village, during monsoon season, and create problems for us. However, we do not even have helpline numbers to call snake catchers,” people in Kumbalgodu and Gollahalli, said.
Mr. Sridhar, a Forest Division Assistant for Karnataka state, said that between 2019 and 2020, around 7000 to 8000 people died from snake bites in the state. “We informed the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Head of Forest Force) that the absence of snake guidelines in the state would be a big problem to many people and snake rescuers, but there has been no response yet,” he said.
MK Ramanujam, a snake rescuer in Kumbalgodu Gollahalli, said, “Anyone who sees any snake in our village, calls me first. I have rescued 50 snakes so far.”
Mr. Rajesh Kumar, a naturalist who works at the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, said that the Bangalore Urban district in Karnataka has at least 32 volunteers for rescuing snakes, but in the rest of the districts, there are no official rescue teams or guidelines for rescuing snakes. “The Karnataka government has not yet come up with Standard Operating Procedures, despite the World Health Organization recognizing snakebite a serious issue in India,” he said.