Villagers of Chambal turn python-friendly!

KANPUR: After rescuing ghariyals, Gangetic dolphins, hyena and cheetal, locals of Chambal in Etawah are again proving their mettle in rescuing  pythons that have started entering residential areas. They are being helped in their mission by the forest department officials and wildlife experts.

 It is all due to the python’s religious importance among rural folks who consider the nocturnal creature as the `Vasuki’- rope that was used to churn the ocean through the ‘Mainak’ mountain by the gods and the demons by mutual agreement for producing `Amrit’. `Mainak’ mountain was used as the churning rod and `Vasuki’ — a python — as the churning rope.

 The forest department and wildlife experts of the region have appreciated the villagers’ effort to conserve the species.

 The region has witnessed more than 30 incidents of pythons moving out of the jungles and creeping into the residential areas of Etawah, including Bhadawari Farm, Kuanra, Lakhna, Chipaity, Bakewar, District Jail premises, Naurangabad, Pakkabagh, Forest Rest House, Sahson, Bithauli, Sarangpura and Sut Mill.

 “It is a very positive move and will be effective in conservation of pythons in the region,” said Dr Rajiv Chauhan, secretary, Society for Conservation of Nature. “The nocturnal creatures, which we have rescued, are known as Python Morulus. It will further help in the conservation of such species when we visit these villages (where these pythons have been found roaming) and narrate its scientific importance to people,” said another wildlife expert while talking to TOI.

“Since time immemorial, these snakes have been worshipped. As far as python is concerned, it had played a major role in churning `Amrit’ from the ocean according to mythology,” said Anup Bajpayi, a local of Sashon village.

 According to district forest officer Sudarshan Singh, most of these pythons have been rescued from Fisher Forest Range and Chambal Bird Sanctuary of the district and the rescue operation is still on.

 While 30 of them have been retrieved so far and sent to their natural habitat, longest among them has been a 14-ft reptile that had been rescued from the Sahson village of Etawah. Villagers had informed the forest department about the snake’s entry to their village. They later captured the snake and handed it over to the forest department officials of Chambal forest division. The python weighed more than 20 kg.

 The snake found here, commonly known as Pythons Morulus, a family of non-venomous snakes, are also found in Africa, Asia and Australia, besides in various parts of India. Few of its members are considered one of the largest snakes of the world, informed a wildlife expert.

 Sources in the forest department, however, said pythons (a nocturnal creature) drape around tree branches, camouflaged by their skin, waiting to ambush their next meal.

 Said another wildlife expert: “Snakes have, to an extent, terrified most of us and as a result get killed instantly due to fear. But, locals of the district have started acting more humanly towards these reptiles, courtesy its mythological significance.”

 “Initially, people — mostly youngsters — tried to kill python but after they were informed by their elders about its religious significance, they not only came forward to save them but also played prompt role in informing us and the forest department officials besides the police,” said Dr Rajiv Chauhan, secretary, Society for Conservation of Nature working in the region. “And, villagers have now become more aware of the natural balance after they were imparted knowledge about its scientific importance,” he adds.

 Almost all the 30 pythons that were captured safely were set free in the Reserve Forest areas designated by the forest and wildlife departments. “Locals have now become more aware of pythons. They are hesitant to kill them and call us to trap them and further assist us in releasing them in jungle,” informed a forest department official. “There was a common myth about the python that the snake stores venom. But, when we apprised farmers of its usefulness in controlling the rodent population and thereby saving a good amount of harvest, they are no longer violent towards it,” added Chauhan.

As per wildlife experts pythons are solitary creatures, but males and females seek each other out to mate. The female coils about her eggs to incubate them. Young pythons have many natural enemies like eagles, crocodiles, large cats such as leopards, tigers and hyenas.


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