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Nagpur SarpaMitras : Friends of Snakes

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Nagpur Sarpa Mitra Chinmay handling a spectacled cobra (nag)

An emergency phone call and Chinmay sets off on his bike to save precious lives. But he is no Emergency Medical Personnel headed towards a possible scene of accident. He is a Sarpamitra (Friend of Snakes) who has vowed to protect and safeguard ‘snakes’ in Nagpur city. He and a bunch of other Sarpamitras have taken it on themselves to save the lives of these natures most misunderstood creatures. Snake sightings in residential areas are quite common occurrence in Nagpur. Whenever such incidents take place vigilant citizens or Police inform the Sarpamitras and they rush to the site and rescue the snake that otherwise would have been killed at the hands of citizens themselves. They do not expect any monetary gains from their work but do their job just for the sheer love of snakes.

Sarpamitras are self trained volunteers who have acquired their skills in handling snakes by watching YouTube Videos, Television programs and by reading books concerning snakes. But don’t consider them as novices who just catch snakes as a past time. They have become experts in their field by gaining experience from their field work and information sharing amongst themselves about capturing and handling snakes. With the help of books and videos, they have built homemade instruments for capturing snakes and temporary baskets for keeping the snakes before they are released in the wild.

They are in contact with Forest Department as well as the Police Department who help them in rehabilitating the snakes. Whenever they catch a snake they have to do a full ‘Panchanama’ of the snake (information gathering like place where snake was caught, at what time, the type of snake, was it poisonous, how big the snake was, was it injured or hurt and other information) and submit their report to Forest Department Officials. Sarpamitras hand over the snakes to Forest Officials or they themselves release these snakes in forests. Snakes are released in the forests near Gorewada, Zilpi Lake and Butibori Forest.

Snakes venture into residential places in search of their food, mice and rats. Snakes prefer cold places like sewer lines, garbage dumps and their natural camouflage makes them difficult to spot in these areas. Sarpamitras have to be extremely cautious while handling snakes. Saving Snakes is a risky job and unfortunately 2 Sarpamitras have lost their lives while handling poisonous snakes. Three types of highly poisonous snakes are found in Nagpur region. They are: Indian Cobra (Nag), Indian Krait (Manyar) and Russell’s viper (Ghonas) . Their Hemotoxic and Neurotoxic Venom are lethal to human beings. Fortunately, Anti-venom to these snake bites is available in all the major hospitals in Nagpur. Sarpamitras are also trained to perform primary first aid to snake bite victims before they are moved to hospitals. Thus, the work that Sarpamitras do is really commendable since they save snakes and in this process they also save human lives.

Nagpur Sarpa Mitra : Rat Snakes (Dhaman) to be released in wild

Sarpamitras do not charge money for their services. Officially, Sarpamitras come under the jurisdiction of Forest Department but they are not on the payroll of the department. They come from various walks of life and have their own day jobs to attend to. But whenever they get a call about snake sightings they rush to the spot, fully equipped, to save lives. Legislation for granting official licenses to Sarpamitras is pending in Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha. This Legislation will grant official authorization to Sarpamitras for handling Snakes and will also put them on Forest Department payroll. Let’s hope that the legislation gets cleared quickly and Sarpamitra earn their deserved rewards.

Sarpamitras are doing their work religiously without expecting any laurels, so let’s help them in their mission to save snakes. If you find any snake lurking in your neighborhood, please do not panic or try to take care of the situation yourself. Instead, Stay away from the place where you have spotted the snake and call one of the Sarpamitras. Sarpamitras are just a phone call away, ready and well equipped, to help you out. Here are the phone numbers of couple of them.

Chinmay Deshpande – 9665862389
Gaurang Waikar – 9970099910
Author: Abhijit Ranade


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