New Delhi, Aug 20: The monsoon season has inspired many a poet to write paeans to nature but for burrowing animals monsoon means a distressing time as their homes get flooded and they have to look for food and shelter elsewhere. Wildlife experts say monsoon is the time when man-animal conflict is at the highest.
“Monsoon is a distressing time especially for burrowing animals like snakes and other reptiles, whose homes get flooded and they have to scout elsewhere for shelter and food. This specially happens in the Yamuna region. Often they enter human habitations looking for food, thus making themselves vulnerable,” Baiju Raj, wildlife biologist at Wildlife SOS India, an NGO, told IANS.
“This vulnerability makes them self-defensive, and they strike at the hint of any danger by man,” he added.
N.K. Janoo, Deputy Conservator of Forests, whose area of jurisdiction extends from Okhla in the national capital to Agra, said that 65 percent of all calls received for rescuing animals is during the three months of monsoon. “And most of these calls are for the rescue of snakes,” Janoo told IANS.
According to Wildlife SOS, over the past one year it has rescued 1,000 snakes from Delhi and the National Capital Region. “Earlier this week, the Wildlife SOS Help Unit rescued several cobras from residential areas like Dwarka, Rohini, Vasant Kunj, Chhatarpur, Palam, Najafgarh, and Bawana,” an official said.
One such rescue mission happened after a mishap when a child accidentally stepped on a cobra taking refuge in his house in Najafgarh on the outskirts of Delhi. Although the child was rushed to the hospital, he did not survive; and the snake was removed by the rescue team which said that he reptile must have entered looking for rats from the open drain behind the house.
Wildlife SOS co-founder Geeta Seshamani said that ignorance about snakes often leads people to make mistakes. “When you see a snake, just leave it alone and it will go away. Don’t try to kill or cause any harm. Keeping your surroundings clean of debris and garbage will keep snakes away.”
Janoo agreed, adding: “There are just four varieties of snakes that are poisonous – cobras, two varieties of vipers and rattlesnakes. The rest, more than 90 percent, are non-poisonous. Most people, for instance, kill the rat snake that is non-poisonous and actually helps because it feeds on rodents”.
Because of their vulnerability, burrowing animals are at the highest risk of poaching around this time of the year too. The endangered Pangolin, or scaly ant eater, for instance, is also a burrower and therefore rainwater flooding its burrow leaves it vulnerable to poachers. Despite being protected by the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the pangolin is illegally hunted and traded for its meat which is used for a Southeast Asian delicacy and its scales are used for traditional medicine.
“Another threat to pangolins is habitat destruction. Activities like construction, use of earthmoving machinery, and sand mining irreversibly damages its habitat. Most people are not aware how endangered the species is,” Seshamani said.
A pangolin was recently rescued by the Wildlife SOS team along with forest department officials, near the Taj Mahal in Agra.
“Awareness among people has definitely increased. If we talk about the Braj region, five years ago, almost 60 percent of the wild animals spotted by people were killed. That number has now come down to almost five percent. We, in association with the forest department and other agencies, regularly conduct workshops for village panchayats, for the wildlife officials themselves, and conduct wildlife festivals for schoolchildren. But there is a lot of space for improvement,” Raj said.
The Wildlife SOS helpline number is 09871963535
(Azera Rahman can be contacted at email@example.com)