“Like most others, I used to kill snakes in my father’s farm, fearing them and assuming that every snake is venomous. All the knowledge I had about snakes was through snake charmers who used to visit our village.”
Cheerla Krishna Sagar—a home guard in Wanarpathy, Telangana—has just finished a long shift. He is about to sit back and relax in the sanctuary of his home when his phone rings. A panic-stricken caller stutters in terror, “There is a snake in my house!” Krishna Sagar picks up his helmet, hurries to his bike and rushes to the snake’s rescue.
It started about five years ago when a rat-snake bit Krishna Sagar. Now, rat snakes in India are non-venomous, but Krishna Sagar was not aware of this little nugget of information. Like millions of us, unfamiliar with snakes, he too thought that they mean only danger.
“Like most others, I used to kill snakes in my father’s farm, fearing them and assuming that every snake is venomous.
All the knowledge I had about snakes was through snake charmers who used to visit our village,” he told Telangana Today.
When the snake bit Krishna Sagar, he immediately killed it to take it to the doctor for identification, a requisite practice for the administration of the right anti-venom. The doctor too, could not identify the snake as non-venomous and gave an anti-venom dose to Krishna Sagar. Soon enough, Krishna Sagar had an adverse reaction to the medication and had to approach another doctor.
“He came and identified the snake immediately, and said that it was non-venomous and gave me another antidote to nullify the reaction of the anti-venom. I felt bad that I had unnecessarily killed a snake, especially one that is helpful to farmers as it eats rats,” Krishna Sagar told The News Minute.
From that moment onwards, Krishna Sagar decided to learn more about snakes so he can identify them, understand whether they are venomous or not and rescue them. Speaking to The Better India, he said, “Every kind of snake has its own identity, and I identify snakes by studying their body structure and behavior. I started reading many books and articles to know more about snakes. I also watched numerous shows on the National Geographic channel and YouTube.”
And soon enough, Krishna Sagar was not only identifying snakes but also rescuing them and spreading awareness about their ecological importance to the farmers.
He claims to have rescued about 1300 snakes in the past five years. Some of these were venomous, and some were not.
Superstitious beliefs and a lack of awareness about snakes have cost several lives in India. He recalls the time when his knowledge saved the life of a caller from Srikakulam in Telangana. Many people believe that herbal medicines and pastes will do the trick in case a snake bites.
Avinash, a resident of Srikakulam would have fallen prey to such superstitions had Krishna Sagar not interfered. The Home Guard who has started a YouTube channel to educate people about snakes received a call from Avinash. “He called me and thanked me for saving his life from a snake bite. While his parents gave him local healing medicine, he had watched a video of mine and went to the hospital. He said he is alive only because of me and my videos,” says Krishna Sagar.
This endeavour is of vital importance, especially in the rural parts of India, considering how essential snakes are to the ecosystem there. Misconceptions about snakes cost reptiles their lives and in turn, disrupt the natural cycle too.
“Most people think that snakes take revenge which is wrong,” elaborates Krishna Sagar.
“They believe in using local medicines to treat snakebites which is unscientific, and many lives get lost due to this.
Superstitious beliefs regarding snakes are more harmful than the snakes themselves. Many don’t know that snake venom is used for cancer therapy.”
But Krishna Sagar is on a mission to change such beliefs and practices. He said that he gets about 200 calls every week and tries to attend every one of them. The expenses of reaching the location, and buying equipment to catch snakes, among others, come from his own humble salary.
Of course, he is happy to receive help from well-wishers because the home guard-cum-snake rescuer is now taking other wildlife enthusiasts under his wing and teaching them about snake rescue.
His Sagar Snake Society has currently 25 volunteers, and Krishna Sagar hopes to increase this number, and people’s awareness about snakes.
If you wish to get in touch with him, you can drop an Email at firstname.lastname@example.org or message him on Facebook.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)