Manas National Park, Assam, May 20, 2018: A two-day Regional Workshop on best practices for mitigating human-snake conflict in North-east India was organised by Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) at Manas National Park, Assam on 19-20 May 2018, as part of the formation of the Indian Snake Rescuers Network (ISRN) which falls under the aegis of the Emergency Relief Network (ERN) Project of IFAW-WTI.
Group photo of participants at the workshop
The workshop – conducted by Dr. Abhijit Das, Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Soham Mukherjee from Ahmedabad, Jose Louies, Chief of Wildlife Enforcement and Law, WTI and Abhishek Narayanan, Head of Wild Rescue, WTI – was attended by 20 participants from various districts of Assam and included individuals, NGO representatives, Forest Department staff and two staff members from the Ecological Task Force (ETF) of the Indian Army based in Kokrajhar.
Stressing on the need for such a workshop, Abhishek Narayanan of WTI explained “Snake rescue is one of the most prevalent wildlife related work being undertaken in India. However, many of the individuals involved in it are either ill-equipped, ill-trained or lack the information and learning flow to carry this out ethically and scientifically. This type of workshop and constitution of a network will not only improve the situation but also generate a lot of information on the quantum of such rescues being done in North-east India.”
The workshop courseware was aimed to reduce wrong practices often followed in rescue work, which not only compromise the welfare and conservation of snakes, but also increase the risk for the rescuer. Topics included basic taxonomy of snakes; handling, capture and transport of snakes; legal considerations relevant to snake rescue; snake-bite management, etc. The participants were also given kits to improve their preparedness for snake rescue and reduce the risks associated with snake-bites. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for handling snake emergencies and snake-bite management were also provided as resource materials.
One of the classroom sessions held during the workshop
Commenting on the success of the workshop, Dr. Bhaskar Choudhury, WTI’s Head Veterinarian (North East) and Head of the IFAW-WTI Greater Manas Conservation Project said, “The workshop was held with the objective of educating the snake rescuers of the State. Fortunately we found that Assam rescuers are better off than others in terms of detrimental and unscientific practices while rescuing snakes. We have trained a core team of students, enthusiasts and sensitised citizens in practising a scientific approach to rescue and rehabilitation of snakes in the State.”
The ISRN, which was launched for the first time in North-east India at this Regional Workshop, aims to bring all people involved with the rescue and rehabilitation of snakes, on a common platform for learning, information sharing, and ensuring that a standard set of guidelines are followed to mitigate human-snake conflict. Network members are also given access to a mobile app that has been specially designed to document each and every snake that is captured.
“This is one of the major steps towards setting up a national level snake rescue network and ensuring the safety of snakes and people across India. As snake rescue is the first line of defense to reduce human-snake conflict, training and equipping the regional snake rescuers will help us reduce human deaths too” added Mr. Jose Louies Chief of Wild Enforcement and Law, WTI.
Participants being given snake rescue kits during the workshop