Game of survival!


Pakke, July 16, 2014: How does one ‘rescue’ something that has not even been born? Seems like we just did!

It was unlike any other case that we had attended to. Our veterinarian Dr Jahan Ahmed based at the Centre for Bear Rehabilitation and Conservation (CBRC) in Pakke, Arunachal Pradesh, played mid-wife and facilitated birth of five beautiful copper-headed trinket (Coelognathus radiatus) snakes. Here’s an update from Dr Ahmed.

“Annually we attend hundreds of calls to save birds, mammals and reptiles in human areas. This was the first time we were called to save eggs!

There were 16 of them, glued together in a mass that formed their nest. Off-whitish, oblong, slightly smaller than ping-pong ball, like hard-plastic, these eggs were found underneath a person’s bed in Jamaguri.

The babies exploring their temporary home before release. Photo: Dr Jahan Ahmed / IFAW-WTI

The house owner, Biju Agarwal, said that his family had chased away a snake from their mud and bamboo hut. Only later he found the eggs and informed a local NGO worker – Raju Jain, who in turn informed me. It was May 12th.

We took the eggs back to CBRC to see if we could save them. It was a wholly new experience.
On examination, I found that eight of the eggs were damaged. The remaining ones, consulting our team, I placed in a make-shift nest for incubation. The eggs were placed with soil, twigs, leaves and grasses in a container with holes for ventilation, and were kept in a dark room.

This included placing the eggs amidst leaves and straw in a jar, and leaving them to their fate. One more was found to be damaged a few days later.

There was nothing much to do but just hope and wait for the eggs to hatch.

A month and a half later on June 30th, we found five thin snakes, each about a foot-long, stretching out into the world.

One of the foot-long trinket snakes. Photo: Dr Jahan Ahmed / IFAW-WTI

“Grayish-brown, fawn or yellowish-brown back with four black stripes on the forebody…Head copper brown with black line across nape and three black streaks from below and behind eye” just as said by Romulus Whitaker and Ashok Captain in their book – ‘Snakes of India – the field guide’.

These are common non-venomous snakes found along the Himalayas and parts of central and eastern India.
The remaining two eggs had fully-formed but dead individuals.

We released them a few days ago near Nameri National Park next to the Nameri river, with plenty of food including rats, frogs, lizards and small birds.

Snakes are supposed to have a low survival rate in the wild. We cannot be sure if these will make it to adulthood, but can only satisfy ourselves that they have an opportunity to try out their luck in the game of survival.”


The trinket snakes being released. Photo: Dr Jahan Ahmed / IFAW-WTI