Whitefield residents learn about sharing space with wildlife

On November 9, 2013, Whitefield residents got a unique opportunity to learn about sharing space with wildlife. A group of 20 enthusiastic residents assembled at the clubhouse of Waterville apartments, to attend the first ever session on Wildlife conservation with a focus on snakes. This session was part of a track that aims to help us to peacefully co-exist with our furry (and not so furry) animal friends.

Conducted by Gerry Martin and Sumanth Madhav, the session addressed aspects of man-animal conflict, what one can do when encountering snakes, and the best ways to avoid these encounters. While children chatted among themselves and absorbed the images that they saw, the older residents had their queries about wildlife answered.

Wildlife of Whitefield

The city of Bengaluru is continuing to grow and spread beyond what are considered to be the “city limits.” Encounters with wildlife are inevitable as we intrude natural habitats to build our own spaces. Residents of developing areas, such as Whitefield, tend to come into contact with wildlife more often than residents in the heart of the city. Sustainable conflict mitigation calls for knowledge and means to co-exist with wildlife within a given micro-ecosystem so that no harm is caused to either humans or animals. Chance encounters with wildlife in Whitefield are generally restricted to the following species:

  • Birds including black kites, crows, barbets and owls.
  • Mammals such as bonnet macaques and squirrels.
  • Reptiles such as snakes and terrapins.

In all conflict situations involving the above species, basic understanding of the animal behaviour and presence of mind is all it takes to resolve any issues. Of the above species, snakes have the highest frequency of conflict with humans, resulting in relocation of the snakes to another ecosystem which, more often than not, will result in its death. The resolution of conflicts with snakes begins with understanding the species.

Snakes of Whitefield

Rapid development in areas like Whitefield leads to the increase in tension between snakes and people. Snakes were never, and will never, be restricted to just the rural and wild areas of any locale. They are very commonly found in urban habitation, which calls for a basic understanding of the species and appreciation of the role they play in metropolitan ecosystems.

  • There are over 280 species of snakes found in India of which around 50 are venomous.
  • Only 4 venomous species of snake can be commonly found in Whitefield.
  • Snakes do NOT drink milk.
  • Snakes do NOT store a jewel in their head.
  • Most encounters between humans and snakes are purely accidental.
  • The use of snakes in entertainment has led to an epidemic of myths regarding these animals.
  • Snakes have long been depicted in religion both positively and negatively; the negative often causing fear and the killing of snakes.

 Snake rescue and relocation:

  • The rescue and relocation of snakes from one area to another is wrongly seen as conservation efforts.
  • Relocated snakes have a very slim chance of survival.
  • Relocation causes imbalance in the ecosystem in the area of rescue as well as area of release.

Lacuna in snake conservation:

  • There is a lack of understanding on ways to co-exist with snakes within the same locality.
  • Snakes, though worshipped by some, are not seen for their true value in nature.
  • Snakes are often not afforded the functional protection that the law intends to provide.
  • Wrongful representation of snakes in legends and movies are the cornerstones of what the general public “know” about them.

Benefits of having snakes in an area:

  • Snakes keep the rodent population in check. Especially in developing areas.
  • The venom of snakes is used to produce anti-venom for the treatment of snake bites.
  • Venom has also been used in a variety of drugs which are used to treat human diseases.
  • Snakes play an important role in the food chain and therefore keep the ecosystem in balance.

What to do if you spot a snake:

  • Do not panic.
  • Children should call an adult.
  • Never attempt to handle the snake yourself.
  • Keep a safe distance of at least 7 to 10 feet from the snake.
  • Do not block the snake’s path. Give the snake a chance to leave the area.
  • If the snake is more than 10 feet away in an outdoor area, stamp your feet.

How to keep snakes out of your home:

  • Avoid having thickets or leaf litter in your garden.
  • Cut down heavy bushes and trim back hedges.
  • Avoid debris such as piles of wood, stone and other unused household supplies on the property.
  • Shoes kept outside the house should be kept in a shoe rack or bag.
  • Seal small gaps under doors and windows.
  • Rodent and insect population should be kept under check by responsible waste management practices.

In case of a snake bite:

Do:

  • Comfort the victim.
  • Remove any constraining items such as a watch, ring, bracelet, anklet etc.
  • Immobilize the bitten body part.
  • Take the victim to the nearest hospital.
  • Take note of symptoms.
  • If possible, note the size, colour and pattern of the snake and report it to the doctor.

Don’t:

  • Tie a tourniquet or ligature.
  • Give aspirin or any pain killer.
  • Consume alcohol or stimulating drinks.
  • Cut the wound or try to suck the venom out.
  • Wash the wound.

Learn more about snake identification and sustainable conflict mitigation within your community by participating in a program conducted by The Gerry Martin Project (http://gerrymartin.in) in collaboration with Whitefield Rising. Over time, a Community Conservation model will be developed with self sustainable conflict mitigation measures, the kind that exists nowhere else. Regular updates will be available on Whitefield Rising. If you would like to host a session in your community, do email us at whitefieldrising@yahoo.com.

Whitefield for Animals is an initiative to address issues pertaining to animals as a part of Whitefield Rising.This initiative has two tracks, one that addresses domestic animals and covers issues such as controlling stray dog/cat population, and the other that aims to bring in awareness about Wildlife and the need to peacefully co-exist.