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Snake Prakash

Life on land

"On a leisurely afternoon drive around Mysore we spot Snake Prakash on his rounds."

Peter Hylands

May 21, 2023

It is a hot day in Mysore, the sun shines on the gardens and the balconies of the houses, all just perfect for snakes. India has more than ten per cent of the world’s snake species with something like twenty per cent of these venomous enough to worry about. 

Catching snakes

The King Cobra at a maximum length of just under six metres is the most spectacular. Hard to imagine today but in its range, which also includes South East Asia, the heaviest wild King Cobra recorded was at Singapore’s Royal Island Club in 1951.

Smaller but rather more active snakes in human habitats in India include the Common Krait, the Indian Cobra, the Saw-scaled Viper and Russell’s Viper.

India has the most snakebites, more than any other country each year, and some 10,000 or more fatalities each year a result of these snake bites. Numbers of people, around 72 per cent of India's population live in smaller villages and rural communities (India at the time of writing was home to about 17.5 per cent of the earth's human population), less than adequate access to antivenin are factors in these high numbers.

This compares to Australia where the snakes are equally as venomous where there are typically less than five deaths each year from snakebites.

India’s Wildlife Protection Act and its various schedules protect India’s wildlife. Catching snakes from houses and gardens and transporting them back to the wild is an important task and an exciting, if not dangerous way, of earning a living. You never know what you are going to find.

On a leisurely afternoon drive around Mysore we spot Snake Prakash on his rounds. We stop and speak to our snake catcher friend to see what today’s catch has been. Here in plastic jars are two Indian Cobra’s ready for release. 

Snake Prakash’s life, as his name suggests, is snakes. He is fascinated by them as I am. And so far and after years of handling them he has never been bitten. This work is a family business, his father, a snake catcher before him.

As our friend drives away I hope that luck goes with him.