sulabh swatchh bharat

Friday, 22-March-2019


Dressed in a T-shirt and knee-high boots, she makes her way to the jungle with a snake on the hook

Subhadra Cherukuri, a young Bangalorean working with Ernst & Young, has been rescuing snakes and educating people on the importance of these reptiles.
Dressed in a T-shirt and knee-high boots, she makes her way to the jungle with a snake on the hook.  Subhadra is one of the very few woman snake rescuers, from Bengaluru.
From childhood, she has had a fascination for reptiles and had a will to rescue them. “I started rescuing snakes about seven years ago. Initially, I watched and assisted my husband, who is also a professional snake rescuer. After I had gained enough knowledge, I began rescues on my own. It was not easy in the beginning.  The journey involved a lot of learning, honing my skill of tracking and bagging snakes safely, without harming the animal or myself. The crowds also have to be handled tactfully while doing my job as people panic and create chaos,” she says.
She was interested in reptiles and wildlife even before marriage, but her parents’ concern prevented her from getting into rescue. “So I had to wait till I got married and take this full time role.” 
February to September is the official snake season when the maximum number of snakes are spotted in residential areas, according to her. Though they are seen in all of North Bengaluru, Yelahanka to Old Madras Road are the most affected areas, she says.  
She describes her typical day: “When I get a call, I first ask for the location and if the snake is out in the open. If it is in the open, I ask the informant to leave it alone as it will go away by itself. Else, if it is close enough for me to get to the area within 10-15 minutes, I go there. I ask the informant to keep an eye on the snake, ensure that all exits are barred, and that a crowd does not gather. Once I reach the location, I use a hook to bag the snake, after which I survey the area and give the informant and residents tips on how to keep the area free of rats so as not to attract snakes.”She then releases the snake in natural surroundings or close to where it was found. 
Subhadra, who is also a project manager with Ernst and Young, says there are preconceived notions of how certain jobs are meant for men and the others for women, especially in India. Snake rescuing, for instance, has always been a man’s job in small towns and villages. “I believe a woman can do anything that a man can. It is just that they allow themselves to be bogged down by stereotyping.”
Cherukuri says she also has to deal with superstitions. “Sometimes being the only woman amidst a crowd of people ready to kill the snake, even if it is not venomous, can be challenging. Also, dealing with snake charmers who de-fang snakes and make them dance to earn a living. Snakes play an important role in the ecosystem, and sometimes rescuing a life is the only way one can give back to the nature.”
Though not denying the fact that hyper urbanisation has caused many snake species to become endangered, she believes that people are gradually becoming aware of the need to save them. 
“Many lakes have become landfills in Bengaluru, which has had a huge impact on snakes in the city,” she regrets.
Subhadra is a private volunteer rescuer and does her job only out of passion. “The government and forest departments do not have any rescue cells. Snake rescuing in Bengaluru is mostly done by private rescuers,” she says.