Among my duties at the Zoo as its Curator were to catch and bring back to the Zoo wild animals that were creating a nuisance for the city folk of Delhi and its surroundings.
||Toby Ninan retired from Delhi Zoo about two years back. With his varied experiences with the wild animals in the zoo, he is the right person
to direct your queries to. Hear what Ninan has to say about his life and chosen career!
This job, though was an interruption in my regular work, sometimes would provide for a lot of interesting interludes outside the Zoo. And always provide an opportunity for quite a bit of display of bravado that gained me a lot
of hero worship from the unsuspecting onlookers who naturally did not know anything about the capture process. A snake capture had always earned me a lot of ‘ fame’ from the impromptu audience that one could always find.
It was a fine morning and though our secretary tried his level best to get rid of a constant caller – this man was so persistent that I was told there was a Python some 8-10 feet in length making its temporary abode in a temple
and that too at a Shiva temple near the eastern banks of the river Yamuna. Usually the size of a snake which people want to be captured is very much exaggerated and a size of 8-10 feet usually ends up as a 2-3 foot.little fellow- However this was not to be
so in this case and as soon as I reached the temple I was pleasantly surprised to find a really big one all of 11 feet in length.
I was duly escorted to see the temple premises and offered some fruit and tea.- these are offerings one gets after the job is done and I was curious as to why the hospitality was given before the snake was in the bag. I soon came
to know the reason---the snake was quite calm and only lifted its head from its coils now and then as if to acknowledge the worship which devotees were offering the live goddess (it turned out to be a female). The devotees would also, from time to time, throw
five rupee , ten rupee and even twenty rupee notes on to the snake’s body. This would have added up to a tidy sum and though the pujari of the shrine wanted to get rid of this unwelcome or welcome visitor, he was certainly interested in the wonderful windfall
which visitors donated. Torn between these two emotions he (the pujari) was happy to see me come as a 'guardian angel’ who would make sure that no body was hurt and at the same time the kitty was being filled up at an accelerated rate.!
There was only one way in which he could keep both emotions satisfied --- that was to keep me around as long as possible, supervising the snake to make sure it would not attack any one and that was by plying me with tea and plenty
of snacks--- He begged me to stay on as long as possible. Though he had my sympathy, I could not stay more than half an hour as my boss would want the transport and also I had my work pending both at my desk and among the animals of the Zoo.
Finally after some 40 minutes I could not stay much longer. When the snake lifted its head as if to acknowledge more of its admires, I grabbed its neck. She was a heavy animal and with some difficulty I was able to bundle her
head, body and tail into the burlap sack that I had brought along for this job.
The snake safely in the bag and the old boy pujari picking up the last of the coins and notes strewed so generously around the ground where she sat—the driver and I moved out the heavy bag into the zoo vehicle. Soon the bag and
its contents nestled comfortably on the back seat of our old Ambassador car which seemed to tell me 'I have seen plenty of these!’
There was a cheering crowd and a not too unhappy pujari seeing us off and that was the successful end to another one of my jaunts!