Green Defenders




    Aditi Baindur

    We went to Goa during our December holidays. The crowded, polluted beaches disgusted us and we went in search of the old historic Goa nestled under the foothills of the Western Ghats. We visited the Butterfly Conservatory of Goa in Ponda, where we saw the amazing Southern Birdwing, Malabar Peacock and Clipper butterflies. We stayed in a suite on the first floor of our host Prasad Uncle's house (bed and breakfast type facility). They were very hospitable and we had a great time visiting the churches and sanctuaries of old Goa.

    The first day, Prasad uncle brought us a sumptuous dinner but said he was in a hurry to go as he had just received a call to rescue a python. Naturally, CME's own Reptile Rescue Squad immediately lost interest in dinner and accompanied him for the noble deed. It was very exciting. Till now, we had only caught common snakes and we had never rescued a python before. Prasad Uncle drove with full speed through the deserted streets of Ponda. We arrived outside a walled compound with metal gate. There in a drain along the wall was the snake hidden by the curious crowd.

    The python was huge and half-filled the drain with its coils. Prasad uncle jumped fearlessly into the drain and pounced on the snake. With his left hand he gripped it behind the head and with his right hand and feet he pressed down the coils. The snake struggled but Prasad Uncle's hold was like that of a wrestler - the python was immobilized. We fetched a large sack from the boot of Prasad Uncle's car and he began lifting the snake out shifting his right hand grip to prevent the python from coiling around his arm or body.

    The python was a female and weighed between 40 and 50 kg and was at least twelve feet long. Males are much smaller. This enables males and females to catch different-sized prey in the forest and they do not compete with each other. As it struggled it released a musky odour. Uncle carried it home and kept the secured sack in a store-room. Two days later, we were to go to Bondla sanctuary where he planned to release it into dense forest.

    We really admired Prasad Uncle's technique and confidence. East Goa being forested has many snakes and Prasad Uncle was called out almost every day, sometimes three or four times. The Forest Department had got tired of rescue calls after office hours and Prasad Uncle and his friends provided a free unofficial Reptile Rescue Service in different parts of Goa.

    But this was only the first of many rescues. Over the next two days, Prasad Uncle was called again and again to the same spot where he caught five more pythons, one by one. They were all males - probably the female python was ready to mate and the males had been attracted by the musk. We helped him catch two of these males.

    The next day, we took a car dickey full of pythons to Bondla and released them one by one. The female was released first and she immediately climbed up into a bamboo thatch nearby. She was huge, large and so much thicker than any of the bamboo shoots but immediately vanished from sight - a perfect example of nature's camouflage. The male pythons were released  twenty minutes apart at different locations - two of them vanished as a weaving ripple into a nearby pond while the others dispersed in different directions into the forest. We really felt good that six endangered snakes were safely rescued from urban Ponda and released into the wild.

A male python being released by my Dad

Image credit - Nandan Kalbag

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