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Of snakes and other reptiles

Of snakes and other reptiles
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First Published: Mon, Aug 01 2011. 08 39 PM IST

Updated: Mon, Aug 01 2011. 08 39 PM IST
This one is for those who fancy snakes, lizards and frogs. If you’ve wondered what it is like to be a herpetologist, then a four-day camp starting 12 August might answer many of your questions.
The workshop will be conducted at herpetologist and wildlife conservationist Romulus Whitaker’s farm in Chengalpet, south of Chennai, bordering the scrub jungle of Vallam Reserve Forest, and will give participants hands-on experience in field techniques, tracking methods and animal taxonomy. Field visits will include documenting nocturnal animals and setting up camera traps.
The course will also include a day at the Madras Crocodile Bank, founded by Whitaker, where participants will learn about captive management, feed preparation and enclosure management. “Here, they will get to work closely with animals in captivity, clean their enclosures, weigh them, feed them and understand their behaviour,” says Soham Mukherjee, who will be conducting the workshop along with Whitaker. Mukherjee has in the past worked as a wildlife rehabilitator in Ahmedabad and as an assistant curator at the Madras Crocodile Bank.
There will be talks by Whitaker on snakebite management too. “The biggest myth that we are seeking to dispel is that a human being will definitely die if bitten by a snake. If proper first-aid is given then the chance of human death is really low,” says Mukherjee. He adds that the main reason for snakebites is increased human habitation near snake habitats.
During the course of the workshop, participants will also spend some time with the Irula tribe, which used to catch snakes for their skin before the Wildlife Protection Act made this illegal. “We will learn from them, their skills of tracking. Their methods are very traditional, yet very practical, and involve looking for tracks, shed skin and other such signs,” says Mukherjee, adding that the Irula Snake Catchers Industrial Cooperative Society that was formed with Whitaker’s active involvement uses these very skills to catch snakes and milk them for the venom that is supplied to anti-venom manufacturers.
For details on the course that will be conducted from 12-15 August, contact soham@gerrymartin.in
pavitra.j@livemint.com
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First Published: Mon, Aug 01 2011. 08 39 PM IST