Despite awareness drives against the use of live snakes for worship in the festival, snakes were found in Hadapsar, Aundh, Deccan, Khadki and talukas in the neighbourhood.
Members of the Wild Animals and Snake Protection Society (WASPS), who rescued around 60 snakes, said the number of snakes rescued this year was two times the previous year’s figure. Different snakes, including cobras, trinket snakes, rat snakes, checkered keelback and even the green vine snake, were rescued in just a single day from snake charmers and collectors who were displaying the reptiles in public and offering them to people for worshipping for a fee.
WASPS president Santosh Thorat, who has been rescuing snakes for five years, said the rescued snakes had been kept in cramped spaces and were poorly fed, resulting in a few deaths among the reptiles.
“Out of the 60 snakes, seven snakes died as they had been forcibly fed milk and kept in suffocating bags and tiny boxes,” Thorat said. “Most of them were malnourished and hungry as their teeth had been violently torn out.”
Not made for milk
Rescuers said snakes can not digest milk as it is not their natural diet. Milk causes severe dehydration, allergic reactions and dysentery in snakes, at times even causing death.
Though venomous snakes, including the Indian cobra, are protected under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act (1972), these are still captured to perform puja because the mindset of people has not changed even after numerous campaigns.
Arzan Patel, an independent snake rescuer, said the number of rat snakes captured and rescued this year was higher as they come out during the monsoon in search of food.
“The snakes are usually caught from the jungles of Bhimashankar and Moshi two months before the festival,” Patel said. “But rat snakes can be found even in places like Lohegaon, Sinhagad and Katraj in the city. At times releasing these snakes in the areas they are not used to can be difficult as they don’t survive.”
Last week several animal rights groups had called on snake charmers to use replicas of snakes during the festival and spare the reptiles their annual torture.