Mumbai: 11-foot python appears hours before half marathon in BKC

Oct 03, 2018, 10:26 IST | Hemal Ashar

Mass hiss-teria avoided as snake catcher traps 11-foot python hours before premier long distance running event with thousands of participants

Mumbai: 11-foot python appears hours before half marathon in BKC
Sidesh Pawar, Nayan S Girase and Atul Kamble

Just a few hours prior to a very popular half-marathon (21 km) race at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC) on Sunday, (September 30) morning, there was a telephone call from the BKC police to Manav Abhyas Sangh, an animal rescue organization which its headquarters in Chembur.

Atul Arshu Kamble, snake catcher, who prefers to be known by the moniker 'Sarpa Mitra' (friend of snakes) recalled, "It was 1.30 am (Sunday morning) when the police called. They know us as a credible, reputed animal rescue centre. I was informed that a snake has been spotted on a road in BKC. Apparently, a police platoon had spotted a snake against a road divider." The snake was 200m or less from the start line of the long distance running event, which saw nearly 17,000 runners in three different distance categories.

Python
The Indian rock python caught at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC)

Rock python

Kamble (29) left for the spot along with a volunteer called Nikhil Ghate. "We were carrying a snake rescue kit along with us. We caught the snake first putting a bag over its mouth. Then, it coiled and we caught it in the bag, tied up the bag and lifted it."

The catchers then took it to the BKC police station. Atul said, "The Indian rock python was 11 foot long. We weighed it, it was 13 kilos. It is easy to spot that big a snake and that is why the police was quick to see it. According to procedure, the cops had to make a diary entry and this species of snake comes under 'Schedule I' which means it is classified as lower risk or near threatened." This means it may become threatened with extinction. Kamble added, "We took it to the BKC police station where there was a diary entry that a snake was caught after which, we had to take the creature to the Mumbai Forest Dept (Thane) where it was released in the jungle."

Atul Kamble
Atul Kamble with the snake at BKC police station

Warning Bells

For Sunil Kadam, director Manav Abhyas Sangh, rescuing snakes and other animals for 26 years now, "the warning bells are pealing for Mumbai, I do not want to sound alarmist but we are witnessing in Mumbai what we see on television channels, Man Vs Wild. We have rescued an increasing number of snakes from the BKC area of late. Significant Metro work at Dharavi (T junction) and the BKC corridor means there is a lot of vibration by machines underground. Snakes emerge as they are scared, their habitat is eroded. We also see monkeys in residential colonies. Just a day ago, there was a peahen in a Chembur residential nook. These sightings, thrilling for some, especially selfie-seekers, do not augur well for the future," said the chief. 

Great strength 

Kadam stated specifically about the Indian rock python, "This is the biggest non-venomous Indian snake. It can grow upto a size of 18 feet long. We have been fortunate to spot and catch it before a crush of people descended on the area. The snake is non-venomous, but a layperson will not know that. It is also intimidating because of its size. It can coil itself around a person extremely quickly and it has tremendous strength, it may not coil just on your leg but around the entire body. It can choke a person because of sheer power. Do not discount that one can get a panic attack or a heart attack at the sight of a snake." Kadam added that volunteers from his organization, "have been present at certain venues where mammoth crowds are expected at BKC, on the orders of the top cops. There are so many events being held there, it is a go-to venue for exhibitions to meets and speeches," finished Kadam, adding, "it is vital we strive to strike a balance between development and nature."

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