Saturday, March 21, 2015 - 05:30
"Generations have passed on granny stories about snakes. These stories that in many ways demonise snakes are hard to forget, and it is because of the fear created by these myths that people kill snakes. I am sure it will change," says Vava Suresh, a snake catcher who has caught almost 38,000 snakes till now. Forty-year-old Vava Suresh from Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala first caught a snake when he was only twelve. That too a cobra! “I was walking to my school when I saw a snake. My instinct was to catch it and put it away from the road. I never thought that would become my profession,” Suresh says. For the last twenty-eight years, Suresh has been catching snakes, and for fifteen years he has been doing it as a profession. His services have become so popular that he even has an android app called 'King Cobra'. "More than 28000 people have downloaded the app and if anyone spots a snake, they can alert me with or without an image," he said. Suresh gets distress calls almost everyday and as a practice he keeps the snakes at home, releases them once in two weeks. "My services are now being provided to 7 districts in Kerala and some districts of Tamil Nadu. I go with Forest department officials to release the snakes into the wild, but I like to ensure that the snakes are left only in such areas in which they will have enough food and water for to survive." Suresh proudly says that he has caught more than 38,000 snakes and has received 3,000 odd bites. "My focus now is not catching snakes, but it to make people aware about snakes. I have conducted numerous awareness classes, and I target the young." Suresh says the myths around snakes are far too many and the first instinct for many people is to kill a snake as soon as they spot them. "There are too many myths, people don't know much about snakes. It is tough to change how the old generation thinks, so I focus on school children and I tell them that snakes will not come and attack people," he says.   "Many households in Kerala keep garlic outside their house to chase away snakes, this is based on a myth. Why waste garlic that is so costly to buy? I have conducted more than 1,500 awareness classes. In many classes I drink venom. There is an old school of thought in Kerala that if a snake is spotted in a pond or well, the water has to be drained out, as the snake's poison would have contaminated the water. I drink the venom to tell them that snake's venom is different from poison." Suresh believes his awareness classes are bringing about a change, at least slowly. "Once when I went to a school, a student came to me and said that his father was about to kill a snake when he remembered my programme on TV and dissuaded his father. I believe our attitudes towards snakes is changing, I am sure it will change further."  

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