Bhubaneswar: Playing with poisonous cobras and vipers, comes as natural as breathing to forty one year old Subhendhu Mallick the Bhubaneswar based snake catcher.
The famous snake-man of Odisha and a prominent wildlife activist came to this profession accidentally. He was once bit by a snake in December 2002, and was on the verge of losing one of his fingers of the right hand.
Adamant to get over it, he decided to take up this profession and started his voyage in the snake world. Over the years, he set up a Snake Helpline and is presently its Secretary. He has been handling snakes for the last 15-16 years now.
In 2006, he had the audacity to kiss a cobra and hit the headlines in the national media.”It is easier to kiss a cobra than a girl” was his catch line.
“It is very dangerous to do so. I did it just to break the myths generated by some people that they can charm snakes and make them do whatever they want to do. I was young at that time and undertook this act, but I would advise the youngsters against it,” informed the snake charmer.
Subhendhu has been bitten by poisonous snakes 11 times and has been hospitalised in ICU five times. But these accidents do not deter him from his mission.
“There are many myths regarding the snakes and snake bites. I have been spreading awareness regarding snake bites through various awareness programmes and lectures. Snakes are the most misunderstood animals in the world. Almost 50 percent of snake bites are dry bites, not dangerous, but people rush to traditional healers and blindly think that they have super powers to treat them from snake-bite. Even educated persons fall in their trap,” lamented Subhendhu.
Being the secretary of the Snake Helpline, he and his team has been training forest officials to expertise in this field.
He holds the record of discovering a new species of snake called ‘Lycodon Odissi’. Besides, he rescues snakes from urban areas, treats the injured ones and releases them into the wild. He had once stepped down in a 45-feet deep dry well to rescue a cobra which was a very satisfying moment for him. He has also caught snakes from Vidhan Sabha.
“I am mostly involved in research work now. There are cases when I come across snakes who have gulped down fairness cream tube, or a tie, and many such extra-ordinary cases which I try to resolve through my expertise. Once, we saved and treated a python that was considered to be dead by the Khorda forest officials” he revealed.
Being in this profession had its own drawbacks, in the form of snakebites, but the society has benefitted from Subhendu. Presently the Honorary Wildlife Warden of Khurda district, Subhendu said,”This profession has brought name and fame to me. I have received several achievements and rewards. Now it is my turn to return back to the society.”
He has given lectures at AIIMS campus and Apollo Hospital, Bhubaneswar to the students as well as the faculty members regarding snakes and snake bites.
“I have taken up various awareness programmes, given lectures and training programs to forest staff, fire department staff and even the police, railway authorities,etc. I give training to newly inducted doctors of government hospitals on snake bites,” revealed the snake-man.
When asked about the course of action in case of snake-bites, Subhendu replied, “A snake-bit person has to be consoled first and given first aid, without creating much hue and cry about it. The bangles, rings or any other sort of jewellery should be taken out and that person and a cloth should be wrapped around not too tightly. No sucking of blood or blades should be used. Then he should be rushed to the nearby hospital for treatment.”
Snake-man Subhendu loves snakes and is nowadays mostly engaged in rescuing and rehabilitation of these ‘most misunderstood animals’.