On World Snake Day, a tale of an unlikely rescue in India

Young trinket snakes at the IFAW Bear Rescue Center in Pakke, Arunachal Pradesh awaiting release into the wild.Today, World Snake Day, we look at a rescue unlike any other case that we had attended to. Our International Fund for Animal Welfare – Wildlife Trust of India (IFAW-WTI) veterinarian Dr. Jahan Ahmed based at the Bear Rescue Center in Pakke, Arunachal Pradesh, played mid-wife and facilitated the birth of five beautiful copper-headed trinket snakes (Coelognathus radiatus). The following is an update from Dr. Ahmed. -- SS

How does one ‘rescue’ something that has not even been born?

Seems like we just did!

Every year we attend to hundreds of calls to save birds, mammals and reptiles in human areas. This was the first time we were called to save eggs!

There were 16 of them, glued together in a mass that formed their nest. Off-whitish, oblong, slightly smaller than a ping-pong ball, like hard-plastic, these eggs were found underneath a person’s bed in Jamaguri.

The house owner, Biju Agarwal, said that his family had chased away a snake from their mud and bamboo hut. Only later he found the eggs and informed a local NGO worker – Raju Jain, who in turn informed me. It was May 12th.

We took the eggs back to our Center to see if we could save them.

It was a wholly new experience.  

On examination, I found that eight of the eggs were damaged. The remaining ones, consulting our team, I placed in a make-shift nest for incubation. The eggs were placed with soil, twigs, leaves and grasses in a container with holes for ventilation, and were kept in a dark room. 

This included placing the eggs amidst leaves and straw in a jar, and leaving them to their fate. One more was found to be damaged a few days later. 

There was nothing much to do but just hope and wait for the eggs to hatch.

Also on IFAW.org: Dr. Ahmed’s rescue of a wounded elephant in Pakke Tiger Reserve in India

A month and a half later on June 30th, we found five thin snakes, each about a foot-long, stretching out into the world.

Dr. Ahmed’s make-shift nest of soil, twigs, leaves and grasses incubated five, foot-long trinket snakes.

“Grayish-brown, fawn or yellowish-brown back with four black stripes on the forebody...Head copper brown with black line across nape and three black streaks from below and behind eye” just as said by Romulus Whitaker and Ashok Captain in their book – Snakes of India, The Field Guide.

These are common non-venomous snakes found along the Himalayas and parts of central and eastern India.

We released them a few days ago near Nameri National Park next to the Nameri river, an area with plenty of snake food including rats, frogs, lizards and small birds.

A trinket snake discovers its new home near Nameri National Park, India.

Snakes are supposed to have a low survival rate in the wild. We cannot be sure if these will make it to adulthood, but can only satisfy ourselves that they have an opportunity to try out their luck in the game of survival.

--JA

Visit our Animal Rescue page to learn more about IFAW’s rehabilitation and rescue projects.

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