RV Matters - 2 July 2018

Over the last week, I came across three dead snakes during my morning walks to the mouth of the Valley. Of these two were young Russell’s Vipers and one a Russell’s Viper look-alike – the Common or Rough-scaled Sand Boa. While the former is a venomous snake, the latter is a harmless snake.

There is a widespread fear and belief amongst many people that all snakes are harmful and should be killed without any hesitation. I have been regularly seeing many snakes killed and thrown on this road over the years by people.

We are trying to educate the local people about the importance of snakes in the ecosystem and also dispel their belief that all snakes are inherently harmful. A small illustrated booklet in Telugu/English is getting ready for release towards the month-end. It has been put together painstakingly by Suresh Jones and due to several reasons, it took us three years to bring it out. We hope with this publication, we could make a beginning in getting people to understand the snakes and hopefully will result in their survival. We may even follow-up this with a workshop and get an expert to talk to the villagers and demonstrate how to remove snakes without harming them from their houses.

Yesterday’s birding to the Biodiveristy Park was interesting and we could record several species of cuckoos – the Asian Koel, the Common Hawk-Cuckoo, the Pied Cuckoo (a migrant from southern Africa that rides the monsoon winds to migrate to India to breed), the Grey-bellied Cuckoo, the Greater Coucal and the Sirkeer Malkoha were all there. Earlier this summer, I had recorded the Indian Cuckoo whose distinct call-notes sound like “Crossword puzzle” or “boko-tako” for the first time in the campus. The calls were heard for just 2-3 days.

The flocks of butterflies have moved on. We saw our first velvet bugs for the season as well as the seven-spotted cockroach yesterday. With the monsoon active, we could expect to see several other monsoon creatures over the next few weeks.

Dr Santharam