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Indian Spectacled Cobra – Eco-Friendly India

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I want to highlight a part of Indian society that often goes unseen. And to change the stereotypical image that India, and Indians, do not care about the environment.

As with all nations, there are people who care deeply about humankind’s impact on this planet. Yes, the gap between rich and poor is extreme. Yes, there are battles for and against ‘developing the landscape’ for the benefit of people/ politicians/business/etc. (Choose the most appropriate to your political, humanistic, faith based preferences).

In my four years (plus)time in this nation I have met many individuals who care deeply, and also acting to change attitudes and behaviours, to the environment and wildlife.

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Cobras. Not your ‘cuddly’ or iconic emblem drives sympathy toward such causes. Not immediately as attractive as your tiger or elephant. They make people nervous, to the point of outright phobia. Humans have an almost primeval, Pavlovian, reaction of distrust and consequent ‘flight, fight or freeze’.

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None more so than the general population who come into contact with these creatures on a regular basis. Rural, India farmers. Their work invites close contact. Coming across snakes is an everyday occurrence as they tend fields, walk overgrown paths. This meeting is often unexpected – for both reptile and human. As we bipeds encroach further onto their territory, these interactions become more common.

Traditionally, fear lent itself to an immediate reaction of killing the creature. Whilst still common, a growing awareness and education has allowed a particular expertise to develop. The ‘Snake Rescuer’. Many young Indians are learning not to fear snakes, but to respect them. They learn how to catch, control and transport them in a manner as ‘humanely’ as possible, to be released in areas and habitats that are less populated.

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Yesterday I was lucky enough to have one of my colleagues, Sudeep, be contacted by 2 of his friends. Sudeep, along with a few of my other colleagues, is an expert in Indian environmentalism, and in particular ‘catch and release’ of animals, and in particular snakes. He has been mentoring his 2 friends to follow in his footsteps (scales?). Having caught this beautiful 5-6 foot Indian Spectacled Cobra in a house at a village 2 km from us, they kindly brought to us to enable me to photograph it, and the people engaged with it’s presence.

I found it a profoundly exciting, engaging and emotive experience. The respect with which the cobra was handled. The care taken to manage and transport it. The obvious pleasure in having such a close contact experience with a stunning animal. The care and welfare shown to help others understand why it was important to be respectful, but also the value in sharing this planet with such creatures – all creatures.

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It was a privilege for me to have this close contact with a majestic, spiritual, beast. This was amplified by sharing the experience with those learning to understand their worth on our planet. And further amplified by seeing people like Sudeep and his ‘snake rescuing’ brethren bridging the gap of traditional ignorance and fear through education and information toward respect and tolerance.

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