Nationwide initiative to create awareness about threatened python species

Mumbai, Jan 16 (IANS) When “Kaa” the hypnotic, yellowish Indian Rock Python hisses and casts a spell on Mowgli in “The Jungle Book”, it’s a hair-raising experience for the audience. In real life though, the python faces a serious existential threat, but a nationwide initiative called “Living with Pythons” by Goa-based herpetologist and wildlife photographer Nirmal Kulkarni could change things significantly.

Kulkarni is embarked on creating awareness about and instilling appreciation for India’s three main python species — the Indian Rock Python (Python molurus), Burmese Python (Python bivittatus) and Reticulated Python (Malayopython reticulatus).

“Together, these snakes represent some of the largest snake species of the world. While the Reticulated Python is now acknowledged as one of the largest snakes in the world, the Burmese Python is a near-threatened species in its range in Burma (Myanmar). Illegal skin trade and habitat loss have taken a heavy toll and one ray of hope is the forests of Northeastern India where a few populations survive,” Kulkarni said in a statement.

Kulkarni says the Indian Rock Python, the species found in Goa and across the Indian mainland commonly, has been now accepted as threatened due to human-reptile conflict and habitat loss.

Kulkarni’s initiative seeks to promote “acceptance, awareness and understanding about these python species through conservation outreach and field-based herpetology techniques”.

It aims to achieve these objectives through on-field discussions, engagements with communities, youth and Forest Department personnel.

“This project will also contribute to creating awareness on the issue of human-snake conflicts that are key to python survival in human dominated rural and urban landscapes,” he says.

As part of the effort, Kulkarni says a specific target group of reptile enthusiasts and amateur snake handlers and rescuers in the states of Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra will be sensitised on these ecologically important species.

A common protocol for python rescue and release is also being offered to reduce the reptile-human conflict.

The initiative proposes to address a need for a common protocol for Python rescue and release, as it will help minimise and address issues relating to reptile-human conflict and “provide vital answers to this growing challenge, especially in urban India”.