Yamal Bhandari,41, of Chitwan, a professional businessman with a beautiful heart of a social worker. He was a job holder in a private company. No one used to know him, only his colleagues. Slowly he started to engage in social works and people started knowing him. And now many in Chitwan know him as a snake rescuer (sarpa ko sathi) in Chitwan and some other neighboring districts.
This interview is written and compiled by his daughter Khusbu Bhandari.
How did you start your journey with snakes?
At the age of 34, 2014 April, 8 when I was having launch I heard the noise outside the house, I went out to look for the reason behind that noise. People were gathered in a neighbor’s house where there was a python snake in the hay pile. I went up through the stairs with some others to translocate the snake. During the search, we were removing hay, and suddenly the python came out and I grabbed some straw. My eyes were closed and the python’s head was in my hand. People started shouting when I slowly opened my eyes I was shocked. This is how I started my journey with the snake. My first experience of catching a snake was so interesting. The python was of 28 kg and I handed that snake to the forest officer.
After that, I started to search for information about snakes on the internet. I watched some snake rescuing videos on youtube and TV. After having some knowledge I started using a wooden stick to rescue snakes. I was somehow able to recognize if they are highly venomous/poisonous or not by the physical structure of the snakes.
I have rescued more than 500 snakes till the date. During the lockdown, I rescued more than 50 snakes from the vicinity of Chitwan. Most of them were Common Rat Snakes, Trinket Snakes, and Wolf Snakes, Common Krait, and Pythons.
Are your family members supportive?
Rescuing snakes is not an easy job, it is a high-risk responsibility. My family members were not there to support me in the beginning. But then slowly they started supporting me after understanding snakes and my duty. And I very happy with that support.
Khusbu notes, “He is a very kind-hearted person according to his behavior. He is always there to move first in any kind of social work. He believes in ” changing his own behavior before changing others.” I like to share everything that I know to the people around me.
Everyone can learn new things every day. Even a just born child can teach us new things.
Do you charge to rescue snakes?
No, I do not charge to rescue snakes. Neither, I ask for any funds with others. I am there to rescue snakes on my own money. Sometimes people are there to help financially but I refuse to take. Once a lady kept a thousand rupees note in my hand and asked not to say no. I took that money and bought 3 kgs of apples and handed it to the orphanage.
Are you happy?
I am so happy with all the support I get from the people around me. But I am scared sometimes, the only source of happiness in my family is me. And I don’t have any official or legal paper which says that I am a snake rescuer and I rescue snakes. I do not feel so confident when I remember my family in the future if I ever get a bite. I am afraid of what will happen. All I want is support from the government/public side also. In this lockdown when I tried to go Gaindakot to rescue the snake I was stopped and asked a lot of questions. Even I already mentioned to them that I am going there to rescue the snake. They didn’t believe me and answering a lot of questions, maybe after 5 to 10 minutes, they let me go. That time I felt if I had a certificate or something that proves that I rescue snakes that would have been good for me.
Who helped you to get closer to snakes?
I am not a professional snake rescuer but everything is happening by doing. It’s been 6 years since I have rescued snakes. During this time, a lot of species of snakes were found I was unknown about. Sunil Sapkota, another snake rescuer from Chitwan, helped me with the identification of snakes, handy tricks, and tools for rescue. Sunil suggests I should comply with safety measures while rescuing. He provided me with a tong to rescue snakes. Similarly, Dr. Deb P. Pandey also helped me a lot with his knowledge.
What for snakes?
I appeal, not to kill snakes. I am always there to explain the importance of snakes wherever I go. I am always there to release the rescued snakes in a safe place.
How many species of snakes have you rescued?
Around 13 species of snakes are rescued to date. Most of them were less harmful species such as Common Rat Snake, Trinket Snake, Wolf Snake, Python, and Paradise Tree Snake,. I have rescued highly venomous species of snakes such as Banded Krait, Common Krait, Cobra, Green Pit Viper.
Have you ever got bitten by a snake?
No, not till the date. I have no experience of getting a bite but have helped two snakebite victims to reach the hospital.
What would you say to the public about snake based on your experience?
Like other animals in the world snake can also be good friends of humans. Snake doesn’t bite if they are not teased or irritated. They are very important creatures in the world/ecosystem. They play a vital role in our healthy and happy life.
At first, we have to recognize the snake then only another step should be taken. Everyone should not try to handle snakes without knowledge.
Written By: Khushbu Bhandari