Maharashtra Youth Kisses Cobra, Gets Bitten And Dies

According to police, the youth succumbed to the bite on February 2 in a civic hospital, three days after being admitted there.

Animal activists urged forest officials to issue safety guidelines and rules on snake rescues following the death of Somnath Mhatre (21), who was bitten by a cobra while attempting to kiss it.

It is very unfortunate that a young life has ended so abruptly. His Facebook profile has several pictures of him playing with snakes and even kissing a cobra. Such stunts must be strictly banned, which is why we have urged the Thane circle of the forest department to issue guidelines,” said Pawan Sharma of Resqink Association of Wildlife Welfare (RAWW).Kharghar snake rescuer, Raghunath Jadhav, of Snake Awareness Association, said, “A few years ago, forest officials used to issue ID cards for snake-catchers but it was stopped when cases of illegal wildlife activities connected to reptiles were reported. Snake rescuers, especially youngsters, must not do stunts or show off while handling snakes, as it can be fatal.”

Jadhav added that in the last five months, there were two other deaths of young snake rescuers in Panvel and Kalyan.Another Belapur activist said, “Many youngsters try stunts with venomous snakes, like cobras and Russell’s vipers and upload photos on social networking sites to become ‘popular’. It will be ideal if wildlife rules and regulations are clearly spelled out to stop deadly stunts.”A forest official from Mumbai circle said, “Generally, we refer to Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, regarding protection and rescue of wild animals, which includes scheduled reptiles such as snakes. But if there is a growing, dangerous trend of performing stunts with snakes, rules can be formulated.”

Sharma added, “We are in talks with Thane circle forest officials to draft standard operating procedures for snake rescuers, and send formal notices to anyone doing stunts and uploading photos online. We have been told that snake-related rules will be finalised in few months. Let us hope for the best.”

Activist Sunish Subramanian of Plant and Animals Welfare Society (PAWS-Mumbai) said, “Reflexes of snakes, venomous or not, are faster than those of humans. So those who try to kiss snakes to upload photos are literally playing with death. A cobra, especially, with its hood up, is trying to warn approaching persons to beware, and that it will strike if you come too close. So, it is foolhardy to kiss it or play around.”

Herpetologist Kedar Bhide said 30 snake-rescuers have died in 12 years.

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