For the first time in India, Kerala plans on bringing in a designation that was long due. Kerala has a long-drawn history of snake handlers, where people specialised in the area would be called to catch snakes when they enter a private space. The Kerala Forest Department plans to certify snake handlers who would then go on to have a licence to catch snakes.
Recently, the death of a young snake handler triggered the decision by the Kerala Forest Department. It is alleged that these people use traditional techniques to catch snakes which not only endangers their lives but also the people around them, causing major havoc and stress.
People who wish to be designated as snake handlers would soon have to undergo training under the department. In fact, people between the age of 21 and 65 who consider themselves as snake handlers will have to seek certification in order to practice. The Forest Department has framed specific guidelines to catch snakes that enter a human-inhabited place and release them in their own environment. Beat Forest Officers will also be part of the training session as they have already studied safe handling of snakes under the guidance of the State Forest Training Institutes.
The selection of candidates will entirely be dependent on various factors such as age, previous catch records, and physical and mental health. Upon completion, they would be given a license to catch snakes. The department has the right to withdraw or cancel a certificate in case the snake handler is found following unethical practices. That said, the certificate will be valid for 5 years, and can be renewed.
The Assistant Conservators of Forest (ACF, Social Forestry) has been assigned to prepare a list of snake handlers in each district for accountability purposes. Some of the essential protocols that snake handlers need to perform are:
- Immediately respond to alerts.
- Inform the person who has altered with necessary precautions that need to be taken.
- Inform The Assistant Conservators of Forest (ACF, Social Forestry) about the alert and what all has been communicated.
- The snake handler to wear protective gear while they handle the snake(s).
This is yet another smart move by Kerala, and much of the credit goes to The Kerala Forest Department who has institutilised the process for snake handlers.