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Decode

The Not-So-Secret Lives Of Viral Myth-Busting Snake Rescuers

In the heartlands of India, a group of unsung heroes is rewriting the narrative around one of the most misunderstood creatures in the ecosystem – snakes. The legal challenges imposed by the forest department do not deter them.

By - Asad Ashraf | 29 Nov 2023 11:00 AM GMT

When thirty two-year-old Akash Kumar, also known as Murli Wale Hausle, a renowned snake rescuer from Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh, rescued snakes into forests in eastern Uttar Pradesh, a camera followed him. The act was filmed and the footage shared on social media platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.

In the heartlands of India, a group of unsung heroes is rewriting the narrative around one of the most misunderstood creatures in the ecosystem – snakes. The legal challenges imposed by the forest department do not deter them from busting myths about snakes and taking over the Internet, simultaneously.

The rise of viral content on the internet is no longer confined to entertainment or trivial moments. In recent times, snake savers and animal rescuers have harnessed this online potential, using platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook to broadcast their missions. What began as a documentation of their snake rescues soon transformed into a powerful advocacy tool for preserving the delicate balance of our ecosystems. Social media platforms are teeming with videos of these rescuers in action, passionately advocating for the preservation of snakes. The central message is clear: refrain from harming snakes when encountered, and instead, reach out to dedicated rescuers for assistance.

The rescues that were released into the forests by Kumar were Indian Rock Python and Indian Spectacled Cobra.

The Indian Rock Python, an ambush hunter, shares its habitat with other large pythons and prefers larger prey. On the other hand, the Spectacled Cobra, highly venomous and widely distributed across India, plays a critical role in the ecosystem.

Distinguished by a unique spectacled mark on its hood, this cobra species is found in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal and is highly venomous.

"There is nothing more satisfying for me than releasing these snakes into their natural habitat. If they had not been rescued, these innocent creatures might have faced harm or even death," said Murli Wale Hause.

He has 8.89 million subscribers on YouTube, Among his 2.5 million viewers of this video and the thousands of comments, well-wishers expressed their concerns for the rescuer's safety and congratulated him for the commendable work he was doing to preserve ecological balance and protect innocent snakes.


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A viewer commented, "Truth over falsehood, virtue over injustice, and the triumph of light over darkness—heartfelt greetings and best wishes on the grand festival of Diwali….”

In their videos documenting rescue operations, the snake savers meticulously include details about the rescued serpents. This comprehensive approach extends to specifying the snake's species, providing insights into whether they are venomous or not. The rescuers not only aim to showcase their commitment to wildlife preservation but also to educate the audience about the diverse snake species encountered during their operations. Another common theme is the message that in case a snake bites someone, one should immediately rush to a hospital and never believe in quacks.

Miles away from Jaunpur, 52-year-old Mobarak Ansari, a resident of Dhanbad in Jharkhand, proudly identifies himself as Mobarak Snake Saver. Similar to Murli Wale Hausle, Mobarak emphasises the crucial need to dispel misinformation about snakes and prevent their unnecessary killings. Mobarak has been dedicated to this work since the age of five when he was still a school student.

Reflecting on his journey as a snake saver, Mobarak said he was fond of catching lizards and scorpions as a child. “In fifth grade, I caught a snake, which earned me a reputation for not being afraid of snakes. However, I later realised the importance of snakes in the ecosystem and the need to preserve them. Since then, my mission has been to save snakes and allow them to coexist peacefully with nature."

He later completed training on saving snakes at Calcutta Snake Park Zoological Garden Conservation Center And Laboratory Park.

Talking about the need to record the actions and put them on social media, he reflects that it is both his desire for money and to debunk myths and fake information about snakes in India.

"I launched my YouTube and other social media channels 2 years ago, and they now boast a following of 2.17 million people. The main objective was to educate people about snakes and the various types found in India, promoting a scientific understanding when dealing with these creatures. There is a prevalent myth that all snakes are poisonous, and a snakebite inevitably leads to human death. The fact is that more than 95 percent of snakes found in India are not venomous,” he said.


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In nearly all of his videos, Mobarak consistently advises people that if someone is bitten by a snake, they should promptly go to the district hospital for anti-venom injections instead of seeking assistance from quacks.

"Sometimes, it is observed that when someone is bitten by a snake, villagers may take the person to a quack, and, by chance, the individual survives. However, it's crucial to understand that the person survives not because of any rituals performed by the quacks but rather because the snake that bit them was non-venomous. People should immediately rush to the district hospital, which is mandated by law to have anti-venom available," he explained.

Mobarak proudly acknowledges being respected for his efforts on a spiritual level as well, particularly by Hindus, many of whom consider snakes to be sacred.

However, behind the social media fame and monetary gains of the videos, the lives of these snake savers are not a smooth ride, and they encounter several difficulties ranging from threats to their own lives to actions by the forest department. Many of these snake rescuers have been bitten and the forest department often warn them of potential legal action.

Twenty-year-old Shyam Govindsar from Govindsar in Rajasthan says that he drew inspiration from his father, who was a cow lover. Similar to Mobarak and Murliwale Hausle, Shyam has 417 thousand followers on Instagram and another 41.3k subscribers on YouTube.

Speaking about his social media journey, Shyam said, "Posting videos on social media is a part of our work, not the main work. We started doing this only in the last two years; before that, we did not share videos of the rescue operations on social media. For me, social media helps reach more snakes in need. I have my phone numbers on social media, and people contact me when they come across a snake that needs to be rescued."

However, his social media popularity also drew the ire of the forest department which halted his work briefly.

The forest department noticed him on social media and asked him to cease the work or face legal action. “I had to stop because of that. However, when people would call me, I would pass on the number of the forest department officials to them. Unfortunately, the department failed miserably in rescuing these innocent creatures in the region. This eventually led them to grant permission for me to continue my work, and recently, they also felicitated me for my efforts," he informed.

Despite being bitten by snakes, Shayam and people like Murliwale are determined to continue their work and create awareness about snakes through social media platforms.

However, legally as per the Forest Act 1972, there is nothing called rescuing a snake and even touching a snake can be categorised as hunting and could award a punishment. Snakes can’t be rescued or handled by anyone except under the authorization of the Chief Wildlife Warden.

A forest department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Decode that the Forest Act, which is meant to protect endangered species, is actually becoming a hurdle in rescuing them and needs revision.

"Legally, no one can rescue a snake except the forest department," the official said. "But the department does not have the capacity to take all the calls for rescue. Hence, these private rescuers and NGOs become handy in completing the task. So, despite it being illegal, the forest department generally does not stop them from doing this unless it comes to our notice that it is being done for a commercial purpose."

Mobarak says that snake rescuers should be given special permission to rescue snakes, as forest departments do not have the capacity to rescue them on their own. He also suggests that private snake rescuers should be employed by the Forest Department on a per-call basis.

Interestingly, the world of online snake rescue is not dominated by men. Women are also actively engaged in this work and proudly post videos of their courage on social media.

Pooja Bangar from Gujarat, like other men in this field, not only rescues snakes but also posts videos of her rescues on social media with the same message: killing snakes disturbs the ecological balance, and the creatures need to be saved for a healthy ecosystem.

Explaining the importance of snakes in the ecosystem, Mobarak says, "Climate change is forcing snakes out of their natural habitats and into human settlements, where they are often killed. Killing snakes can have a devastating impact on crops, as rats and other pests multiply in their absence. This disrupts the entire ecological balance. Therefore, it is important for us to not only rescue snakes but also to use social media platforms to raise awareness about the need to save them in order to preserve ecological balance."