Our natural reaction on spotting a snake is to recoil with fear and run as far away as possible from the creature we assume is full of deadly poison.
Vava Suresh, a 40-year old wildlife conservationist, on the other hand absolutely loves snakes and not only enjoys their company but embraces them as a friend. He has no problem hanging some of the largest snakes on the planet around his neck like an ornament or even holding the King Cobra like a child.
His unique talent with snakes has earned him a name as “snake man” and people from all over the State of Kerala summon his expertise when they want a snake safely removed from their homes.
In fact, the name “snake whisperer” would be best suited to describe Suresh as he has already rescued over 30,000 snakes in his lifetime. His life’s mission is to love and guard even the most venomous of these slithery creatures.
Born into a poor family in the city of Thiruvananthapuram, Suresh has a completely different perspective of snake than us normal, ordinary folks. He sees them as gentle, loving creatures who should be handled with kindness and protected from human aggression.
“I actually do not know how I fell in love with them. As a child, I had seen people brutally killing snakes. That instilled sympathy for the creature in my mind. At the same time, idols of serpents in temples made me feel that they have some divinity and should be protected.”
Suresh was only 12 years old when he rescued his first live snake – a baby cobra – which he hid in his house and carefully studied its behaviour. He began to slowly understand how to handle different varieties of snakes without injuring them or himself. His rescue list to date includes:
- 12 King cobras,
- 7,000 Indian cobras
- roughly 1,700 vipers and
- 150 kraits
There are no special tools or instruments involved, Suresh manages to handle these snakes with his bare hands.
Every time there is a snake sighting, people call Suresh for help. In fact, even the local police and fire department has used his services to rescue these snakes without causing them any harm. He gets around 15 calls a day from people seeking his services.
“Many of them get my phone number from police stations or from fire force units. Some local dailies also publish my mobile number for the people to contact me easily,” he said.
Rescuing snakes from urban areas and releasing them into the wild is not the only mission for Suresh. He also preserves snake eggs until they are hatched and works hard to create awareness among people about snakes and their behaviour.
Easy as it may sound, Suresh’s job is undoubtedly a risky one. One of his fingers was surgically removed after a cobra bite and the skin on his right palm needed to be grafted after another snake bite. He estimates to have survived over 266 venomous snake bites that his body has now developed adequate antibodies against snake venom.
Selected for his service to the society for many years, Suresh was declared the winner of “Vocational Service Award 2011” by the Rotary Club’s Thiruvananthapuram division. Prince Charles, during his visit to Kerala expressed his desire to meet Suresh and a 30 minute meeting was arranged for this man who charmed a prince.
The royal guest wanted to know which was the most dangerous snake he had caught and Suresh told him it was the King Cobra.
His talent with snakes gained him both a national and international reputation and a program called “Snake Master” is aired on Kaumudy TV Channel every Thursday and Friday.