“I am disappointed in your response!””
“I am disappointed in myself, as well.”
Any guesses who I was carrying on this conversation with? My therapist? Not at all! My accountant? Not even close.
It was with Mr. Sadiq Ali, well known wildlife rescue expert here in the Nigiris. He was paying us a visit in order to rescue from my ignorance and fear, an inhabitant which had been living in the boundary walls of my garden for who knows how many years now – a rat snake.
Mr. Ali did his best to convince me that this species of snake was perfectly harmless and that it would in fact keep my extensive grounds free of rats. But to no avail – fear that my anxiety-ridden German Shepherd would not understand the social niceties of sharing home with other creatures underlined with a far more primal fear of snakes won out in the end. But after he bagged the snake and left, I collapsed on the lawn chair and howled tears of misery.
Misery at having driven away of God’s creatures out of its home, misery at not being braver and misery about fervently believing in human-animal coexistence but not being to practice it personally.
Data collected by the government of India showed that between 2013 and 2017 more than 1,608 humans were killed in human wildlife conflict cases involving tigers, leopards, bears and elephants. With human habitations, agricultural fields and construction projects like highways pushing deeper into forests, such rising conflict does not come as a surprise but augur very poor quality of life in the future. Loss of wildlife habitat means loss of forests, trees, rich soil, mountain streams, natural lakes, medicinal plants and many more types of natural resources, all of which are essential for avoiding extreme weather, pollution besides giving much required recreational space to humans living.
Some ways to reduce them are installing physical barriers between wild animals and people and having in place early warning systems, says Dr Dipankar Ghose, director for species and landscapes at WWF India. But eventually nothing will work unless human attitudes to these animals are improved, the need for saving their habitat is understood and affirmed.
Which brings this back to my decision to have the snake taken away. Being told that, late that evening it had been released in a forest, brought me some comfort but I was happier to see this photo, of his daughter handling the snake without fear and hate.
So the solution lies in teaching humans to change their attitudes and what better place than to start with the young. At 42, I am too jaded to let go of my fears but at least I have not given into to murderous hate. Young adults can be taught to go one step ahead – to be more aware, better informed and practice true compassion towards all of earth’s creatures.