My first weekend at Madras Crocodile Bank

I have faint memories of going to croc bank, maybe five years ago.

This time, I went for a reason. I was taking a dozen children for an education programme and trail at the croc bank. I thought it would be better than the usual bird watching or tree walk stuff that happens. Let the children also know about reptiles, not just birds and butterflies. Personally, I also wanted to go and know about reptiles. My knowledge is quite limited here.

My 12 students were so inquisitive, shooting a hundred questions to the educators who were doing this programme for me. The kids were also constantly chattering away, taking pictures, and I loved watching them soak in knowledge, being with them, answering some of their questions.

MCBT is the only place in India where anti venom is extracted from four most poisonous snakes found-King Cobra, Spectacled Cobra, Russels Viper and Saw scaled viper. We saw how the venom was extracted by the Irula tribe, the traditional snake catchers. The snake catchers earlier used to kill these snakes in the forest and sell their skin for money.

With the Wildlife Protection Act which was passed in 1972, there was a ban on killing snakes and many of these tribemen were without livelihood. It was then when Romulus Whitaker, took steps to livelihood for this community. Here, you can see the Irula men handling the snake in the most efficient manner and extracting venom. They also spoke about various myths- snakes do not drink milk or eggs (except the egg eating snake, one species). Also, a snake cannot be handled the way it is shown in Rajnikanth movies, where he puts his hand into a mud pot and pulls out a snake. Of course the snake will bite you! 

We saw and learned so much about natural behaviour of crocodiles. The largest captive croc in Asia is here. It is called Jaws 3. I could see its head. It is 17 feet long and weighs about 700 kilos. 

My students also got to see a croc very closely. The educator Sandeep pulled out a small Siamese croc from a bucket where it was creating noise, not wanting to get out. Its jaws were closed for safety reasons. And of course they do not want to be in close vicinity to unknown humans. When you walk close to see him, you walk slowly so that he doesn’t make a noise and get disturbed. We also touched the baby croc. The underneath of the baby croc was so soft, and it is killed for the skin. Sad! Human greed, there is no end to what we poach and why!

Dina, another educator also spent time explaining the jaws of the croc. A volunteer later explained about Indian Rock Python holding the snake in his hands. The Python was calm, unruffled, trusting in him. That is what they say, snakes do not chase you as they show in films. They do not. They are scared of us more than how much we are scared of them.

After the session, we went for a small trail to see pond ecosystems and various insects. There were lots of snails, millipedes, ferns!

My most interesting part of the day began later. After my students went back home I stayed at the croc bank guest house, thanks to Doc, the COO there, and the director! Doc is the best vet in the country and also bestie of my bestie and I was looking to spend time with her! She had a swelling in her hand as a centipede bit her as she was on her bed. 

The evening I lazed around having coffee with Doc in her house and talking about what I want to do next with education. We brainstormed for a good two hours, had dinner and then she said, come along with me. It was 9pm. Pitch dark. I walked about. Doc pulled out her powerful torch and kept at my eye level. I saw thousands of glittering lights in the water. Croc eyes! I don’t think I ever saw something as beautiful as that! IT felt like someone had lit lights on the pond and they were all floating, and some were even moving! I retired to bed in excitement!

That is how it looks! Imagine this in thousands!

The next morning, I went about to see the how Iguana was fed. I had never seen it before and I tagged along with Aranya who feeds them everyday. Iguana are not native species and are found in South America.

Iguanas are the only reptiles in the world which are vegetarian. They eat leaves. I went into the enclosure of Green Iguana. The Iguana was named shy. I walked in and she stared at me, a couple of feet away, tilting her head right and left, and looking who has entered into her house! I was calm, admiring its green colour and long tail. She was huge and Aranya told me that the tail of the Iguana is sharp to cut your hand. Shy slowly climbed up Aranya’s shoulder and started munching the leaves that she tied on the tree branch in the enclosure. I had never been inside an enclosure this close to an animal in the zoo, but there was nothing like fear. If I don’t mean them harm, they wont harm me. I think I trust animals more than humans, and even love them more than humans. I have lost faith in humanity since long. The cute looking Iguana made my day.

Later I also went to the croc enclosure and saw them munching meat and having fun! They are sure happy! 🙂

Doc was sweet to me and all the guys there-Vineet, Sandeep, Dina, Aranya, Dhiraj were so so so nice to me! I just loved being there.

This was my first visit and definitely not the last! When I am down, I probably know where to go!

 

 

 

 

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