Unlike those who recoil from the sight of venomous snakes, Rohit Giri thinks these increasingly endangered cold-blooded reptiles need to be protected.
At an age when his friends would either run away from snakes or try to kill them with sticks, Giri was fascinated by these creatures that used to slither around in the fields near his home in Pokhara.
He thinks his obsession with snakes started with watching National Geographic documentaries endlessly on cable tv. Once a snake was spotted in a neighbour’s garden and there was panic in the locality, but the 14-year-old calmly hooked the snake with the end of a stick took hold of the squirming reptile and released it into nearby bushes.
It was a green pit viper, and the young boy’s courage became the talk of the neighbourhood. For Giri, it was the beginning of a strong bond with the animals that have religious and cultural importance in Nepal. Since then he has been summoned to rescue more than 700 snakes.
“At that moment, I was thrilled to be holding this amazing creature,” recalls Giri, who is now 22, and like the shy creatures he handles, hides behind his hoodie almost like he is trying to stay undercover. “The best part was, he was not afraid of me either. He was just curious.”
Residents of Kaski and surrounding districts call him up several times a day when there is a snake in the vicinity that needs to be removed and rescued. Sub-tropical Pokhara Valley with its many hollows and boulders is an ideal habitat for snakes. Rohit is among a handful of snake rescuers in the country, and always has a snake hook and bag ready