Friends of Snakes Society attends to around 200 calls every day to rescue snakes that wander into urban spaces.

It was in the late 1980s that Rajkumar Kanuri, a resident of Hyderabad, and a bunch of his friends, had a small idea.

Troubled by the way in which snakes were being chased or killed when they began entering ever-expanding urban spaces, the group decided to take steps to conserve the reptiles, at least in their own society.

Almost 30 years later, what started off as a small experiment in Secunderabad’s Sainikpuri area, has spread across the state of Telangana today, actively working for the conservation of snakes.

Today, the Friends of Snakes Society (FOSS) is relatively well-established in Hyderabad, and attends close to 200-300 calls every day, to rescue snakes that wander into urban spaces.

Besides rescue and relocation of the reptiles, FOSS also holds several educational and awareness programs in schools, colleges and companies, besides also working with the Forest Department to curb anti-poaching activities.

Speaking to Hyderabad News, Avinash Visvanathan, Chief Functionary of the organisation says, “By around 1992-93, we started holding several awareness programs, busting myths that people generally have, where snakes are concerned. In 1995, we formally registered the organisation.”

Avinash says that the initial days were tough, and their activities were restricted just to Secunderabad until around 2000.

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“Our initial movement grew only through word of mouth. If someone found a snake, someone would inform them that there was this group that rescued them, and they would pass the message to someone else and so on,” he says.

“It was very restricted in the initial days. When we had grown to around 20-30 members, the media picked up on us, and this gave us a major boost,” he adds.

In 2010, the organisation was dealt a personal blow when its founder, Rajkumar Kanuri, passed away due to cerebral malaria.

“We lost a great leader with an even better outlook. It did come as a shock to us, but the organisation has continued growing,” says Avinash.

Today, the organisation has around 70 volunteers and a 24×7 helpline, which puts them just a call away.

Two people coordinate the helpline, and the organisation has spread its roots to five districts in Telangana, besides having a firm foothold in the entire area of Hyderabad.

In October last year when a snake brought things to a halt in Hyderabad’s crowded KBR park junction, it was the FOSS that stepped in to diffuse the situation.

Even during the heavy rains that lashed Hyderabad last year, when several people found large snakes entering their houses along with the flood water, it was the FOSS that stepped in and worked tirelessly to rehabilitate several of these reptiles.

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The FOSS wants to change the apathy that people have towards snakes. Most snakes in India are non-venomous, and often pay the cost for human ignorance, the organisation says.

“Regular awareness sessions have certainly helped a lot since we first set up. At least now, people call us, instead of looking for a stone or stick to kill the snake,” Avinash says.

When asked about FOSS’ future plans, he adds, “We are in no hurry to expand, but we do want to cover the entire state of Telangana, before branching out to other places.”

Hardwired or brainwashed, most of us would surely get infused with an immobilizing fear just by the sight of a snake. Their unblinking eyes, constantly flickering forked tongue, long limbless body and their fluidic slither may leave a few handful awestruck and fascinated, whereas the rest might simply get drenched in cold sweat. No other animal could invoke such deep emotions of revere and fear, the way snakes do!

By stripping away the uncountable myths, baseless fears and pre-conditioned inhibitions surrounding and marking snakes as evil, horrid beasts, we’d like to present to you the real snakes – beautiful beings which never cease to amaze and fascinate. The Friends of Snakes Society is just a small step (which hopes to be accompanied and strengthened by several more of your steps in its endeavour) towards reciprocating their strikes – by striking a friendship, by striking a balance and forging a harmonious, long lasting relationship between man and his evolutionary contemporaries. Let’s get to know our friends better –

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Snakes play a vital role in the food web and thereby contribute in a crucial way towards maintaining the ecological balance. Hence, it should not come as a surprise that their survival is of paramount importance to our own existence. Apart from the direct benefit, they also help us save millions of rupees every year. Wondering how? Most of the common snakes eat rats and mice and in the process, indirectly keep a check on the rodent populations. Hence, they help us by plugging the revenue leakage caused due to crop destruction by rodents. They are the best biological pest controllers that we have.

Snakes are legless, carnivorous reptiles. Evolution has made them one of the most formidable hunters on this planet. Slithering their way through various terrain, gliding effortlessly in air, nimbly scaling their way up the trees or even elegantly piercing the depths of the ocean; these reptiles have mastered the art of locomotion, sans limbs. With us explore the beautiful world of snakes.

The FOSS helpline can be contacted at +918374233366. #KhabarLive