Rohit Giri rescued one of the most venomous snakes, the King Cobra, during his initial years of snake rescue. He speaks of the terrifying incident with unusual composure. “I didn’t have any professional tools then, thus I took a stick and had five jute bags stacked on top of each other because they can bite through a thin bag.” He adds, “I wrangled the snake with the stick and had it in the bag and brought it away from civilisation to have it measured and weighed. It was 5.6 kg in weight and was a whopping 15 feet in length. It was one of the most exhilarating rescues that I have ever attempted and the memories of that are still vivid till this day,” recalls Rohit, who is a snake conservationist.
Based in Pokhara, Rohit has rescued and relocated over a thousand snakes from distress situations. He has also documented 700 of them through pictures and other details. Interested in photography, Rohit documents the encountered snakes. “I love the art of photography and after I completed my 10th grade my journey as a photographer began,” he shares. Rohit also does wedding and events photography to help fuel his research projects as a conservationist.
When asked how many times has he been attacked by the snakes he has rescued, he cautions against the word ‘attack’: “That is not the word you should use. Snakes don’t disturb you unless you do. They always act in self defense.” Rohit has been bitten by many non venomous snakes. He says, “I was even hospitalised in one of the cases”. He adds, “I was 12 when I first encountered a snake in my neighbourhood. It was a non-venomous. I handled it like a venomous snake; I pinned it and picked it up gently,” he recalls, and that’s where his fascination for snakes began. “I immediately wanted to learn more about snakes,” he says. When he understood that their natural habitat was being encroached by modern civilization and which was the cause for constant run-ins with humans, Rohit began rescuing snakes.
“When I first started working in Pokhara, people were wary of me. They are conservative. In our country, snakes are considered sacred, you cannot kill them. Since I rescue snakes and release them into the wild, I became popular,” he recollects.
Rohit has been active in rescuing snakes for the past four years. “In a month I end up rescuing almost 50 snakes,” he claims. It has been a word of mouth for him so far and the response has been overwhelming. “I rescue them from urban areas and relocate them in close by forest habitat because if you relocate them anywhere further their chance of survival is decreased largely as they are unaware of the new habitat,” he informs.
Rohit believes education is important for conservation. One of the workshops he conducts is the ‘Scientific Training on Reptile Management’ which is a comprehensive workshop that introduces people to the life of reptiles. “The workshop is meant for existing snake rescuers, wildlife students and researchers who are keen on learning more about snakes. The workshop is also extended to wildlife enthusiasts and the general public,” he informs.
He has previously worked with different NGOs and government organisations as part of different projects but says there is a strong lack of fund allocation for reptile research in Nepal. “A career as a snake conservationist is difficult as there isn’t much money. You have to support and fund the research projects yourself,” he states. He has authored and co-authored many scientific papers on reptiles.
He is currently pursuing his graduation in Biology and further plans to attend a foreign university to study amphibians and reptiles. “Upon completing my studies I plan to return home and conduct various researches and if all goes well, open a sanctuary,” he shares. His interest is specifically on the King Cobra and the Green Pit Viper among the various species of snakes.