US hires two Tamil Nadu snake-catchers to catch pythons
The two, who have been working with biologists from the University of Florida since January 6, have already captured 13 Burmese pythons
As Florida is struggling with an invasion of Burmese pythons, the US officials have sought the help of two Tamil Nadu natives Masi Sadaiyan and Vadivel Gopal to rescue them. The duo belongs to Irula tribe, which traditionally made livelihood by being snake catchers.
Earlier, they were flown to Thailand when a group of researchers working on a snake project needed help catching cobras and kraits there.
The two, who have been working with biologists from the University of Florida since January 6, have already captured 13 Burmese pythons, castaways of the pet trade that have become a threat to native species, especially birds and rabbits, The Times of India reported. One of the captured pythons was a 16-foot female, according to reports.
"The officials there tried all kinds of methods and have finally taken snake-catchers from here," Yamini Bhaskar, assistant director Madras Crocodile Bank Trust (MCBT) -Centre for Herpetology, reportedly said.
Herpetologist Romulus Whitaker had established the Madras Crocodile Bank in 1976 to conserve several species of crocodiles, also to host the venom milking centre within the bank’s premises utilising the traditional skills of the Irulas.
According to Washington Post, Florida paid $69,000 to hire the Irula men and their translators and fly them to the Everglades. For the community, it's a proud moment as their skills are finally getting international recognition. Known as the last "forest scientists" of the world, the Irulas have been snake catchers for generations. Their ability to track snakes -without using any sophisticated equipment and relying only on their own powers of intuition and observation -is what makes them much sought after.
Both Sadaiyan and Gopal, who are in their early 50s, are members of the Irula Snake Catchers' Industrial Cooperative Society (ISCICS), which is located on the premises of MCBT.