NASHIK: Sarpa mitras (animal activists who protect snakes) have been demanding a centralized venom collection centre in Nashik to curb the illegal sale of venom and to increase the production of anti-venom medicines, but the forest department has rejected this the proposal.
On the backdrop of the number of snakes being found in the city and surrounding areas on a daily basis, the Sarpa Mitras had suggested a centralised venom collection centre where the venom of the snakes caught could be collected and given to pharmaceutical companies for production of anti-venom medicines.
The former chief conservator of forests (territorial), Nashik, and former minister of forests for the state Maharashtra state, had shown some interest in the concept but the sarpa mitras say that after the portfolios of these individuals changed, the proposal could not materialise. Once again the sarpa mitras are demanding that a venom collection centre be established in Nashik, where venom of snake from all over the district could be collected in one place and then given to a pharmaceutical company. But the forest department has rejected the proposal.
"We do not want to commercialise the idea. Once it gets commercialised, everyone would run after it and it would be difficult for us to manage or keep a track on these sarpa mitras. When people got obsessed with tiger skins, heads, and elephant tusks, it became so commercial that we stopped displaying dead animals. We began burning dead animals once we caught them," said divisional forest officer, Arvind Patil. "The same thing will happen with venom collection. It would become commercialised beyond our control," he said.
Sarpa mitra Manish Godbole, who was foremost in demanding for a venom collection centre said, "Our main aim for having a venom collection centre was that sarpa mitras (friends of snakes) would get some financial support. They are doing it for free. If a venom collection centre is set up here, the illegal selling of venom will stop. Moreover, there is a shortage of anti-venom medicines. From where do these pharmaceutical companies get the venom? The venom can be collected from the snakes registered with the forest department after getting rescued by the sarpa mitras, and it will put a stop to illegal venom sale. The venom can be extracted within 21 days and the snake can then be released in the place that it was found, in the presence of forest department employees".
Godbole added that the snakes could be kept in a sarpa udyan (snake garden) for the 21- day period. "Former chief conservator of forests, V K Mohan had shown interest in the venom collection centre. If the venom is taken directly from the Sarpa Mitras, illegal trade would stop. When Baban Pachpute was the minister of forests, he had expressed interest and we also went to the mantralaya number of times with the details that they wanted. But after his portfolio got changed, the issue was not pursued".
The forest department is against the idea of a sarpa udyan as well. "Let the snakes remain where they are supposed to be, in their own habitat. Anti-venom medicines are available with the pharmaceutical companies, and there is no shortage," Patil said.