Snake catching in Bengaluru, India

Stuart Forster looks at the profession of snake catching in Bengaluru, India.

Meeting people is one of the great joys of travel. Of course, you can never predict when you’re going to bump into someone in an unusual or exciting job, but when it happens it can prove fascinating. I met Babu, a snake catcher in Bengaluru, India. I persuaded him to give me a call the next time he went out on a job, so that I could watch him at work snake catching in Bengaluru.

Babu is aged 24 years old. He operates his business with his friend Raja, aged 29. Babu followed in the footsteps of his father, both literally and metaphorically. He went on his first snake catching expeditions aged 10, walking behind his father so that he could watch and learn how to catch snakes.

The Indo-Saracenic style facade of the Vidhana Soudha, the Karnataka State Legislative Assembly, in Bangalore, India
The Indo-Saracenic style facade of the Vidhana Soudha, the Karnataka State Legislative Assembly, in Bengaluru, India

Snake catching in Bengaluru

His work usually involves catching snakes that have come uncomfortably close to humans. Construction work, common in a booming Indian city such as Bengaluru, causes the loss of snakes’ natural habitat. Consequently the snakes move and sometimes they slither closer to homes than humans find comfortable. From time to time snakes will enter gardens and houses.

Babu explained that it’s common for snakes to move into areas close to human habitation overnight. People then discover the serpents during the course of their daily activities.

The cupola of the Vidhana Soudha, the state Legislative assembly of Karnataka, illuminated at night, when snakes that Babu catches tend to move into houses in Bengaluru, India
The cupola of the Vidhana Soudha, the state Legislative assembly of Karnataka, illuminated at night, when snakes that Babu catches tend to move into houses in Bengaluru, India.

Ratsnakes, cobras, kraits and pythons

Ratsnakes, which are non-poisonous but have a nasty bite, is one of the species of snakes that Babu catches most frequently. So too are cobras, which are one of India’s commonest venomous snakes. He also comes into regular contact with a number of other species, including kraits, keelbacks and pythons.

When he has to catch a cobra, Babu will suppress the serpent with a specially designed snake catching stick. The tool has a head with an ‘L’ shaped piece of metal.

When he’s called out to catch a ratsnake then he’ll use his bare hands. Having seen the speed at which ratsnakes move, this revelation causes my eyebrows to dart skywards quicker than a bandicoot scooting out of the way of danger from a snake.

Men walking on a footpath in Cubban Park in central Bengaluru, (formerly known as Bangalore(, India
Men walking on a footpath in Cubban Park in central Bengaluru, (formerly known as Bangalore), India.

The dangers of snake catching

There’s a nasty scar on the flesh between Babu’s thumb and forefinger. He tells me how he was bitten there by a ratsnake years ago. That event is noteworthy due to its rarity, he explains. Despite the apparent dangers of his job, Babu has been bitten only once by a venomous snake, a cobra. He had to be injected with an antivenin and, fortunately, suffered no major reaction or after effects.

The busiest times of year for Babu are during the south-west monsoon (from June to September) and summer months (from mid-March to May). This is because rain water and extreme heat tend to force snakes out of their holes and resting places. At these times of year he might get a couple of calls a day, but there are also periods during which very few snakes need to be caught.

Red, Classical facade of the Government Museum in Bengaluru (Bangalore), the city in where Babu works as a snake catcher
Red, Classical facade of the Government Museum in Bengaluru (Bangalore), the city in where Babu works as a snake catcher

Releasing captured snakes into the wild

Sometimes Babu and his sidekick Raja have to move furniture or shift plant pots from houses in order to create space to capture snakes. To the anguish of the human property owners, the snakes have taken up residence in buildings. On other occasions, the pair dig into the earth around drains to ensure they capture resting snakes quickly and effectively.

Once a snake is caught, Babu feels obliged to release the animal into the wild, away from humans.

He doesn’t undertake anything complex, such as the milking of the snake’s venom, before freeing it. I thought that might have been a way of making money from snake catching but he puts me right. A couple of times a week drives 21 kilometres south, down to Bannerghatta National Park, and releases the snakes at a secluded spot on the edge of the jungle.

A tiger in Bannerghatta National Park, where Babu releases snakes he catches in Bengaluru.
A tiger in Bannerghatta National Park near Bengaluru in Karnataka, India.

The price of catching a snake

Babu and Raja will work anywhere within a fairly sizable area; anywhere between Bangalore, Mysore and Tumkur. They charge about ₹1000 (the equivalent of about $17 or £10) to catch a snake.

That’s a significant amount of money to poorer families in and around Bengaluru. But for members of India’s growing middle class, ₹1000 is a reasonable sum to ensure the safe removal of a snake and its safe return to the wild.

St Mark's Cathedral in the city of Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) in Karnataka, India
St Mark’s Cathedral in the city of Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) in Karnataka, India.

Further information

If you’re interested in snakes then make an effort to visit Chennai Snake Park at Rajbhavan Post in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Romulus Whitaker, the renowned herpetologist, played a significant role in the park’s foundation and formative years.

Thanks for visiting Go Eat Do and reading this post about Snake catching in Bengaluru. If you’re considering travelling in southern India you may be interested by this post on the Golden Chariot, the luxury train that visits cultural attractions in Karnataka and beyond

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8 Comments

  • Michael Woods

    March 4, 2017 at 06:30 Reply

    This is a fascinating piece. I actually had to call a snake catcher while living in Bangalaore, when one of the critters appeared in my garden.

  • S.L. Mani

    April 15, 2018 at 21:00 Reply

    I love that, Sir. I want to be your assistant.

  • Sreenath R

    June 19, 2018 at 10:31 Reply

    I would like to attend this training and want to be trained. Please suggest to me the process.

    • Stuart Forster

      June 19, 2018 at 13:10 Reply

      Hello Sreenath, Have you tried calling the snake catcher to ask him about training or made contact with either the Karuna animal welfare association or Chennai Snake Park Trust to ask them for suggestions?

  • Sandeep Tripathy

    November 22, 2019 at 04:54 Reply

    Is there any training near future. Please let me know, I am interested to know about handling snakes and animals.

    • Stuart Forster

      December 5, 2019 at 17:53 Reply

      Unfortunately I don’t know the answer to that question. Why not reach out to one of Bangalore’s snake catchers?

  • Sanganabasappa

    March 29, 2020 at 17:19 Reply

    I wanted training so pls..give address

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