Two Indian Irula tribesmen amaze world with their extraordinary snake-catching skills
The expertise and extraordinary skills in catching snakes landed two Indian tribesmen in European countries. Both are in their 50s. Masi Sadaiyan and Vadivel Gopal, neither speak Enlgish nor Hindi and are barely educated.They have been making their living by catching cobras in Nilgiri, Tamil Nadu, India and selling their venom to make anti-venom.
But they came to the attention of Romulus Whitaker, a leading conservationist in India, who introduced these traditional Indian experts to the world. He has helped India to identify these tribesmen and use them for catching cobras for the purpose of making anti-venom. Annual number of snake-bites in India is estimated to be over 1.5 million out which about 50,000 are killed.
The duo has since traveled to several countries to help in catching snakes and train foreign snake catchers. Last year in July, these two experts were in Thailand to help researchers implant radio transmitters for their research purpose.
These days, it’s Florida that is honored to have these two humble Indians, who hail from ancient Indian tribe Irula – known for its extraordinary expertise in snake-tracking and catching.
When Florida, with all its resources, experts, and initiatives, failed to eradicate devastation caused by Burmese Python infestation, the Irula tribesmen of Southern India came to its rescue.
In 2005, in a weird incident, a Burmese python was seen trying to swallow an alligator in the Everglades National Park. The snake belly exploded, leaving both animals dead. Unfortunately, this species has been inbreeding in Everglades in Florida and now they are swallowing every mammal, amphibian or avian they come across. The biodiversity of the region is hijacked by pythons and sightings per year are rapidly increasing. Florida isn’t able to estimate the population of Burmese pythons because they are almost impossible to detect in marshy lands of Everglades.
Since last two decades, Florida has tried almost everything including great python hunting contest in which over 1,000 snake hunter participated. It proved to be very costly and ineffective. Only 106 pythons were caught in one month by more than thousand hunters. Judas snakes and snake-sniffing dogs also failed.
Recently, the University of Florida signed a contract with these two Indian tribesmen to hunt down the non-native and highly invasive python species. The results are remarkable. The two men have caught 14-pythons in just two weeks and 27 in a month including a giant 16-feet female python in an abandoned Key Largo missile base that had made headlines worldwide. The skill of these backward, tribal hunters have amazed even the foreign experts in this field.
The Miami Herald writes,
Even to South Florida experts, Irula tracking techniques seem mysterious.
That (their technique and knowledge) seems to be proving true: UF biologist Ed Metzger has so far determined that seven of the 13 snakes captured would not have been found without the trackers.
But that is not all. These tribesmen aren’t just snake catchers. They are possessors of distinct knowledge and critical information about the snakes.
To the surprise of local biologists, the trackers have also been able to detect information critical to snake management: the python’s sex, approximate size and even how long ago it was in the area,
further mentions the report.
Our search image is really just the snake, but they’re talking about something else,
said Metzger to Miami Herald.
Frank Mazzotti, a biologist at the University of Florida who heads a team of researchers investigating pythons, told BBC,
Masi and Vadivel are doing an incredible job. They excel at determining if pythons are present at a site, locating them if they are, and then catching them when located.
They can see pythons even when they are covered by grass. All they need is a glint of snake and they pounce. The rest of us are usually wondering where the snake is. Next thing we see they are holding it,
he further added in the statement.
They are better at the above than any other snake catchers that I have known. Think of [the game of] cricket. What is the difference between really good amateurs and professionals? The Irulas are professionals,
told Mazzotti to BBC.