A wildlife group in in Tumakuru, Karnataka, is spreading awareness about the uses of the serpents in keeping food grains safe from the farmer’s enemy.

The hissing, slithering, shedding of skin, and thin slits for eyes have made snakes a common evil in fables and mythologies across cultures.

A wildlife group is hoping to fight the perception, shed the fear and raise awareness about how serpents can help keep foodgrain safe from a common enemy: the rat.

“Living with snakes”, started more than a year ago by the Wildlife Awareness and Reptile Conservation Organisation (WARCO) in Tumakuru, aims at convincing farmers about non-poisonous reptiles – with particular emphasis on rat snakes – that can be left in the fields.

“A major part of foodgrains are eaten by rodents, especially rats, and the natural way to control them is by using rat snakes, which are farmer friendly,” founder director of WARCO, Raghuram K., told The Hindu .

According to WARCO, a ‘rat family’, comprising four rats, can damage up to 4 kg of paddy or ragi in one acre of land. On an average, at least 60 families of rats can be present on one acre – leading to at least 240 kg being affected.

Around 20 rat snakes, which were rescued after they ventured into houses in urban areas, were released in farm fields at Muddenahalli, Kora, Melehalli, Thovinakere, and Brahmasandra in the district. These snakes are highly territorial and will go after rats as well as other possibly-poisonous snakes.

Bettalingaiah, a coconut farmer from Muddenahalli in Tumakuru taluk, said: “Rats used to eat through tender coconut to drink the water. But, the two rat snakes released in the farm have controlled the vermin population.”

Similarly, Bharath Kumar Jain said the loss of coconut and arecanut in his 1.5-acre farm has been drastically reduced after the natural pest controllers were introduced.

Apart from rat snake, WARCO has also introduced the keelback snake ( Neera Haavu in Kannada) into wells and ponds as they are known to clean water.

WARCO hopes to raise awareness among farmers about how serpents can keep foodgrains safe from the common enemy.EOM