Tuesday, October 27, 2009

'Snakeman' Ranade was city's best rescuer

Mumbai: On Sunday, Mumbai lost its best and most experienced snake rescuer. For Kedar Bhide, 33, who runs the Reptile Rescue and Study Centre (RRSC), Sunil Ranade's death is a personal loss.

Thirty-seven-year-old Ranade was credited with rescuing over 15,000 snakes in the past 15 years. Ironically, it is this passion for the venomous reptiles that cost him dearly -- he died after being bitten by a Vinocellate Cobra.

"He was passionate to the point of being obsessisive about these reptiles," said Bhide, who had known him for over ten years.

Ranade was working as an animal inspector with the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), Parel for the past five years. "But it was more than a job to him. He did not have scientific education. It was sheer passion that drove him," said Bhide, who, a day later, cannot help but rue the fact that Ranade's death could have been prevented.

"Had someone, who knew first aid for snake bite, been nearby, he could have been saved," he said.

The worst part is, Ranade had four vials of anti venom in his house -- all snake rescuers are told to keepthe anti- venom handy, due to the dangerous nature of their job.

About 50 to 60% of the time, the bite of the cobra is what is termed a 'dry bite', where the venom doesn't come out of its teeth. "Maybe, Sunil assumed it must have been a dry bite. He was also quite afraid of hospitals and injections, so he may have waited for the symptoms to come up," he added.

"Mumbai has many snake catchers, but not all of them are trained. And as far as anti-venom is concerned, all government hospitals have an emergency stock," said Bhide, who, with a group of snake rescuers, now plans to start a fund to help Ranade's two daughters.

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