Snake Shyam

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M.S. Balasubramaniam
Snakeshyam.JPG
Snake Shyam
Born Krishnarajanagara, Karnataka, India
Nationality Indian
Occupation Snake Enthusiast, Auto rickshaw Driver
Known for Snake enthusiasm

M.S. Balasubramaniam, popularly known as Snake Shyam, is a snake enthusiast, wildlife conservationist and lecturer in Mysore, India.[1] Though not a trained herpetologist,[2] he is known throughout the Mysore region as a "naturalist on wheels".[3] Shyam rescues and rehabilitates snakes and educates the public about them.[4] He is also sometimes consulted by local hospitals to identify a species of snake prior to treating a snakebite victim.[5]

Shyam has been widely recognized for his work. National Geographic featured him in its Croc Chronicles: Snakes, Karma, Action special.[5] Mysore city has named a street for him and has dedicated its first "urban forest" to him and fellow environmentalist Hyder Ali Khan.[2][6]

Shyam is also known for his personal flamboyance and has been described by The Hindu as "easily the most recognisable characters [sic] of Mysore, complete with his sun hat, overflowing beads and multiple rings that adorn his fingers".[1]

Background[edit]

The road named after Snake Shyam by the Mysore City Corporation

Shyam was born to M.R.Subbarao and A.Nagalakshmi Mirle in Krishnarajanagara in Mysore district, located in Karnataka, India.[7] He demonstrated his interest in snakes at an early age, when a snake invaded a neightbor's home. After convincing those around not to kill the snake, he caught it and released it into the garden. From this incident, he earned his nickname.

Avocation[edit]

By profession, Shyam was a driver, transporting children to school, but beginning in 1982 he began to be frequently called upon to retrieve snakes that had encroached on people's properties, a job for which he receives no pay.[2][7] Called multiple times each day, Shyam uses a pillowcase and a badminton racquet without strings to net the snakes, which he then releases into the forest.[2] Though his avocation to safely remove these snakes has cost him considerable expense, Shyam continues from the desire to see these snakes released rather than killed.[5] Recently, authorities in Mysore have offered to defray some of Shyam's expenses by paying his telephone bills.[1]

In 2004, he estimated that he may have caught and released over 40,000 snakes since he began in 1982;[2] as of February 2008, the official record, which he began in 1999, was 11,755.[1] Though Shyam has only been bitten four times in his rescue work,[1] he has developed an allergy to antivenin, which requires that he exercise great care in handling snakes.[5]

His knowledge of snakes—he can identify 28-30 local species of snakes—is founded on personal experience, but supplemented by reading the works of or speaking to professionals such as Romulus Whitaker, J.C. Daniel and faculty at Mysore University.[2] Shyam's van features paintings depicting snakes and also displays his slogans: "Snakes are not as poisonous as human beings" and "Care for the rare".[5]

Snake Sham was elected to Mysore City Corporation from ward number 17 in the elections held in March 2013.

Snake Shyam (in red shirt) with the local people after a 'snake encounter'

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e Special correspondent. (February 14, 2008) A prize catch for the ‘naturalist on wheels’ The Hindu. Retrieved 2008-08-06.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Srinivasaraju, Sugata. (November 29, 2004) The charm of a gutless racquet Outlook Retrieved 2008-08-06.
  3. ^ Special correspondent. (July 4, 2005) Snake falls victim to superstitious belief The Hindu. Retrieved 2008-08-06.
  4. ^ Staff correspondent. (June 26, 2007) 60 teenagers chosen for a course on wildlife The Hindu. Retrieved 2008-08-06.
  5. ^ a b c d e Staff. (September 22, 2005) A hiss and tell story. The Hindu. Retrieved 2008-08-06.
  6. ^ Staff correspondent. (April 6, 2008) Sapgreen activities begin tomorrow. The Hindu. Retrieved 2008-08-06.
  7. ^ a b The unknown animal lover Snake Shyam ourkarnataka.com. Retrieved 2008-08-06.