Snake Shyam

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M. S. Balasubramania
Snake Shyam
Born1967 (age 54–55)
Cheluvaamba Hospital, Krishnarajanagara, Mysore State, India
Other namesSnake Bite
OccupationSnake conservationist, Auto rickshaw Driver, former Counselor - Mysore City Corporation (MCC)
Known forSnake enthusiasm

M. S. Balasubramania (alt spelling Balasubramanya;[1] born 1967),[2] popularly known as Snake Shyam, is a snake enthusiast, wildlife conservationist and lecturer in Mysore, India.[3] He was elected to the Mysore City Corporation in 2013, a role he served until 2018.[1][4]

Though not a trained herpetologist,[5] Shyam is known throughout the Mysore region as a "naturalist on wheels".[6] He rescues and rehabilitates snakes and educates the public about them.[7] He is also sometimes consulted by local hospitals to identify a species of snake prior to treating a snakebite victim.[8]

Shyam has been widely recognized for his work. National Geographic featured him in its Croc Chronicles: Snakes, Karma, Action special.[8] He has also been featured on the Discovery channel.[9] Mysore city has named a street for him and has dedicated its first "urban forest" to him and fellow environmentalist Hyder Ali Khan.[5][10]

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".[3]


The road named after Snake Shyam by the Mysore City Corporation

Shyam was born to M.R.Subbarao and A.Nagalakshmi Mirle in Cheluvaamba Hospital, Krishnarajanagara, Mysore State, now in Karnataka, India.[11] He demonstrated his interest in snakes at an early age, when a snake invaded a neighbor'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.


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.[5][11] 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.[5] 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.[8] Recently, authorities in Mysore have offered to defray some of Shyam's expenses by paying his telephone bills.[3]

In 2004, he estimated that he may have caught and released over 40,000 snakes since he began in 1980;[5] as of February 2008, the official record, which he began in 1980(Unofficially he has caught nearly 40,000 Snakes between 1980-1997), was 11,755.[3] Though Shyam has only been bitten four times in his rescue work,[3] he has developed an allergy to antivenin, which requires that he exercise great care in handling snakes.[8]

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.[5] 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".[8]

Snake Shyam was elected to Mysore City Corporation in the elections held in March 2013, sponsored by the BJP.[1] In August 2018, he was expelled from the party for "anti-party activities" and chose to contest as an independent, unsuccessfully.[4][12]

In 2019, he completed another record by catching 32,000 Snakes.

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


  1. ^ a b c Milton, Laurence (11 March 2013). "Snake enthusiast wins MCC election". The Times of India. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  2. ^ "Snake man". Frontline. 6 September 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e Special correspondent. (14 February 2008) A prize catch for the ‘naturalist on wheels’ The Hindu. Retrieved 2008-08-06.
  4. ^ a b "Electorate give hung verdict in Mysuru City Corporation polls". Mysuru Today. 3 September 2018. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Srinivasaraju, Sugata. (29 November 2004) The charm of a gutless racquet Archived 22 May 2006 at the Wayback Machine Outlook Retrieved 2008-08-06.
  6. ^ Special correspondent. (4 July 2005) Snake falls victim to superstitious belief The Hindu. Retrieved 2008-08-06.
  7. ^ Staff correspondent. (26 June 2007) 60 teenagers chosen for a course on wildlife The Hindu. Retrieved 2008-08-06.
  8. ^ a b c d e Staff (22 September 2005). "A hiss and tell story". The Hindu
  9. ^ Srinivasan, Sarayu (19 February 2016). "From a snake catcher to a corporator: Read how this Mysuru man dons different roles". Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  10. ^ Staff correspondent. (6 April 2008) Sapgreen activities begin tomorrow. The Hindu. Retrieved 2008-08-06.
  11. ^ a b The unknown animal lover Snake Shyam Retrieved 2008-08-06.
  12. ^ "Expelled from BJP for anti-party activities". Star of Mysore. 30 August 2018. Retrieved 22 April 2019.