One-handed snake-rescuer risks life to catch a deadly cobra in eastern India

Catching snakes with both hands would normally be considered a dangerous job, but in eastern India one hero does it one-handed and without the stick normally essential to the task. Ramchandra Mohapatra, 56, has become a sensation with his death-defying captures of deadly snakes -- done one-handed after losing a hand in an accident. Mohapatra was a popular snake rescuer in his village in Puri district when he badly injured his right hand while lighting a firecracker. After doctors amputated his mangled hand, the man, who made a living from manual labour, initially lost his livelihood. As he recovered and was still clueless about his future, people started approaching him to rescue snakes they had spotted in their back yard and Mohapatra sprung back into action. The dangerous craft of rescuing snakes normally needs two hands: one to catch the snake by its tail and another to wield a special stick to restrain the head and prevent any bites. But Mohapatra has found a way to do it, with speed, agility and a lot of nerve. After he spots a snake he grabs its tail and puts it in a plastic bottle, taking care to keep its head away from him all the times. Then he takes the snakes to the wild and releases the animal. A Snake Helpline team followed him on May 25 filming his technique while he rescued four adult cobras. Subhendu Mallik, General Secretary of Snake Helpline, said: “He was a right handed man who lost his dominant hand. He had to train his other hand to become agile enough to catch even venomous cobras. It is an incredible feat.” Mohapatra said: “I lost my hand in 2014 and have been single-handedly rescuing snakes for the last seven years.” The feat is all the more impressive as Mohapatra, who is passionate about saving snakes, does not charge any money for his work. His disability may have kept him pressed for money, but when it comes to saving snakes he is generous with his time. Snake Helpline discourages its members from using plastic bottles during rescue. But an exception has been made for Mohapatra as he is unable to tie a knot to the snake bag, a preferred alternative, with just one hand. “He risks his life several times a day, grapples with cobras with one hand to rescue them. The government should recognise his unique accomplishment,“ said Subhendu.

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