Drive safe – Countless animals right from mighty elephants to tiny frogs lose their lives to reckless, speeding vehicles each year in India. Photo credit: Sanjay Gubbi
Abhi looks out the window from the backseat. He and his parents are on their way to his grandmother’s house in the village. They’re driving through a road that runs along a forest. He daydreams about the village, the emerald trees that whisper sha-sha-sha in the wind, the murmur of the river, the fireflies that float around the house like sparks of crackling wood in a bonfire.
He sees a large brown bag with dark liquid oozing out of it on the road in the distance. As they move closer to it, he sees it move a little. It’s definitely not a bag, he thinks.
He shouts out a warning, and his father stops the car. He runs out towards the thing on the road, his mother following close behind.
It’s a snake! And it’s badly hurt. Its tail is covered in blood and it lies motionless near criss-cross imprints of tyres. Abhi is careful; he doesn’t get too close.
“We must do something,” Abhi says. “We must try and save the poor snake!”
He looks around worriedly. Ah! He sees a signboard with a picture of a leopard on it. “CALL THIS NUMBER IF YOU SEE AN INJURED ANIMAL” it says in big, bold letters. Seized with hope, he takes his mother’s phone and dials the number.
“Hello, there’s… there’s a snake badly hurt on the road! I don’t know if it’s alive or… Please can you save it?” he pleads. His mother takes the phone and tells the lady the location and the number of their car so that they can easily find them. The voice on the phone promises to be there in ten minutes.
They wait in the car. Abhi admires the irregular patchwork of brown hues on the snake’s back. It looks as though a piece of paper which was once crumpled and torn was now put together like a jigsaw puzzle. Earlier, he was certain he had seen it move, but he isn’t too sure anymore.
Soon enough, a khaki-coloured gypsy pulls over right next to them. Three people get off, and two men start examining the snake. Ira, a young researcher, walks towards them and starts talking to his parents. Abhi watches as they carefully lift the snake and place it inside a wooden box.
“Its eyes are open… that surely means its alive right?” asks Abhi, his eyebrows crumpled with concern.
“Snakes don’t have eyelids, so their eyes are always open. You did the right thing, Abhi. We can’t thank you enough. We will do everything we can. Dr. Mishra here is a very skilled veterinarian and he has handled many injured pythons before.”
Wow! A python, thinks Abhi, and looks tenderly at the beautiful, wounded creature, now curled inside the box. And just as they are about to pick it up, he sees the snake tuck its head in its coils.
“It’s alive!” Abhi squeals. “It’s alive Ma, I saw it move! I saw it turn its head!”
Highways that pass through forests often prove to be fatal to wildlife.
Hundreds of wild animals are killed by speeding vehicles each year in India, and they include elephants, tigers, sloth bears, snakes, frogs, and many others.
Between July 2009 and June 2014, as many as 23 leopards were killed in road accidents in Karnataka alone.
Reptiles and amphibians are known to be the most affected by vehicular traffic, but there is very little information available on such accidents.
It’s very important to follow the speed limit and to be extra cautious and alert while driving through ecologically important areas.