Back home to the healing forest

Read Part I of the story here.

Abhi and his parents are at a wildlife rescue centre. 

They were driving to the village when Abhi saw an injured python on the road. Luckily, they found a helpline number on a signboard nearby and dialed it. The rescue team arrived, carefully scooped the snake and put it inside a wooden box to take it to the rescue centre for treatment. Ira, a young researcher, asked Abhi if he’d like to come along as the centre was close by. Abhi and his parents followed the team in their car.

The python lies straight on a table, and looks like a long, thick branch. Dr. Mishra, the veterinarian, places its head inside a transparent pipe and Ira holds its neck. The vet runs his fingers along its back. “I’m checking if the snake has injuries on its spinal cord,” he says solemnly. “It’s most probably a female,” he then injects it with antibiotics and pain killers. Abhi watches as he steadily cleans and treats the open wounds near the tail and stitches them up.

“There doesn’t seem to be any major internal injury, we should release her soon.”

Release her?” asks Abhi. “But where will she go? Can’t she stay here with all of you where she’s safe?”

Ira ruffles his hair. “She’s a wild animal, Abhi, this isn’t her home. She belongs deep in the healing forest, away from all of us, where she can get better and return to being the free snake that she was born to be!”

“And thanks to your love and courage, she has a good chance to recover!”

Ira takes the snake’s head out of the pipe and gives her some water. She takes tiny, rhythmic gulps. Abhi knows that pythons aren’t venomous, but he is scared to get too close.

“Would you like to come along to release her in the forest?” Ira asks Abhi, and the both of them look at his father, who nods with a smile.

Abhi is delighted! Ira and two other men get into the gypsy. Abhi hops in too, waving to his parents as they sip on chai with Dr. Mishra.

The old gypsy squeaks as they drive over kachcha roads. A gentle drizzle caresses the earth and Abhi sniffs in the fresh aroma of the forest.

They stop the car, and walk deeper inside under a canopy of knotted trees. They put the wooden box down, and wait.

After what seems like an hour (although it was really just fifteen minutes), the python pops her head and slowly crawls out, like a millipede without legs! Abhi wants to scream with joy, but quickly covers his mouth. How well she is camouflaged amidst the mud and leaves because of the mottled patterns on her skin!

And poof! She vanishes into the dark thicket. They can hear the scrunch of leaves. It’s pouring now, the rain drums on their umbrellas.

“Take care of her,” Abhi whispers to the trees, and they nod and sway in agreement. Sha-sha-sha.

Snakes are often considered to be pests, but they actually help keep rats and other rodents at bay.

They do not have eyelids. Instead, they have a thin, clear protective membrane around each eye known as a ‘spectacle’.

They have a very slow metabolic rate and hence do not need to eat as often as other animals.

Pythons are non-venomous. They kill by suffocating their prey by coiling around them, a behaviour known as constriction; after which they swallow it whole.

Three species of python are known to be found in India – the Indian rock python, the Burmese python, and the reticulated python. Of these, the Indian rock python is found throughout the country.


This article appeared in the Hindu in School on 19 August 2015.

Picture: At home in the forest – Pythons are efficiently camouflaged on the forest floor by the mottled patterns on their skin. Credit: Priyasavy, Wikimedia Commons

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