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The People I Met On The Road : P Gowri Shankar

P. Gowri Shankar

The passion for Travelling has given me some great opportunities to meet really wonderful people. Recently I met Gowri Shankar.

There is a name that is always associated with Gowri Shankar.  It is not name of a human, name of a place or anything.

Ok, for those who are not into snakes, reptiles and so on,  let me tell you straight away. Gowri Shankar is associated with snakes. Not just any snake, but the King of them all. KING COBRA. He rescues King Cobra, He learns about King Cobra, He observes and protects King Cobra. He is a walking encyclopaedia as far as  King Cobras as well as other snakes and reptiles are concerned.

One normal day in Gowri's life
One normal day in Gowri’s life

[ Pic Credit : Sharmila, Kings Platter ]

My recent visit to Agumbe rainforest gave me this wonderful opportunity to meet this wonderful person. Agumbe is the second wettest place in India. Due to the heavy rainfalls; frogs, snakes, reptiles including King Cobras find the rainforests of Agumbe as an amazing place for their stay. Thus Agumbe rainforest is home for many King Cobras.  The search for spotting a snake in that dense rainforest led me to Gowri and his research and education centre inside that forest.

Gowri started handling snakes when he was in 9th standard which means when he was only 13. Since then he is dealing with snakes. His passion and purpose in life was very clear to him early in his life. Later in his life he became  an animal inspector (at KARUNA, formerly BSPCA, Bangalore Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) , education officer (at the Center for Herpetology, Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, Mamalapuram Chennai), a Conservation Officer at the Agumbe Rainforest Research Station (ARRS).

He has also worked with  National Geographic, BBC, Nat Geo Wild and Discovery for quite a few Documentaries on King Cobras.  ‘The King and I’,  ‘Secrets of the King Cobra ‘, ‘Asia’s Deadliest Snake’ , ‘One Million Snake Bites’ and ‘Wildest India’. These are some of the documentaries in which Gowri has either worked or featured.

He is currently doing his PhD on King Cobras. He is also running his own education and research centre in Agumbe rainforest. This centre is organising camps and other activities in Agumbe for creating awareness towards conservation through workshops and camps. In their own words, the vision of this centre is “To become a self sustaining premier conservation centre that empowers right action through environmental education and state of the art scientific training in environmental field studies.”

Even though he is a very busy person, he found a couple of hours from his busy schedule when asked if it was possible to meet him for a coffee.

Meeting at the coffee shop with Gowri Shankar
Meeting  with Gowri Shankar at the coffee shop

He is a very down to earth person. He talked about snakes, King Cobras, the rainforest and much more. He shared with us, his adventurous snake stories, rescue call experiences, little known secrets about the snakes, how they train themselves to spot snakes and so on. It was a very interesting evening.

I learned a lot of new things that day. I learned that snakes are in fact very peaceful creatures. They either stay away from things that are not their food or flee from it, if given a chance. But if someone is deliberately trying to handle the snake, it is called ‘inviting danger’. Especially if it is highly venomous snakes like King Cobra.

While photographing this viper, the advice given to me was that, twice the length of the snake is  safe distance. If you are going towards further, you know what to expect; a great shot, either by you or by the snake! 😉

Viper : Up close and personal
Viper : Up close and personal

Another interesting thing I learned that day talking to Gowri was about certain frogs. I never knew certain frogs can actually eat small snakes! Google it and believe yourself, if you are like me.

He also talked about Kalinga foundation, the research and education centre he runs and the opportunity it provides for amateurs as well as professionals who are interested in Herping. [ Herping is the act of searching for amphibians or reptiles] He offered his help as a guide during such a herping session. I am hoping to go back to Agumbe to spot more snakes, frogs and whatnots! 😉

 With the help of such an expert I am sure I can spot something really interesting.


For more information on Kalinga Foundation

To read personal blog of Gauri Shankar

For planning a trip to Agumbe rainforest


 

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81 thoughts on “The People I Met On The Road : P Gowri Shankar

  1. I know its contagious(: … in march to april in Orissa in Chratrapur beach I think those turtles hatch…got to wait till next year… I will give you the details if next year I hear of it… till then have to satisfy ourselves singing “teenage mutant Ninja turtles” songs and hope we can support turtle power next year…helping them to help the sea instead of falling prey to preditors(:… I thought Vizag was Goa later I learnt it was vishagapatnam(:… option was direct train for 29hours, or indirect mid night train… or catching bus to Vizag(16 hours) then from there catch train to Orissa… they arranged tent accomodation for the guys in Blore so they can be near the sea though option was there to stay in some Ganjam hotle… I still remember one guy jumping posting baby turtle pictures and discussing the plans enthusiastically… and in that spirit he became friendly to humanity and told me to come too… but I declined… more than travel I am a or was volunteer so let go…then the lady told me next time she would tell me about the trip and take me in a movement of pity… actually I planned to go ok. What happened was the Turtles was to hatch on 5th April I think and there we were discussing how to go and I told I am in come what may with the bus plan(: but then suddenly on 31st March itself the turtles hatched so all the guys planned to go immediately in unreserved train and I told no way…but then they went by bus and were happy…arrangements were made and I was left out…if the turtles would have hatched as predicted I would have gone… but atleast I got to know a bit about those bunch of turtle fans, their enthusiasm and learn something… am happy I was so close for the trip almost…anyway next year if I get intimation about the turtle opputunity will let you know

    1. I can see how disappointed you are for losing that opportunity to volunteer. But everything will happen perfectly at the right time 😀 So your turn will come soon 🙂

  2. Yup(:… that lady is handy in letting me know the events on… you know she is married and very thin lady… she went to help the Uttaranchal people in flood, travelling all by herself and spending her husband’s money… a bit wild she is…sort of my inspiration(:… that turtle episode though I know I watched it only through facebook conversations thought me something… its ok to travel alone anywhere when required, travel 16 hours by bus…also there must be something in the turtles that everyone were so crazy and happy to see it(:… the conversation in the group concluded with the lady mentioning how lucky they are to see turtles hatching and going in huge numbers to the sea at wee hours(: and that many people never get to witness it(:… but to tell the truth the turtles look ugly(;… lots of them mentioned about some Aruku valley with freash kashmir apples and Puri and konarch…and even my Dad who is quite say argumentive felt it was worth the turtle trip… travel inspiration can energize the crazy spirit into anyone… good that I get such oppurtunities on my way for now(:… one day will get inspiration to do these seemingly incredible things…

  3. Hey, about the turtle thing… in Orissa one particular place turtle hatch eggs during April – May season. One lady I know, knows a NGO person with that she arranged this year oppurtunity to people who want to volunteer to go there and well leave the baby turtles to the sea, or near the sea(: I almost was to go with the odd creature in the Bangalore group being the sole lady or girl… but the turtles hatched suddenly and everyone all the guys made plans among themselves to go to Vizag and Orissa and dedicate their while turtle putting(:… I was jealous listening to their conversation in facebook, their enthusiasm for those ugly baby turtles(: but I got wanting to go with them but decided against it don’t want to burden forks travelling just with one lady(: so that’s that… I have heard that turtles hatch in bundles(: go by lakhs and thosands to the sea… and these forks talked about Vozag the kashmir apples(:…you know the travel’s wild spirit they activated… that lady my friend told me next year she will take me along, but I am not sure I will be allowed to travel so far by myself(: difficult to convince parents, plus don’t know what will be my position in life next year…perhaps I will put in my bucket list to check out those turtles for sure(: anyway(: if next year I get news of this thing and I am still in touch with you can connect you with this…it is rare opputunity because not everyone can go to volunteer, I got because of the lady who knows that NGO…and I got a link for you from another travel site… https://youtraveliexplore.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/turtle-safari-an-epic-journey/ anyway

    1. Unlucky that you missed the opportunity. But lucky that you know the lady. And I am also luck that I know you who knows the lady who knows about the NGO 😉 (Don’t get confused 😛 )
      And thank you so much for the link

  4. not advise, like this person you mentioned is animal lover so maybe he can help with the funding if he is happy with the cause the boy is biking for anyway… just checking, I am not obligated to help them was just checking… I will tell them to check this page out anyway… actually these guys the whole family did something different… there was a Kerala doggy, she got an accident in Kerala, these guys brought the dog out and amputated her leg… and outside her flat put bed and pan for that creature. They feed it, take care of it and it lived happily and independently. That dog is wild sort won’t be in one place and one day it hopped with its 3 legs really far in park and I found it there. That dog knows me and I draged her collar to take it home, it refused to come until 5 dogs were barking at it, she barked back and I too supported the dog so other dogs went away. That day she followed me(: and I had a short walk with her… 2 months back it was limping and a cycle guy hit her, that dogs, spine and joint came off and she underwent operation, taken by these guys only. She was doing fine, had bandages and all when it rained they carried it home and she was outdoor dog, will howl if shut in place, likes sleeping with nature. One day it rained and it tried to bend down and the gate and come to the flat, she broke her limp as well… then finally I think that lady who takes care of it, the boy’s mom said with tearful voice that doctors told to kill the dog with injection because it will suffer lot of pain and cannot recover unless it is bedriden and at home the dog hates staying. So I guess she is gone): … when I go to see the dog only I see these forks, so they think I am animal lover… I miss that nice dog loads, even I used to spend time 5 or 10 minutes standing next to, and touching it once a while… anyway… will you like to go to Orissa for baby turtle putting putting into ocean task(: … happens in May

    1. I am not sure if he has enough time to help him with funding. He is busy doing his Phd and other things. So maybe you can ask him to check his website and mail him directly asking for guidance.
      That was a sad story of a lovely dog. And a very kind story of that family. I am sure they are nice people.
      That Orissa plan is very inviting. So are you planning to go there next year?

  5. hmmm…looks like you like these wildlife stuff… I touched snake on a school trip long long ago(: this rain forest is a must go for me sometime surely. Now, my flat neighbour who has a son was asking me advice or help for fund collection for his son who will ride bike from India to China for a good cause PETA some wildlife stuff(: could you help, next time I meet him I can tell him something helpful maybe… other than this good going with king cobra and frogs(: … great photo of that snake and nice write up about Sankar… he reminds me of Steve Irwin, I miss Steve now who got bitten by sting ray):, seemed like a really passionate person(: anyway!!! you always share interesting stuff, first auroville, now this rain forest… I will surely avail your help when I plan to go to Auroville, I am sure you would be glad to help out…

    1. haha.. i didn’t touch a snake or anything. I just liked to be in the wild. I am not sure if i can help him with any advice. But ask him to search for crowd funding options. Or promote his idea so well as to attract some investors. Yes, he is sort of like Steve Irwin only. Sure, i will try my best to help you out with your travel 🙂

    1. You enjoy your travels and let the lazy people like me explore the world through your eyes and words.. 🙂

      And let’s leave Sherlock and his crimes to Baker street.. 😉

  6. What a pleasure of meeting P GOWRI SHANKAR! I admire what he does and his experience and knowledge. Thank you for the post. 🙂

    1. you freak out.. the snake freak out.. so you both end up having something going on 😉
      Well on a serious note, why would a snake come and bite you for no reason?!

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