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.
[ 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.
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! 😉
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