Kerala's famed snake catcher survives brush with death after cobra bite

For 20 years, Vava Suresh has answered thousands of calls to remove snakes from inhabited areas

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Kerala’s star snake catcher, Vava Suresh, has been taken off a ventilator and is on the road to recovery after being bitten by a cobra, doctors said.

Mr Suresh, 49, was bitten by a three-metre cobra on Monday while trying to capture the venomous reptile from a house in Kurichy, a village in Kottayam district.

“He is better now and coming back to normal. He is breathing on his own, by God’s grace," Dr T K Jayakumar, medical superintendent at Kottayam Medical College hospital, told The National on Thursday.

“We have taken him off the ventilator and will observe him for a few more days.

Mr Suresh has survived about 250 snake bites in his two decades as a snake catcher, which have left him with damage to his right wrist and index finger. But the latest bite almost proved fatal.

Doctors said at the hospital his heart rate had dropped to 20 per cent of normal by the time he was admitted.

Video of the incident shows the snake lunging at Mr Suresh and biting him on the thigh as he holds it by the tail and tries to put it into a sack.

Mr Suresh releases his grip on the cobra and the crowd watching him screams and scatters as the snake starts to slither away. He managed to capture it before being rushed to hospital.

Mr Suresh, who is based in the city of Thiruvananthapuram, has become well known in Kerala for his prompt response to calls for help from all over the southern coastal state, which is home to more than 100 species of snakes, including venomous ones such as the cobra, Indian krait and Russell’s viper.

At least 55 people died in more than 24,000 snake-bite incidents in Kerala between 2015 and 2019, according to government figures.

Using his self-taught skills, Mr Suresh has caught more than 38,000 snakes that strayed into human settlements and safely released them into the wild, including 200 cobras, and tries to raise pubic awareness about the reptiles and their behaviour.

Last year, he was part of an expert panel that helped to convict a man in Kerala of killing his wife by having a cobra bite her while she slept.

Updated: February 03, 2022, 11:05 AM