Ketching’ the Big Un

Toby Ninan retired from Delhi Zoo about two years back. With his varied experiences with the wild animals in the zoo, he is the right person to direct your queries to. Hear what Ninan has to say about his life and chosen career!



Last time I wrote as to how I lost the fear of catching snakes. This can be some what risky if one does not have real knowledge about the snake he is going to catch.

You know little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Sip not but drink deep of the Tiernean Spring.

By now, I was a veteran ( so I thought) on catching snakes. This story is about catching the biggest of them all. I had a short stint at Singapore Zoo during my career, an experience I cherish till now. I had been on my rounds of the Singapore Zoo and all the keepers were hard at work looking after their day to day jobs. I was walking through a particular part of the zoo which had thick under growth. I suddenly saw some crawling in the bush in front of me, I thought it must be due to one of those small pythons which were quite common there, but something told me to look closer and lo and behold I saw our prized 12 foot long Anaconda, who had found a gap in its temporary enclosure and was making its way into the surrounding jungle, little knowing that it would find me or the other way round. Well, I thought here is a simple fat slow moving fellow and I who am an” expert” after catching a number of cobras, kraits and pythons - can easily snare this fat creature and put him into his enclosure without disturbing all the hard working keepers at their jobs.

Little did I realize that this was a different cup of tea and I was in for a royal wrestling match for which I might have had to pay with my life. I caught the snake from behind his head and had to use both my hands- even then it was a real handful. In a trice the snake was all over me or so I thought and felt. He wrapped himself neatly around my chest and abdomen and with out any delay started his business. Each time I would exhale he would squeeze me that much. Again when I inhaled he would wait and keep what little air there was in my lungs. I would exhale again and the squeeze would intensify. At this rate I would not last too long, I thought to myself. He did open up his wide gape of a mouth but just could not get at any part of my anatomy, as I had grabbed the neck and held on tight keeping the mouth far from my body. Well this alternate squeezing went on and in spite of all my efforts I could not dislodge the snake and had to call for help. Keepers, gardeners, all came running to help the boss. Two of my keepers caught on to the tail and started to unravel the big squeeze machine and soon we had the snake straightened out in every sense of the word. Very soon he was dumped back in his enclosure and he sheepishly crept in to a nice convenient bush. I dusted myself and tried to gather up the remains of my tattered dignity, vowing never to handle a snake that size by myself.

I how ever forgot this vow and caught a big Indian python all alone in the Purana Quila. But that is another story.

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