Snakes are undoubtedly one of the most beautiful component of Mother Nature. Though feared and even hated worldwide, the mystical charm of these animals have always spell bounded nature lovers. The name SPOAR (Society for Protecting the Ophiofauna [the snakes] & Animal Rights) itself indicates that the organization has a special soft point in heart for these elegant limbless beauties. In order to conserve the snakes and save them to cherish, the organization successfully executed three awareness programme cum workshop on snakes namely “Living with Snakes” in the year 2012, 2013 and 2014 which took place in Jalpaiguri town. The main focus of these workshops were to aware the common people and kindle the interest and love in their hearts for snakes as well as whole nature, rather than to expose scientific and technical aperture that is why these workshops had limitations in technical aspects.
The majority of the participants were students in these workshops. Renowned experts in this field were present on those days and different topics such as anatomy, physiology and locomotion of snakes, snake venom, snake bite and its managements including first aids, facts and fallacies related to snakes were discussed by the help of beautiful power point presentations. Most importantly there was an audio visual session for the venomous and non-venomous snakes of Jalpaiguri and outskirts emphasizing on dichotomous identification keys which is very helpful in differentiating the same looking venomous and non-venomous species along with their habit and habitat, breeding and preying behaviour etc. There were question answer rounds to encourage and welcome the knowledge and ideas of the participants. The workshops lasted for 3 days with very basic training on rescue and rehabilitation on the last day.
In 2016 SPOAR organized “Herpetologica 16”, an advanced technical national level workshop on herpetofauna (the reptiles and amphibians), which was in West Bengal, ‘The First of Its Kind’. The workshop had participants with interest and urge, hailing from all over the country. It used murti riversides as its venue which, for the vicinity of Gorumara, Nagrakata, Khunia forest is a very good place for the field work session of the participants. The technical sessions such as power point presentations, lectures and documentary films took place in the seminar hall of Murti Tent resort at the bank of murti river. World famous herpetologist Dr. Indraneil Das, renowned herpetologists Dr. Abhijit Das, Dr. Kaushik Deuti and Dr. Dalia Ghoshdastidar were present on the three days of the workshop as resource persons. The theme extended from taxonomic and systematic discussion about reptiles and amphibians to the species diversity, habitat, breeding biology, key characters of identification etc. Dr. Kaushik Deuti who is very much renowned in the field of batrachology, enlightened the participants with lectures and presentations on frog taxonomy, herpetofaunal diversity of the forets of north Bengal and biology of Himalayan newt (salamander), whereas Dr. Indraneil Das and Dr. Abhijit Das gave lectures on reptiles, amphibians and their identification, survey methodology etc. Dr. Dalia Ghoshdastidar discussed on some of the current projects that she worked on, in India and USA. Technical session lasted all day long and at night there were amazing field sessions with experts. Pit fall and other survey techniques were demonstrated and taught by Dr. Abhijit Das in the field. Participants observed breeding behaviour and calls of different species of frogs also. “Herpetologica 16” lasted for three days and was a grand success to SPOAR. .
Snake rescue and rehabilitation training of forest dept. staffs throughout India is another addition to the credentials of SPOAR. The members of this organization are often contacted from different conserved forest regions throughout the country in order to train the staffs of the department. The duties of a forest guard is actually as extensive as it could get and often, they have to rescue wild animals including snakes from nearby localities. In this cases, danger is inevitable if he/she is lacking proper training and knowledge. Through these training programmes, SPOAR’s main motto was to boost up their knowledge both practically and theoretically. The training included theory sessions with help of power point presentation on local snakes and brief ideas about them and practical sessions emphasizing on rescuing techniques with proper equipments on live specimens. Till now SPOAR has executed ten training programmes successfully in Bandhavgarh National Park(2 times), Pench National Park(2 times), Chakrashila National Park, Lothian island in Sundarbans, Manas National Park(2 times), Chintamoni Kar Bird Sanctuary and Jaldapara National Park. All of those were successes and improvement in the rescue operatios executed by forest guards is evident.