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Mumbai: The illegal snake venom trade is all set to become legal and a possibly a lucrative trade for the snake rescuers with Maharashtra
forest department deciding to allow venom extraction from the snakes rescued from human localities.
According to state forest minister Babanrao Pachpute, a multi-purpose welfare society for snake rescuers has been formed at Dhulia and the
venom extraction activities would be conducted at Nashik.
Chief conservator of forests, Nashik circle VK Mohan said, "The move is intended to enable snake rescuers to earn money as they are doing
the service voluntarily. At present they are not paid for the service being provided to the society".
He said the government has set a target of extracting venom from 8,000 snakes per annum.
The decision of the state government has evoked sharp reactions from environmentalists who feel the move is most likely to encourage venom
smuggling and even trade in snake parts.
"The decision is bound to prove to be the last nail in the coffin of herpitofauna of the state," said Kishor Rithe of Nature Conservation
Society, Amravati, an NGO working for forest conservation in central India.
According to naturalist Sunjoy Monga, it is a bad idea and a recipe for a bit of a snake-disaster in the making. "There is ambiguity as
regarding who will monitor that snakes are only caught in human localities. Venom is a highly valuable resource and such a permission
will be difficult to monitor and more easy to manipulate and especially since now it will not just be a question of catching snakes
in human localities but also earning money from them," Monga said.
Even some senior forest department officials are shocked by the decision.
"It is ridiculous to believe that all the snake to be brought in would be rescued from human settlements. This is nothing but legalisation of
venom trade," said a senior forest official.