Investigating occupancy and preference of artificial dens by rock pythons in human-dominated landscapes.
Python Ecology Project, Ahmedabad
Indian rock pythons remain a vulnerable species in its entire range. Major threats to the species include habitat destruction, persecution in for the form of being killed out of fear or for skins and meat and in some areas road kill. The species can grow to 20 feet and requires suitable habitat to survive. There are very few places in India where Indian pythons are tolerated in agricultural land.
A cluster of villages in central Gujarat is one of the few prime examples of human-python coexistence. This has been made possible due to intensive engagement by local herpetologists. The pythons live in agricultural land without any issue the farmers and farm labourers working in the same area as the snakes have an understanding that the snakes are harmless if left alone and they also control rodents which are a huge issue for the farmers. Small and medium sized snakes are tolerated without any problem, and if found in houses and backyards are captured and released in open farmland. In the case of larger adult snakes local herpetologists are called in to act as rescuers and the relocate these larger snakes, it is important to note all conflict snakes are released within their home range.
We run a community engagement program along with local enthusiasts (doing a lot capacity building with them) to promote coexistence and have had good success too. Our research interest here is to carry out a ‘den’ study. The landscape here has changed dramatically in the recent past with conversion of scrub forests in to farmlands due to the new irrigation canal that feeds water almost all year round. It is very interesting to see how they are choosing ‘man-made’ structures in this changed landscape. The pythons now mainly use old irrigation pipelines as ‘dens’ for shelter, breeding/egg laying, etc. Our research objectives include understanding the local ecology, habitat preferences, feeding habits, threats, etc.
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