The corona pandemic appears to have given a fillip to the superstition that keeping wild animals at home brings luck and money, a belief that has increased threat to wild animals, say forest officials.
"In 2019, we were hopeful that cases of keeping wild animals at homes for superstition were coming down, but their number has jumped by 200 per cent in 2020, at least in Indore division," said a forest department official.
Many people are still keeping wild animals in their homes hoping for luck. While smugglers and traders are still caught, the department rarely peeps into homes and many such wild animals are stuck in households away from their natural habitats, say officials.
In 2018, 6 such protected turtles and boa snakes were rescued unharmed from households, where they were held captive for ‘good luck’. In 2019, the number came down to 4, as department ran campaigns to bring awareness. But in 2020, around 15 such cases were recorded, or a rise of around 200 per cent.
“The spike is a bad sign that people are inclined towards harming innocent wild animals for their superstitious beliefs,” forest ranger Suresh Barole said.
Sand Boa Snake
Considered to be one of the most harmless snakes, sand boas are captured due to the superstition that they possess supernatural power.
This is mainly attributed to its ‘double-headed’ appearance for which it is called ‘do muha’ in Hindi. Their appearance has made them a soft target for poaching and illegal trading like owls.
They are used in black magic, and even in the name of esoteric science.
A non-venomous snake, the red sand boa is protected under Schedule IV of the Wild Life Protection Act 1972.
Barole said that the snake had no proven medicinal value and that people were cheated in the name of black magic by tantriks, some of who even promised showers of money.
Turtles losing their lifespan to superstitions
Environmental degradation apart, superstition is a major factor endangering them.
"People want to keep them in wells despite the depleting water tables because they feel it brings good luck. They feed them with vegetables, biscuits, rice etc. which shortens their lifespan," Barole said.
He added that turtles play a vital role in maintaining cleanliness in lakes and balancing the ecosystem, as they eat small fish, frogs and carrion.
Spike in wildlife captivity with coronavirus outbreak
“The number of wildlife rescues varies every month but during auspicious months, there are several illegal traders caught smuggling the innocent creatures,” Barole said.
Surprisingly, this year, almost every month a turtle or boa snake has been rescued by the forest department. “A lot of people have started believing that boa snake or turtle will boost their income, which is absurd and hurtful for our wildlife. “If it was true then forest officers would be millionaires as we tend to come across boa snakes almost on a daily basis,” Barole said.