Chinmay Joshi still remembers his most memorable rescue operation. A 6-ft venomous cobra was trapped inside a small cabin. Though he didn't have much elbow room, he saved it without even the professional stick used to rescue snakes.
"The most important thing at that moment was bringing the snake out safely without it harming me and the people around," recalled the final year Zoology student.
Joshi and his band of self-taught rescuers make sure they are present whenever a rescue operation is required in their vicinity.
They were there in the IIT-B campus where a wild cat was on the prowl for four days. "Since we have been undertaking rescue works for long, forest officials sought our help as they are short staffed," said Pawan Sharma, another member of the group.
Their affiliation with the forest department is that of years. They would always inform dept officials after every rescue effort.
The boys in the group took to this hobby way before they were 18.
Sharma first rescued a Russell's Wiper. He was just 13 then. It was in his housing society and he had the security guards helping him. The snake had taken away one of his kittens, and he was very fond of kittens. "While I wanted my kitten to be safe, I didn't want to harm the snake," said Sharma, who learned the art of rescuing, like all others, by watching programmes in channels like Discovery and National Geographic.
The 22-year-old student of communication and journalism, now runs an NGO, Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare (RAWW).
"There are many NGOs that take care of cute domestic animals, but few dedicated to saving wild ones. We feel they too need to be rescued as it's we who have been encroaching their space," said Sharma.
RAWW has around 15 members, all in 18-30 age group, whose motto is living in harmonious co-existence with wild species. Such groups also conduct awareness programmes that include tracking animal trails, trekking and visiting schools and colleges.
"There is a lot of misconceptions about wild species, especially reptiles. Most people believe reptiles are venomous; only about 4-5 per cent are," said Nitin Walmiki, a senior ecologist with Mumbai Metropolitan Region.
Walmiki (29), who recently rescued a rat snake in Sewree area and released it in its natural habitat, is another enthusiast. "I am into rescue acts in my spare time. We are also into studying biodiversity," said Walmiki, who runs Eco-Echo, an NGO keen on biodiversity as well as flora and fauna.
Some of these NGOs are also into rescuing wild animals that may harm people. "Though we weren't into it, we learned a lot by being part of a group that has rescued crocodile and leopard. People are scared of wild animals and they in turn are scared of us, and act as they do because of that. It's hence very important to rescue animals that stray into human habitat and transport them to their natural habitat," said Walmiki.