Neelam Kumar Khaire, a restless 28-year-old, has an unusual world record to his name. He had some strange companions for 72 hours in a glass cabin: 27 monocellate cobras, 24 russell’s vipers, 9 binocellate cobras, 8 banded kraits, and 4 common snakes. Khaire wanted to raise awareness and educate the public on how snakes do not attack unless provoked.
“Reptiles were frequent visitors at my place in Matheran,” he told India Today. “I hated killing such beautiful creatures—most of them were harmless. So I started catching and releasing them in the Sahyadri hills. I once caught a snake and took it to the Haffkin Institute in Bombay. I was told that it was poisonous and too risky to be carried in this way. The incident boosted my courage and so began my obsession with snakes.”
Khaire, who has a small snake park in his backyard, first thought of establishing a world record when he came across reports of Peter Snyemaris unrivalled performance of staying with 18 venomous and six semi-poisonous snakes in Johannesburg, South Africa, for 50 hours last year. “I thought an Indian deserved to create a world record in this field as India is known abroad as a country of snakes.”
But when he set out to do his own thing, people thought he had gone crazy. The police would neither take him seriously nor permit him to go ahead with his plans. All the while prospective donors kept assuring him help.
Finally, on January 20, he entered a glass house cabin at Pune’s B.J. Medical College sports ground. Khaire, while resting in a chair, often had to contend with snakes who climbed on to him. At which point Khaire had to interrupt the reptiles’ wanderings and put them back on the ground.
As the 72nd hour drew to a close, Khaire had demolished Snyemari’s record rather convincingly. While he had to contend with 72 snakes, Snyeman had to put up with just a fourth of the number. The publishers of the Guinness Book of World Records had written to Khaire that he would establish a world record even if he took off half an hour outside the cabin every day, but Khaire refused to do so.
“I will now be able to set up a trust-run snakes park and a research centre with the initial funds from the proceeds of the feat,” said Khaire. “I stalled my parents’ efforts to get me married till I fulfilled my ambition of creating a work record. Now I am ready.”
True to his word, Khaire went on to set up Katraj Snake Park, which is now home to 160 different snake species. His passion for wildlife and animals also motivated him to to create the first animal orphanage in India. Today, Khaire continues to work as a zoologist and has published 4 books about snakes.