His mum may not have been too pleased to know that there were snakes upstairs in the house but that’s all in the past for Biraj. The UK based reptile lover has twelve snakes, chameleon, pacman frog, geckos, turtle – you name it! Biraj even has a scorpion. Of course there’s also the more common Koi fishes, which unsurprisingly happens to be his dads favourite too! He’s recently finished his undergrad degree and I guess we could be talking about the next steps but I think snakes make a far more interesting topic of conversation for right now!
LEX: I have to say, I love seeing Instagram updates from you! There’s so much snakes and of such variety. How would you describe your relationship with snakes?
BIRAJ: My relationship with snakes started off with curiosity then later changed into admiration and fascination, I feel like it was partly due to not having “fear” of snakes since I got to know them through documentaries. Now I treat my pet snakes like my own kids.
LEX: That’s so cute! Having snakes as pets is definitely something that’s bound to shock and confuse many people, especially within our community. What’s your earliest memory with snakes?
BIRAJ: It was on TV. My brother and I used to only watch cartoons and animal documentaries for some reason and one day I saw a snake that caught my attention. A green tree python – after that I started getting sucked into reptile world more and more.
My earliest memory with snakes was when I was around 7/8 years old and I was already fascinated by snakes by that time and then I found my first ever wild snake in Nepal. So, me being me, I caught it and then I kept it for a week until I got bit and was sent to a venom/poison specialist hospital in Nepal. I just remember my mum and aunt were panicking at the hospital. We weren’t sure what type of snake it was until I started looking into it after I came to UK. I am guessing it was just a species of harmless garter snake.
LEX: Wow! That’s certainly quite a memory. From capturing a snake to being bitten and now having snakes as pets, when did this journey start for you?
BIRAJ: I can’t remember the exact date, but I’d say around 2014. I remember buying our first fish tank in 2008/9 then I wondered whether you could actually purchase snakes in the UK. Just a quick research and the answer was yup! I was so excited, and I knew I had to buy it knowing it was possible, so I slowly approached my parents with the idea of having a pet snake, but we all know how Nepali parents can be. It was a straight no, so I had to let go of the idea of having a pet snake, but I still wanted a snake so badly! After few years, I bought my first exotic pets; a pair of Chinese fire belly newts and a red claw crabs which could live in the fish tank with other fishes. I was happy but still wasn’t satisfied! That then made me want to get snake even more since I kept on researching on how to keep snakes so I think early 2014 was when I decided to just get one. I bought my first snake from Pets At Home. It was a corn snake then I got his set up online as it was way cheaper. Everything about keeping the snake was exciting, the touch , the feeding experience and interacting. It was my first time witnessing a live shed, drinking water and snake pooping. I spent hours and hours just watching him do nothing lol. In my experience with every reptile the initial set up requires a lot of time and money as this is the crucial part, you need to get the temperature, light, humidity, substrate etc right while at the same time trying to make the tank look presentable with a lot of hides for the snake to hide in after that its only a matter of feeding them and cleaning after them.
LEX: That definitely made me laugh. Watching him do nothing – that must’ve been so exciting. To have something completely new into your life aye. So how many snakes do you have right now and what other pets do you have?
BIRAJ: Currently I have 12 snake and 6 snake eggs (hatching soon!), they are majority Ball/royal pythons with just different morph: Pied, lesser, citrus pastel lesser spider, super pastel, pastel. Then I got king snakes (Mexican black kingsnakes), false water cobra (aka Brazilian smooth snake) and an albino Burmese python.
Other pets I have apart from snakes are:
Yemen/ veiled chameleon
Yellow belly slider turtle
Asian forest scorpion
South African cichlids fish
and Koi fishes ( my dads personal favourite)
LEX: That’s certainly a lot! You must have a mini-reptile section in your house by the looks of it. How much do you spend on average per month looking after the pets you have?
BIRAJ: For my reptile food I normally buy it in bulk for three months, depending on what I am getting and what snakes/reptiles I have now its normally £150-170 for 3-month supply. So and average of about £50 a month? Fortunately for me my dad is taking responsibility for all the fish related stuff (koi pond and our indoor cichlid tank).
LEX: This might be an unfair question but do you have a favourite snake?
BIRAJ: My dream snake is the green tree python (the one that originally got me into snakes) but my favourite from the ones I have has to be my albino Burmese named “Sani”. I named her Sani cause she used to be the size of my laptop when I first got her at the age of 6 month and now just over 2 years she’s just over 10 ft long.
LEX: That’s cute! Sani is beautiful! My final question – have you met any fellow Nepalese reptile lovers or snake lovers to be specific?
BIRAJ: Not yet but hopefully I will. Reptile as pets is growing rapidly in popularity.