national geographic snakes goa

‘Snakes SOS: Goa’s Wildest’, hear Ben and Louise as they revamp their careers with a brand new adventure series with National Geographic

Benhail Antao and Louise Remedios, two Goan wildlife activists will bring their stories and experiences as snake rescuers with a 10 part reality show on the National Geographic channel. The show will be premiering from 10th January 2022 at 8.00 pm

The power couple from Goa, began their careers diversly but they found their passion together. Ben and Louise run a wedding planning company together keeping in spirit their enormous passion for wildlife, especially snakes. Ben has been a honorary wildlife photographer and Louise has been planning celebrity weddings and events, their journey has been commendable and now they thrive into new endeavours as they star in the latest reality show by National Geographic. 

The show will be a 10 part series and will be airing every Monday from 10th January 2022. They will be showcasing their rescue missions and bringing awareness about the common myths we have about snakes. The show will also focus on informing and enhancing the knowledge of viewers on the rich and diverse wildlife present in Goa. 

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We were more than pleased to have spoken to Ben and Louise and hear from them their exciting experience. Read below to know more about thrilling and passionate lives of Ben and Louise. 

To Ben: From being a notable wildlife photographer to working with Goa Forest Department’s rescue squad, how was your career shaped as a snake rescuer? Were you inherently afraid of snakes too? 

I started wildlife rescue 19 years ago and professionally I was trained as a mechanical engineer. I came to realize that it was just a passion. Wildlife rescue and conservation has been a backbone for me throughout my teenage and adulthood. So right from the age of thirteen, I started rescuing snakes and I was giving awareness programs when I was fifteen. I fought my fear of snakes at a pretty young age when I understood that there was nothing that was to be afraid of in them, they are animals just like any other. 

Since then I have done plenty of other things, I did wildlife photography then even worked as a mechanical engineer for a while and we run a wedding planning company now. But rescuing snakes and wildlife has always remained a passion for me and continuously a pillar throughout my journey so far. 

national geographic snakes goa

To Louise: You have been rescuing snakes along with Ben and planning weddings as a profession. Our readers want to know the broad spectrum of your experience and what did you begin with?

Ever since I met Ben, I have been getting a lot of exposure to wildlife. I always had an affinity for domestic animals and now it’s not only snakes, we have been around leopards, pangolins, civets, peacocks, and everything possible around Goa. Professionally, I am a wedding planner, I used to work in five-star hotels. Then we had a family business which Ben and I took over and now we manage celebrity weddings and events. I began assisting Ben in rescue missions and that’s when I found this newfound joy in wild animals. Being a wedding planner I get to be creative, but rescuing animals is a joy one cannot replace. It’s complete passion.

To Ben: In your experience, what are the common myths and misconceptions we have about snakes in India?

What most people know about snakes are misconceptions. Most of them originate from stories and folklore we have been told in our childhood. For example, it’s believed to be sinful to kill or injure a snake in the wild, and if we do another snake will come to take revenge on us. I still get calls at two or three in the morning from people who are scared that a snake will come to take revenge. Some people also say snakes have two heads, one in the front other in the behind, but that’s a complete myth and these are tricks played by snake charmers to fool people. Also, people choose to believe supernatural explanations to something very easy, cause most of the time easiest explanations are boring.

To Louise: As thrilling as it is for you two as a couple, how did Ben help you overcome your fear of snakes?

Once I began assisting Ben in rescues, the fear just faded away. It is said that we are born with only two kinds of fear, we have fear of loud noises and fear of falling. All other fears we have are induced fears and the way we have heard people react to them. We only fear something we do not know or we have a lack of knowledge. And if we are able to show people, snakes in a light where you can admire them that’s when the respect will come that’s when the conservation will come as well. 

national geographic snakes goa

To Ben: How do you identify a venomous snake, do you ascertain it before rescuing or later?

So before anyone rescues or handles snakes, we better know what we are handling. For a good snake rescuer, you need to know what kind of snake it is, secondly whether its venomous or not, and thirdly you need to know the body language and the behavior of the snake. Now, how do we know whether we know a snake is venomous or not, the scientific method is to by counting the scales or by noticing the pattern on its body. For normal people its hard to identify, it needs tremendous practice. 

Especially in India, it’s The Big Four snakes that kill a lot of people in India namely the cobra, rustle viper, saw-scaled viper, and crate. You have to just identify these four snakes based on the pattern, the rest are either non-venomous or venomous snakes that are not fatal to human beings. 

To Ben and Louise: Tell us about a close combat you have had while catching a snake.

Handling snakes is definitely risky, and there have been a lot of close calls but nothing that I haven’t been through. So I still do what I love. 

To Louise: The upcoming adventure series with National Geographic India, we are excited to know how did you come across the idea of shooting this series?

I have been doing awareness programs for 15 years now, and this happened during the first lockdown. Our business was shut, and we got in touch with Riverbanks studios, who do a lot of filmmaking on wildlife conservation. We decided to collaborate and create these awareness programs online about snakes, and they liked it. So we came up with the idea of rescue series and we shot a small video and sent it to National Geographic. They were very happy to see this stuff and that this was the kind of thing we needed to share with the masses.  

national geographic snakes goa

To Ben: What was the biggest challenge you faced being in front of a camera, did the issue of getting the perfect shot and angle persist? How did you tackle it?

Coming to that I was very apprehensive that the shoot will be hectic and people will tell me to do what I should be doing because that would affect my coordination with snakes. But when the shoot started, it all went very smoothly and nobody told me how to act. The Riverbanks team, they have a production team on them, they were just tagging along with me silently that sometimes I couldn’t even feel them around me. They were running around me like clockwork, absolutely no stress at all.

Lousie continued to tell that in the beginning they were very conscious of having cameras around and there was no script. There was nervousness but that melted away because it became so enjoyable that we forgot there were cameras and people were recording. 

To Louise: Which was the most challenging episode to shoot out of the 10 part series?

Hard to say, but technically the opening episode was a bit challenging because I had to use a kind of digging mechanism. We had to use a winching machine to let me go down a well. We fitted it to my jeep, so that’s where Ben’s mechanical engineering coupled in with the mission. So that’s how we got it set it up to the back of the jeep, and that’s how we lowered Ben into the well rescued the snake, and pulled him out. 

Also, challenges come in different ways, there were some rescues we had to carry in the night and others with huge crowds, and each episode is exciting in its own way.

 To Ben: What are the other issues you will be showcasing in the series? Also, tell us about the wildlife in and around Goa, how are they being impacted by urbanization and pollution?

It’s all about snakes, there are two other encounters with a crocodile and a beehive. Speaking of urbanization, development and wildlife conservation can never go hand in hand. And one thing has to be sacrificed, and it’s always the wildlife. We can probably restrict urbanization but it’s not going to be sustainable. Building roads through swamps or forests thinking it will be balanced for nature, no we are destroying the place. It all costs something, not just financially it costs wildlife.

If you are looking at sustainability, one question you should ask yourself is, are you willing to take steps back. Are people willing to move backward, and find joy in sustainable ways of life? Personally, I am willing to get back and connect with nature which a lot of people are not. People want their conveniences and luxury. 

national geographic snakes goa

To Ben and Louise: What was your takeaway from shooting this reality show? We get to see brilliant storytelling and visuals, how did you find the balance between keeping it natural and exciting?

I would just say, for a reality show it should be as real as possible. People should just admire things for what it really is. For us, it was a little challenging to find the right balance between making sure that we are ethical rescuers all the time and also giving out entertainment. And if you want to transpire a message to the masses it should be entertaining as well.  

Louise says that for her the takeaway was to realize the power of social media and visual media. People are interested to know about snakes and wildlife, people follow us they want to know more and they are participating in quizzes I post on Instagram. I would have never known that had I not been given this opportunity and both of us sharing this spotlight.

To Ben and Louise: Are we as an audience expecting more shows and collabs from you two in the future? If yes, how far are they from inception?  

You are definitely expecting 10 episodes of Snakes SOS on National geographic, it’s what we do on a daily basis. It’s on the audience and if the broadcaster thinks we need more shows then it’s up to them to take it ahead. Do follow us on Instagram to stay updated. 

You can stay updated with the journeys of Ben and Louise by following them on Instagram:

https://www.instagram.com/benhailantao/

https://www.instagram.com/louise.goa/

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