See you later, Alligator; in a while, Crocodile. Don't be surprised if the phrase leaps into your head at the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology, 40 km south of Chennai on the East Coast Road. One of the world's largest reptile zoos, this unique centre holds to its heart the mission of educating the public about reptiles and the need to conserve them. The zoo is located on coastal dune forests and is home to many waterbirds. An Olive Ridley Sea Turtle nesting site is also within its precincts. The centre, founded by Romulus Whitaker (who is still a trustee), was set up in 1976 to protect the three species of crocodile native to India that were under threat due to hunting for their skin -- the mugger (marsh crocodile), gharial and the saltwater crocodile. The centre has the added attraction of a live snake venom extraction show involving a cooperative of the Irula tribe of snake catchers.
AZHAR MOHAMED ALI gets up close and personal with some of the most ancient reptiles to walk the earth.