Tuesday at the Taj Mahal saw its normal throng of tourists visiting the iconic mausoleum ... but it also saw a less common visitor slither onto the scene. An Indian rat snake, overheating during a particularly hot day, sought relief amongst the gardens of the Taj Mahal and eventually found its way into the damp, cool refuge of the landmark's on-site water filtration plant.

Its trip to water and shade, however, was not without incident. According to local reports, tourists who spotted the snake began shrieking and calling for help. The government organisation responsible for managing the complex, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), immediately called for backup from Wildlife SOS, an India-based non-profit dedicated to wildlife rescue and rehab. By the time help arrived, the reptile had found its way behind some water filtration machinery.

"There are four [reverse osmosis] plants inside Taj Mahal to ensure proper water supply for public water taps," ASI Senior Conservation Assistant Munazzar Ali explained to India Today. "As soon as the snake was spotted inside the plant, considering safety of tourists and workers, we immediately contacted Wildlife SOS for their assistance."

Upon arrival, the Wildlife SOS team identified the visitor as an Indian rat snake, a species native to the area that preys primarily on birds and – as you might expect from the name – rodents. The reptiles are harmless to humans, but curious tourists and plant workers were still moved to a safe distance before rescuers got to work.

"The severe heat must have driven this snake in search for water and a cool place," Wildlife SOS Conservation Projects Director Baiju Raj told India Today.

After an hour-long rescue operation, the team finally managed to remove the snake from its bolthole without causing harm to the reptile (or the equipment it had commandeered).

"We thank ASI and the officials of the Taj Mahal for considering the safety of the tourists and the snake and contacting Wildlife SOS," Raj said. 

After being kept under observation to ensure it had recovered from its ordeal, the animal was released back into the wild. 



Top image: Nireekshit/Wikimedia Commons