People moving back to their flood-hit homes should watch out for poisonous snakes as snakebites have been identified as one of the major killers in the post-flood scenario.
A group of herpetologists are busy sourcing snake venom to Kerala and a web page, http://snakebiteinitiative.in/kerala/ , for offering assistance to snakebite victims has been launched. Besides identifying around 20 snake rescuers who could be contacted on spotting snakes, they have started mapping the hospitals where treatment for snakebites is available.
Four WhatsApp numbers, 83839 47126, 70009 1715, 94471 33366 and 97450 03075, have been listed, to which pictures of snakes could be shared for identification of species.
The initiative comes from an NGO, Wildlife Trust of India, in association with a few medical practitioners in the State.
Refuge in homes
Snakes whose habitats are destroyed and displaced in the floodwaters are likely to seek refuge in homes, sheds, and other dry places. Abandoned homes in inundated areas are their favourite locations and there are high chances of human-snake conflict in such houses, said Jose Louies, Deputy Director and Chief of the Wildlife Crime Control Division of the trust.
During floods, “snakes float into houses and take shelter in roofs, nooks and crannies, under debris or other belongings where hiding is possible,” cautions the web page.
Three main species
In Kerala, one should look for three species of venomous snakes, common cobra, Russell’s viper and krait. There is also the possibility of encountering hump-nosed pit viper, he said.
A Pune-based pharma company has offered to provide 500 vials of anti-venom at subsidised rate. Around 150 vials have been moved to the State. So far, no shortage of anti-venom had been reported, he said.
Jaideep C. Menon, a Kochi-based cardiologist, who has been roped in for the management of bite victims, said snakebite had been the biggest killer in Kashmir and Odisha after floods. Eggs of some snake species hatch during July-August. If one encountered a juvenile snake at this time, he should look out for more snakes in the vicinity. Cobras would lay up to 60 eggs and Russell’s vipers would give birth to a good number of juveniles at a time, said Dr. Menon.
Herpetologists suggest that people move the snakes gently out of their way if one can “confidently identify a non-venomous snake.”
If the identification proves to be a tough proposition, “call for snake-rescue experts immediately and move away from the area” as “venomous snakes may strike in self-defence, making the encounter fatal,” the page suggested.