Environment

This NGO prevents snakebites in Visakhapatnam

The Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society has stepped up its efforts to educate people on human-snake conflicts that increase in the Monsoons

During this time of the year, (from July to September), the Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society (EGWS), a city-based snake conservation non-profit organisation, has its hands full. Because it is now that the rains flood snake burrows and force them to move out in search of food and shelter.

In order to spread awareness about human-snake conflicts that inevitably arise, EGWS has installed bill boards in villages in Visakhapatnam and Srikakulam districts. These list ways in which to avoid snakes and snake-bites. The organisation has also trained three people from rural regions on how to catch snakes without hurting them in 2019. Last month in Visakhapatnam city alone, EGWS rescued over 20 snakes. But the rural areas are worse hit as people who work in paddy fields and defecate in the open are easy prey. However, the situation in rural areas is far worse. According to Murthy Kantimahanti, the founder of EGWS, most snakebite victims are people who work in paddy farms and defecate in open.

This NGO prevents snakebites in Visakhapatnam

How to avoid snake bites
  • Use a flash light in the dark
  • Dispose waste responsibly so that it does not attract rats that in turn attract the snakes
  • Move away and allow a snake to pass you by
  • In case there is a snake found at home, call the local Forest Department or snake rescuers appointed by wildlife authorities.

  • Four venomous snakes one could encounter in Visakhapatnam are the Spectacled cobra, Common krait, Russell’s viper and Saw scale viper.
  • According to the database of EGWS, there are 26 different species of snakes in Visakhapatnam district.
  • A few villages where there are bill boards giving information on snake bites include Turuvolu, Cheedikada, Thangudu palli, Madugula, Chodavaram, Koduru, madaveedhi, Ondruveedhi, Ravulapalem, Kurmanadhapuram, Tatiparthi, Lovagavara Varam, Krishnapuram.

He is particular about pointing out that when the team is catching snakes, it does so with care. “We don’t use tools that might hurt the snakes and therefore more aggressive.” According to the World Health Organisation, about as 2.8 million people are bitten by snakes, and over 46,000 people die from snakebite every year in India. Yet there are no incentives for private snake catchers here. “Most of them aren’t even eligible for health insurance,” rues Murthy. One of the main reasons why Andhra Pradesh has high number of deaths due to snakebites is because of the lack of anti-venom serum in Public Health Centres and hospitals near villages. According to Murthy, “The State gets its supply of anti-venom serum from Chennai’s Irula Cooperative Society, Madras Crocodile Bank Trust & Centre for Herpetology. It’s high time the government plans for decentralisation of venom extraction centres in the country.”

All lives matter Murthy Kantimahanti (second from right) and his team Special Arrangement

All lives matter Murthy Kantimahanti (second from right) and his team Special Arrangement  

While a majority of snakes aren’t venomous, Murthy advises every snake bite should be looked at by a doctor. Avoid traditional remedies, he says. “Many people in villages fall for non-medical treatments. The only remedy to a venomous snake is polyvalent antivenom serum,,” he says. Going after King cobras is another reason for the increase in snake bites in the State. “They are the only snakes whose primary diet is other venomous snakes and therefore they keep a check on the population of the other venomous snakes,” he explains. In 2019, the three-year-old organisation documented the killing of as many as seven King cobrasin Visakhapatnam district. EGHS has increased its efforts to protect the King Cobras in the State with the support from Houston Zoo, USA. “Most people are scared of snakes. But in their fear, they forget snakes won’t attack unless provoked,” concludes Murthy.

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Printable version | Feb 29, 2020 7:19:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/this-ngo-prevents-snakebites-in-visakhapatnam/article29111060.ece

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