Madras Crocodile Bank takes snakebite awareness to rural schools

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To highlight the widespread occurrences of snakebites, the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust (MCBT) has been conducting snakebite awareness programs for students and rural communities for several years now.

To highlight the widespread occurrences of snakebites, the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust (MCBT) has been conducting snakebite awareness programs for students and rural communities for several years now.

When one comes across the term human-wildlife conflict, it is highly likely that people picture an elephant, tiger, or leopard causing trouble in habitats. However, snakes are one of the biggest reasons for deaths due to wildlife in India, says Gnaneshwar Ch, Project Lead, Snake Conservation and Snakebite Mitigation, at the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust (MCBT).

To highlight the widespread occurrences of snakebites, the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust (MCBT) has been conducting snakebite awareness programs for students and rural communities for several years now. On September 15, four days before International Snakebite Awareness Day, the MCBT team held sessions at two Primary Union Middle Schools in Uthiramerur, Kancheepuram, for around 200 students and 14 teachers in total.

According to a study published in eLife, in which snake conservationist Romulus Whitaker was one of the authors, said over 1.2 million snakebite deaths had occurred in India between 2000 and 2019. “Many studies say there are 58,000 deaths (caused by snakebite) in India every year, and these are just the ones reported in the hospital,” Mr. Gnaneshwar says. “The problem of snakebite has several root causes. Even after reaching the hospital, doctors are hesitant to give anti-venom as it may cause allergies, and the primary health centers might not have ventilator support,” he adds. Precious time is lost when they travel to better-equipped hospitals.

Indira Naidu, Project Coordinator, Snake Conservation and Snakebite Mitigation, said the interactive program was focused on teaching the students to identify the Big Four snakes in Tamil Nadu and differentiate them from their lookalikes, as well as the truths and fallacies of the myths around snakes. . “We also taught them precautions to take to prevent snakes from entering their homes and what they are supposed to do when they see a snake,” said Ms. Naidu.

Mr. Gnaneswaran said while students are receptive to the right ways of handling snakes, it is difficult with older members from rural areas who still seek traditional treatment methods to cure snakebites. A new village modeling study for snakebite awareness is on the cards, he said.

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