The first International Snakebite Conference was held on June 21st and 22nd, 2018, in Leiden, the Netherlands. The goal of this conference was to “draw attention to a devastating, neglected tropical disease and to ignite international action on snakebite prevention and treatment”. But, wait, snakebite is a disease?
It’s true! In 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified snakebite as a neglected tropical disease. The numbers are brutal:
- Over 2.5 million people worldwide suffer a serious snakebite envenomation.
- At least 125,000 are killed.
- 400,000 more are permanently disabled.
A Dangerous “Cure”
Almost no efforts exist to reduce snakebite in low and middle income countries. For many, the only solution is to kill snakes. But this “cure” comes at a high price:
- It devastates snake populations, including threatened species like the iconic king cobra.
- To kill a snake, you have to get close to a snake. It puts more people at risk of snakebite, causing more disability and loss of life.
- Less snakes mean more mice and rats, which ruin food crops and spread disease.
A Better Answer
After the World Health Organization declared snakebite a neglected tropical disease, action was immediately taken to understand and then stop this snakebite crisis. The goal of the conference, titled Snakebite: From Science to Society, was determined to “draw attention to a devastating, neglected tropical disease and to ignite international action on snakebite prevention and treatment”. The conference brought together directors, scientists, researchers, engineers, logistics experts, designers, policy advisors and many more from medical, humanitarian, societal and technical fields to share and create sustainable solutions to solve the global snakebite crisis.
Save The Snakes was invited to table at the event and we had the wonderful opportunity to share our snake conservation and human-snake conflict mitigation programs with conference participants. Save The Snakes Executive Director Michael Starkey gave a presentation about how our organization is working together with our dedicated Conservation Partners to tackle this global snakebite crisis.
The conference was truly a powerful and inspiring event. Our team gained valuable insight and knowledge from leaders in their field, who are working to prevent and cure snakebite. Here are a few highlights from the conference:
While this conference brought together so many amazing people working to solve snakebite issues around the world, it also clearly demonstrated the tremendous scale of the global snakebite crisis. What we learned is that it will take a monumental effort to get appropriate medical care to the communities who need it the most. Whether it’s because of cost, distance or lack of trust in western medicine, rural communities in the global majority simply do not currently receive the proper medical care after a snakebite. To make matters even worse, it will take years to implement the necessary steps that will bring medical care to these communities, who desperately need it today!
Until that day comes, prevention is the first step in stopping this snakebite crisis. Save The Snakes is going to work harder, smarter and even more determined than ever to continue our work to mitigate human-snake conflict. Far too often we receive emails from individuals from around the world who request support so that they can address the issue of snakebite or snake conservation in their communities. By empowering and supporting snake conservationists to mitigate human-snake conflict, our organization’s unique, community-based approach to snake conservation can reduce snakebite in the communities that need it most. After this conference, Save The Snakes moves forward, better prepared, to continue with our own efforts and we are truly driven and inspired!
What Can You Do?
- Learn about the Conference: www.snakebite.naturalis.nl
- Read the abstract of our presentation here: “Save The Snakes – Bridging the Gap Between Snake Conservation and Human-Snake Conflict Mitigation.”
- View updates from the conference on Twitter: @savethesnakes
- Donate: Your donation directly funds on-the-ground, snakebite treatment workshops for the people who need it most. (And every workshop includes snake awareness education so the snakes benefit, too.)
Thank you for joining us in our mission to protect threatened snake populations and mitigate human-snake conflict.