Through the Save The Snakes Support Grant Program, Save The Snakes supported Atubwa Howard and his team in 2021 to increase awareness about snakes in Tharaka Nithi, Kenya. Atubwa aims to use his knowledge of snakes to educate local community members about nonvenomous and venomous snakes around Mt. Kenya, where endangered Mt. Kenya bush vipers still cling to survival.
Creating Awareness on Snakes and Snakebite Management in Tharaka Nithi, Kenya
People all over the world have a negative attitude and perception towards snakes. Most African communities associate snakes with evil. They believe that all snakes are bad and dangerous thus they often kill snakes whenever they encounter them, which in return causes some fatal incidents of snakebites. The majority of snakebite victims tend to seek treatment from the traditional healers who use herbs to treat their patients. This results in several deaths, especially in rural areas. The only effective way to treat a snakebite is through admission of antivenom.
This project seeks to educate and create awareness on snakes and snakebites management in Tharaka Nithi County (TNC), Kenya and enlighten the local people on how they can coexist with snakes; both venomous and nonvenomous. The local community will be trained how to differentiate between venomous and nonvenomous snakes, how to avoid snakebites, how to safely remove snakes found in their homes relocating them back in the wild, how to handle and help victims of snakebite. A similar approach will be taken to educate and create awareness among the community health workers and health officers based at Chuka Referral Hospital. The study will take place in TNC where several cases of snakebites as well as deaths have been reported. This will be achieved through several community workshops at chief’s camps in the county conducted through focus group discussions and illustrations using information posters targeting various groups of people in the county.
Aims and Objectives:
Awareness workshops will be conducted to Chuka University Wildlife Association (CUWA) students to enlighten them about the various snakes (venomous and nonvenomous) found in and around Mt. Kenya Forest, and an overview of their ecology. This includes a focus on the Mt. Kenya bush viper (Atheris desaixi), which is classified as threatened by IUCN. The species is endemic to Kenya and occurs in severely fragmented populations. It is known from only three locations around the Mt. Kenya Forest ecosystem; Igembe forest, Ngaya forest and Chuka forest. Its population has been declining rapidly over the past years due to habitat destruction and illegal wildlife trade.
The second awareness workshop will be conducted to both medical students attached to Chuka County Referral Hospital and CHWs. In addition to differentiation between venomous and nonvenomous snakes, emphasis on the dos and don’ts in handling snakebite victims and the different kinds of venoms and fangs will be made. At the end of each awareness and training workshop, practical exercises will be conducted to showcase skills in handling snakes during encounters.
The third awareness workshop will involve the project team partnering with CUWA and one of the identified communities bordering Chuka Forest block, part of Mt. Kenya Forest Ecosystem. The project team will liaise with local administrators such sub-chiefs and village elders to mobilize participants for community workshops. Community participants will comprise largely of women, youth and men. This population segment is more predisposed to encountering and being bitten by snakes. The community training session will be followed with an opportunistic sampling activity to identify common hideouts of snakes and techniques of relocating trapped snakes. The workshop design above will be replicated in Tharaka and Maara Constituencies of the County. Kanyuru Dispensary, Tharaka University College and the community residing around Kijegge hills have been identified as the targets of the education and awareness workshops in Tharaka. Three workshops will be conducted in this zone.
A final workshop will be conducted for the Marimanti community in Maara Constituency. The workshop’s delivery will also include the use of information posters that the project team leader will easily have access to due to his affiliation with the National Museums of Kenya, Herpetology Section.
The goals of this project are the following:
- Educate and raise awareness among 200 Chuka University students on snake identification and types in Tharaka Nithi county, snakebite management as well as the role of snake in the ecosystem
- Conduct targeted training to 15 medical practitioners and Community Health workers on snakebites management
- Conduct awareness campaigns to 300 local community members on snakes, snakebite management and safe removal of snakes in their homesteads
- Institute regular snakebite management awareness program in partnership with Chuka University and Tharaka University College Wildlife Students Association, and Chuka Medical Training College
Support Snake Conservation
Atubwa’s project is a recipient of the 2021 Save The Snakes Support Grant Program. Save The Snakes Support Grants are made possible because of the generosity of compassionate people and organizations who are inspired and dedicated to protect threatened snake populations and mitigate human-snake conflict around the world. Please donate today to help us continue to fund projects like Atubwa’s snake conservation project in Kenya. Thank you for your support.