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Human-Snake Conflict Mitigation in Zambia

Save The Snakes supports Choti Singh and her team to mitigate human-snake conflict in the Mfuwe area of Zambia. Choti is a wildlife conservationist,  community educator and Zambia Director of Operations at Save The Snakes

Mfuwe Snake Project: Human-Wildlife Conflict Mitigation and Community Sensitisation in Rural Zambia

Project Background: Mfuwe, located in Eastern Zambia, is a poor and rural area in the East of Zambia. Because of its suitable habitat, a large number of highly venomous snake species live here and there are lots of human-snake encounters. To reduce conflict between humans and snakes, Save The Snakes and Helping Hands in Snake Safety (HHiSS) have partnered together to form the Mfuwe Snake Project, which aims to work with community members, wildlife conservationists and healthcare workers to mitigate human-snake conflict and reduce the number of snakebites that occur in the Mfuwe area.

In 2020, the Mfuwe Project snake removers in Zambia have saved 492 snakes by removing them from peoples homes and work places. This was done in six locations in Zambia. In Mfuwe alone, 288 of these 492 snakes were saved. That is almost 60%! In addition, 24 different species were caught in Mfuwe, of which six can give a bite that requires medical treatment. Human-snake conflicts are high and this leads to many snakebite incidences and casualties. Due to people knowing little about snakes, every snake usually gets killed on sight, even the harmless ones. And 71 out of Zambia’s 99 snake species are harmless! Snake handling training. Based on National and Provincial data from the Zambian Ministry of Health, on registered snakebites in Zambia, as well as on data from the research conducted by Health Action International in other Provinces, it is estimated that the number of snakebites in the wider Mfuwe area to be around 1,000. As the local clinic is incapable to adequately treat snakebites, and a the nearest proper Provincial Hospital being 120 km away, the number of deaths from snakebites could be close to a hundred per year.

In collaboration with HHiSS and Save The Snakes, together we aim to implement the following:

  • Sensitize the community about snake safety. As part of the sensitization, brochures, both in English and in the local language (Chewa) will be handed out and posters will be provided for public places.
  • Train people (game rangers and selected people in the communities) in snake handling so they can remove problematic snakes for others and form a safer alternative to killing snakes.
  • HHiSS will also provide snake handling equipment.
  • Train health professionals in the area in snakebite treatment.
  • Give first aid in snakebite training to anyone interested in the area, including staff at the various lodges.

Before and after the interventions, our Project team members will conduct an assessment of the number of snake encounters, killed snakes, snakebites, casualties etc. By comparing the numbers before and after, they can assess the impact of the activities, can inform future interventions elsewhere in Zambia, as well as policy decisions. Sensitization to snakes is the key intervention in Zambia, where the costs for adequate snakebite treatment is beyond reach. In addition, less snakes will be killed when people know of other ways in which to co-exist with snakes.

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