Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society (EGWS) is a nonprofit organization which promotes community-based wildlife conservation in the Eastern Ghats region of South India through education, conservation-oriented research, public participation, institutional capacity building and sustainable development. It is registered under the Andhra Pradesh Societies Registration Act, 2001 with a vision to conserve the biodiversity of Eastern Ghats through harmonizing public with nature. Save The Snakes and the EGWS have partnered together for the conservation of king cobras and to reduce human-snake conflict in South India.

Project Title:
Providing Solutions for Human-Snake Conflicts and Protecting Threatened King Cobra Populations in the Eastern Ghats of India.

Eastern Ghats - Save The Snakes

Project Background:
The Eastern Ghats are a discontinuous range of mountains along India’s eastern coast. This vast landscape harbors an assortment of habitats and an incredible diversity of wildlife. The king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah), the world’s longest venomous snake, can be found in the Eastern Ghats. However, snakes have always been an object of fear and superstition in India. Each year over 46,000 people die from snakebite in India, which accounts for almost half of worldwide snakebite deaths. Rural communities in the Eastern Ghats of India are primarily poor and lack access to appropriate medical care when a snakebite occurs. The current solution for mitigating this snakebite crisis is to indiscriminately kill snakes, including king cobras, which has contributed to the species decline. Currently king cobras are listed as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

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Such fear and persecution of snakes across the Eastern Ghats indicate a deep intolerance of snakes among local people. Moreover, increased habitat destruction from mining and unsustainable agriculture practices further threaten snake populations and a lack of appropriate conservation measures are in place to protect the biodiversity of the Eastern Ghats. Baseline data of king cobras in the Eastern Ghats is rudimentary, requiring further study to address this snake’s conservation needs before the current threats extirpate this iconic species from the region. There is an urgent need to work with communities to reduce conflict between humans and snakes that will protect the king cobra and aid in conserving the biodiversity of the Eastern Ghats.

Project Summary:
Save The Snakes supports the Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society, which is the Founding Partner of our organization. The EGWS organizes snake awareness workshops, media campaigns and community outreach programs in identified villages throughout the Eastern Ghats of India. These programs began in September 2016 and teach community members of the ecological importance of snakes, identification of venomous vs non-venomous snake species, precautionary measures to avoid snakebites, and first aid and treatment in the event of a snakebite.

Coupled with education and awareness programs, the EGWS implements site-specific mitigation measures which could minimize negative interactions with snakes. These include the following efforts: wearing proper footwear at night, using mosquito nets while sleeping, carrying a light while walking at night to avoid stepping on snakes, and promoting simple changes in land use management, such as removal of bushes and garbage that might provide shelter to snakes.

They train identified local individuals in rescue and rehabilitation of snakes and snakebite first aid techniques. These “para-ecologists” will also act as liaisons between local communities and wildlife authorities through regular communication on incidence of snakebites. These individuals are also able assist in field surveys to assess species distribution and contribute to snake conservation efforts.

This community-based approach is unique in the area because the EGWS aims to mitigate immediate human-induced threats to snakes by working with all the stakeholders, while simultaneously collecting scientific data to identify, as well as prioritize, critical habitats for species conservation and conflict mitigation priorities. Therefore, by devising and implementing community initiatives and education strategies, we can discover solutions that are mutually beneficial to both human and snakes. The long-term goal is that these programs in the Eastern Ghats can be replicated for implementation in other parts of the world where snakes are threatened with extinction in part due to existing conflict with humans.

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Future Milestones:
By 2020, the EGWS will establish the Eastern Ghats Snake Education Center that will serve as the base for snake conservation activities in the Eastern Ghats. This place will also be a physical space where community members can learn about snake ecology and conservation, gain skills in snakebite first aid and treatment and be given access to a computer and book library.

Within three years the EGWS will create a women’s cooperative, where women can make mosquito nets for the community and make gifts to be sold in USA and European markets that will provide income for their families. In rural India, most villagers sleep on the ground and leave their doors/windows open to regulate the temperature inside of their homes. Mosquito nets reduce disease transmission spread by insects as well as reduce encounters with snakes that enter people’s homes at night.

Within five years, the EGWS will establish an organic coffee and tea farming cooperative that will provide a long-term economic livelihood for community members. Coffee and tea plantations attract rodents that then attract snakes, which creates a direct conflict with people. By establishing a community-based farming cooperative using snake-friendly practices, together we aim to create a model for other farms around the world to reduce conflicts with snakes in rural farming communities.

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Support the Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society

Please donate today to help us continue to fund the Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society’s work to protect king cobras and mitigate human-snake conservation in South India. Our organization depends on the assistance of generous people like you to help fund international snake conservation efforts. Thank you for your support.

This work is generously supported by the following organizations:

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Conservation Department and Zoo Teen Program

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