Save The Snakes and the Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society (EGWS) have partnered together for the conservation of king cobras and to reduce human-snake conflict in South India. With support from Save The Snakes, the EGWS works to protect king cobra populations and reduce conflicts between humans and snakes by implementing mitigation strategies which will lead to peaceful coexistence. They transform local community members in each identified priority conflict site into “para-ecologists” that continue our conservation activities in their respective villages irrespective of the project period or expiry. The EGWS utilize indigenous local knowledge of wildlife and properly train dedicated individuals to handle, rescue and release snakes that are found in villages across the Eastern Ghats. These individuals are also able assist in field surveys to assess species distribution and contribute to snake conservation efforts in India.
Providing Solutions for Human-Snake Conflicts and Protecting Threatened King Cobra Populations in the Eastern Ghats of India
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.
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.
How We Save The Snakes in India
Save The Snakes supports the Eastern Ghats Wildlife Society, which organizes awareness workshops, social media campaigns and community outreach programs in identified villages within 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. By 2020, the EGWS will establish the Eastern Ghats Snake Education Center that will serve as the base of our 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.
This community-based approach is unique in the area because we aim 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.
How You Can Help
You can support our work by donating today, which will help fund these snake awareness and education workshops.