By: Shaleen Attre, Senior Project Consultant, IndianSnakes
The last few months have been exciting for us as we further branched out with our India Snake Bite Initiative, with ground breaking work happening in two districts of Madhya Pradesh - Mandla and Balaghat - which are part of the Kanha Tiger Reserve’s landscape. Fully supported by the Singinawa Conservation Foundation, which has also become a life-time benefactor to the Anjali Health Care Centre in Pithora, Chhattisgarh, our project started a few months ago with extensive surveys in both the districts to assess the need of the area.
Was there enough anti-venom available? Were the doctors trained in dealing with snake bite cases? Were the medical facilities available in the villages? How many snake bite cases were happening every year? How many people were actually going to hospitals? How many were dying at the tantriks door? Did people know about basic first aids? Were snakes being killed here out of fear and retaliation? Could the locals, mostly tribals, tell the difference between venomous and non-venomous snakes? How many rescue calls were being attended to in the area? What were the most commonly rescued snakes? Were the rescuers adequately trained and equipped? Were they submitting proper records to the Forest Department?
These and so many more questions were in our head as we proceeded to gather primary and secondary data from these two districts. While two months is never enough to say have ALL the answers, yet the start has been more revealing than we ever imagined, with a lot of information being accessible courtesy the amazing Collectors and Chief Medical Health Officers of both the districts, who have pledged their full support to the cause.
Perhaps the biggest achievement in this short span has been a workshop by IndianSnakes in the Balaghat district called by the Collector, Mr. Bharat Yadav, attended by all the relevant doctors of the district hospital, Primary Health Care Centres, Community Health Care Centres, ANMs (Auxillary-Nurse-Mid-wife) as well as the supervisors of the Women and Child Department representing several aanganwaadis in the district. The response to our initiative has been overwhelming with many doctors and supervisors coming forward citing the problems treating snake bite cases in their areas which predominantly included lack of awareness amongst the locals on the importance of anti-venom, first aid and reaching the hospital on time. It was heartening to see the Collector take up this issue personally and promising trainings, which have already started, for the ANMs and doctors which ensure that even if proper medical facilities are not available, the patient can at least be stabilised with a few shots of anti-venom and thereby taken to the nearest hospital. Some awareness collaterals have already been distributed and shortly full fledged on ground work, in accordance to priority, will start, A similar workshop will also be undertaken in Mandla district soon.
Projects like these are never the ‘product’ of one individual or group. You need to have a consortium of like-minded passionate people coming together to make any initiative like this possible. For us, we were lucky that people at Singinawa Conservation Foundation are supporting this project to the fullest possible extent, to have found a district administrations that wants to make the lives better for both humans and wildlife in their jurisdiction and active forest department that is supporting genuine and ethical rescues, keen on minimising human-animal conflict.
The work has just started for us. Our goal is by 2025 India has #ZeroSnakeBiteDeaths. Our mission is to create a safer co-existence for both snakes and humans. And we need all the support and encouragement we can get as we venture into what few have attempted before us.