June 20, 2010

Snake-bite management >> India

Snake-bite is one of the more serious health issues, especially in India where deaths due to snake-bites (I am referring to venomous snake-bites) are estimated well over 50,000 every year. Even though actual envenomation takes place less often, it is best to stay prepared for an emergency. This is not only for people residing in remote rural areas (who are the majority victims) but also for urban city residents. There has been a transformation of habitat for snakes from forest systems >> farmlands >> villages >> towns >> cities, but owing to their extraordinaire adaptive nature, they have managed to survive everywhere. No doubt there are only a few common species that are found in and around human habitation, unfortunately the list includes the BIG 4!

Spectacled Cobra Naja naja (Elapidae)

Common Krait Bungarus caeruleus (Elapidae)

Russell's Viper Daboia russelii (Viperidae)

Saw-scaled Viper Echis carinatus (Viperidae)

These four species make up the BIG 4 medicinally important snakes of India. They are lethally venomous and occur commonly throughout most of India. Of course there are other species that too demand utmost respect like other cobras Naja spp., kraits Bungarus spp., coral snakes Calliophis spp. and Sinomicrurus sp., King Cobra Ophiophagus hannah, sea snakes (Hydrophiidae) and some pit vipers (Viperidae). Bites are however rare from these mostly because of their distribution and biological pattern.

Most of the snake-bites take place unknowingly when the snake is accidentally threatened; while in other cases, well some people just ask for it!

Whatever be the reason, it is not unlikely that you might end up in a situation where a simple strategy and presence of mind can prove to be a limb-saver, in some cases, a life-saver.

The snake-bite management strategy is presented below; and presence of mind, well, I just hope you have it!

Suck out venom
Make incision to bleed out venom
Go to traditional healers or anything similar
Try out home remedies
Apply tourniquets
Apply ice
Clean out the bitten part
Try and catch/kill the snake

All of the above activities either do not work or are extremely dangerous to perform. In fact, they will do more harm than good.

Following is what you can and should do:
> Make sure the victim and others are at a safe distance away from the snake
> Try to memorize the snake’s appearance (from a safe distance!)
> Remove watches / rings / other jewelry from the bitten part
> Keep the victim calm and reassured
> Do not panic
> Try to immobilize the bitten limb; do not make the victim run and avoid making him/her walk if possible
> Do not waste any time and arrange for a quick transport to the nearest hospital treating snakebite cases, as safely and comfortably as possible
> If possible, note the time of bite and progression of symptoms
> Describe the snake and the whole incident to the attending doctor

*Anti Snake Venom Serum is the only cure*

If your neighborhood has a high density of snakes, it is advisable to prepare a snake-bite protocol (plan of action in case of an emergency) best suited to you. This can simply be important contact people and numbers who should be informed first, name / address of nearest hospital treating snake-bites, best mode of transport and related details, name / contact no. of doctor, etc. Make sure all family members understand their role in an emergency.

As always, prevention is better than cure
> Do not walk around with bare feet outside your house.
> Take great care when clearing vegetation, raking dry leaves in your garden.
> Supervise kids in the outdoors, especially in a green neighborhood.
> Use torch/flashlight at night and keep wearing those shoes. Check shoes before wearing them.
> Watch your step and see before you sit!
> Keep your backyard free of junk and make sure your solid waste is managed properly.
> If you see a snake, do nothing. Let it go. Do not try to pick it up or kill it.
> If a snake has entered your premises, call professional snake rescuers.

Snake-bite is painful, expensive and extremely risky. Please do not get bit.

Stay safe!

June 11, 2010

A Workshop on Herpetology

As we continue to plunder natural resources that are not entirely ours and build human infrastructure where it least belongs, we ingloriously destroy pristine animal habitats around us. A sharp increase in human-

animal conflict is testimonial to the fact that we are successfully snatching away what rightfully belongs to the other species that share our planet.

Rural India, fortunately, is still a thing of beauty. Expansive farmlands and the relative abundance of trees make it an intuitive habitat for some very interesting and enigmatic animals.

The Gerry Martin Project will conduct a naturalist workshop this July that focuses on giving its participants a contextual insight into conservation. The activities at this camp highlight the importance of maintaining a more holistic perspective to the problem of conserving what’s left.

We will camp at a fruit orchard on the banks of a beautiful lake in Rathnapuri Village, Hunsur and learn about reptiles, amphibians, birds and insects that play a vital yet often understated role in keeping Nature’s mojo intact.

Here’s a great opportunity to learn and understand animal behavior, develop field skills and explore different habitats.

Gerry Martin and his team will conduct this workshop. We will also have an expert in snake tracking with wisdom passed down through generations of experience.

Activities :

  • Herpetological exploration and Field techniques
  • Game Tracking
  • Exploring aquatic ecosystems
  • Understanding taxonomy
  • Game drive
  • Night Surveys

Dates : 23rd July – 25th July 2010.

For further information or to register for this workshop, please get in touch with Chaitanya on 9886285988 (chaitanya@gerrymartin.in)

June 10, 2010

Reptile Biology Workshop

Through the ages , different civilizations around the world have used Crocodiles as mythological fodder. Killing machines that destroy anything they can lay their jaws on. Primeval animals regarded to have little intelligence and a next to nothing ability to co-exist with humans.

The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust (MCBT) and Centre for herpetology is redefining the way we perceive these beautiful animals that have changed little since the time of the dinosaurs. So, while at the Croc Bank, if you hear someone yelling out ‘Ally’ or ‘Pintoo’, be assured they are not the names of friendly neighborhood mutts!

MCBT was founded in 1976 initially for the conservation of the 3 native croc species in India, Muggers or freshwater crocodiles, salt water crocodiles and the Gharial. Today, through their successful captive breeding initiative MCBT is playing a key role in the conservation of endangered reptiles.

The Gerry Martin Project will conduct a 3 day workshop at MCBT, Ch

ennai this July for keen reptile enthusiasts. The program will cover the different aspects of reptile husbandry and reptile biology. P

articipants will get a unique chance to live the life of a reptile keeper by helping out with some of their day to day husbandry work with Crocs and Turtles.

Herpetologists and experts in reptile husbandry at the Croc Bank will run this program through a set of carefully designed activities. Partic

ipants will also get to meet and interact with the Irula people and walk with them in search of any of the big-4 medically important species of snakes in India.

Activities :

  • Introduction to various reptile species at the Croc Bank
  • Assisting in research and husbandry work, currently carried out at MCBT
  • Understanding reptile taxonomy
  • Night Safari
  • Morning walk with the Irulas in search of snakes
  • Birding at the Croc Bank
  • Well…theres the Bay of Bengal in the backyard. A quick dip is always on the cards.
  • Safe protocol while working with crocodiles

Dates : 16th July – 18th July 2010.

For further information or to register for this workshop, please get in touch with Chaitanya on 9886285988 (chaitanya@gerrymartin.in)