Kantimahanthi Laxmi Narasimha Murthy - Community-based Conservation of King Cobras in Eastern Ghats of South India

Murthy Kantimahanti – Community-based snake conservation in the Eastern Ghats

The World Health Organization has categorized snakebites as a neglected tropical disease. Likewise, thousands of people die each year from snakebite and a majority of these deaths can be prevented by taking simple precautions, including doing the right thing and learning about snakes in the surroundings. My project will serve as a model not only to address the snakebite issue but also to engage local communities in the conservation of threatened snake species by building their capacity, dispelling the myths, garnering respect, compassion and appreciation towards all living creatures by establishing a harmonious relationship between humans and snakes to coexist. We will engage multiple stakeholders through tailored community outreach programs and the implementation of effective snakebite management measures.

Since time immemorial, snakes have been feared, misunderstood and killed indiscriminately by humans due to fear and ignorance. In fact, human-snake conflict is the most severe man-animal conflict in India where more than 50,000 people die each year from snakebites. Similarly, hundreds of thousands of threatened snakes species, including the vulnerable King Cobra, are indiscriminately killed due to fear and ignorance by local communities. Their populations are on the decline due to repeated human persecution and habitat loss. Killing snakes is not a sustainable solution as it leads to more casualties on both ends. Instead, learning about snakes and taking simple precautions help mitigate the existing conflict and also garner support for snake conservation. My work will aim at protecting snake populations by addressing their threats and establishing a harmonious relationship between humans and snakes

The project commenced in 2016 with a seed grant from The Pollination Project. The initial fund was really important to initiate our project activities which in turn helped in gathering more support from other potential donors. It resulted in further expansion of our work in many areas and the project grew steadily over the past couple of years. The impact grant will help us expand our program to other vulnerable sites in the Eastern Ghats that badly need conservation interventions to reduce the human-snake negative interactions. The money will be used to engage local field assistants, cover their field expenses and meet the program costs to carry out conflict mitigation measures that include not only education and awareness but also showing solutions to reduce snake bites, training local amateur snake catchers to safely rescue snakes instead of killing them, giving them proper rescue equipment, donating flashlights and footwear to the villagers to reduce the risk of snakebite at night. We will also use the funds to produce high-quality educational materials like posters and booklets to generate awareness among children and rural folk on the need to conserve snakes by explaining their ecological significance through thought-provoking illustrations.

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