SNAKEBITE MITIGATION IN RURAL INDIA
50,000 people die and thousands more are maimed from snakebite in India yearly. This project aims to solve this huge problem in rural India.
I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.
Madras Crocodile Bank/Centre for Herpetology
Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)
Annual budget in 2017 (USD)
Number of beneficiaries impacted so far
Nonprofit, NGO, or citizen sector
Headquarters location: Country
Headquarters location: City
Location(s) of impact
India: Chennai, Tirunelveli, Coimbatore and adjacent rural villages
The Irula tribesmen of Tamilnadu in southern India used to hunt snakes for skins. Now they produce the venom used to make millions of vials of life-saving antivenom for snakebites in rural India.
A short film, to be dubbed in all regional languages to teach people about which snakes are dangerous and how to avoid them
A short docu-drama video to show what to do and what not to do if bitten by a snake
Rescuing snakes from peoples houses and gardens is being carried out across the country and dozens of young rescuers have lost their lives performing this service, mostly due to carelessness. This video demonstrates how snake rescue can be done safely and sanely.
Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?
Conservation of snakes in India is essential as most of the larger species are rodent eaters which destroy as much as a third of our food grain production. However, snakes kill tens of thousands of people due to accidental snakebites. These can be prevented and our focus on exactly how this can be accomplished. The economic burden to farmers and rural laborers from snakebite in Sri Lanka is estimated to be over US$10,000,000. The burden and resultant impact in India, as yet unreported, is many magnitudes higher.
Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?
The first step toward solving India's snakebite problem was undertaken by me in 1982 when I established the Irula Tribal Snake-catchers Cooperative which now supplies all the snake venom needed for the production of several million vials of antivenom that save 10's of thousands of lives each year. Now the focus of the Madras Crocodile Bank's project 'Snake Conservation and Snakebite Mitigation' is on a) educating rural Indians about snakes, how to avoid them and the only treatment is antivenom through videos and school and community programmes b) making sure that rural Indians have access to antivenom c) training rural clinicians and paramedics in the latest snakebite treatment protocol d) working with antivenom manufacturers to improve and strengthen their product. Venom research to assess toxicity and effectiveness of Indian antivenoms in collaboration with Indian Institute of Science and Vellore Institute of Technology and AVRU, Melbourne is ongoing.
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work
Close to half a million visitors to the Centre for Herpetology/Madras Crocodile Bank are exposed to the ongoing educational campaign on snakebite mitigation. Now, in its second year of operation, the Snake Conservation and Snakebite Mitigation Project has reached close to 10,000 rural people including school children, women's groups, and farmer communities. Research visits have been made to all the antivenom producing companies in India and venom samples have been collected for testing from 5 states. At Agumbe in Karnataka state where our awareness programme is now 10 years old, snakes are no longer killed and even king cobras are treated with respect but left alone. These templates are now being tailored for translation, dubbing, and application for the rest of India. "One Million Snakebite", the documentary film we made with BBC Natural World has been seen by millions of people in India and 80 other countries in the world (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxuSkTO82AI).
Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?
Our snakebite mitigation work started with earned income from the Madras Crocodile Bank, India's largest and most popular reptile park with 500,000 visitors each year. Recently corporate contributions have supported close to 80% of the costs of the programme. We are now in the process of applying for grants for specific aspects of the project, including production and dubbing of short educational videos. Earned income will always be a backup for the project but we are relying on existing and continuing partnerships with corporates, other NGOs including Snakebite Healing and Education Society (SHE), Indiansnakes, Save the Snakes, Friends of Snakes, Zero Bites Campaign, and educational institutions, both private and government to keep the project rolling.
Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?
While snakebite mitigation is mentioned by other organizations there is little being done in India outside of our project work and partners. Our design and strategy is mostly self-generated and the key innovation is the creation of simple educational templates that can be freely accessed by NGOs, schools and education centers for widest possible coverage. This is an innovative initiative which has worked out solutions to a neglected problem facing Indian farmers and rural workers.
Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.
As a known 'snake man' I am often called to deal with 'problem' snakes. One evening, I was called to a nearby village hut where two children had been bitten by a snake while sleeping. It was a highly venomous krait which I caught and bagged. I had the only vehicle in the village where I lived so I took the kids to a local hospital but they had no antivenom so we had to drive another hour to the district hospital where they were given antivenom, just in time, and survived. Another time I interviewed 10 victims of Russell's viper bite all of whom said they were bitten at night, walking near home without a light. These experiences prompted me to do something and when I found out that 50,000 rural Indians were dying each year from snakebite I knew this enormous problem was what I had to focus on, especially since from the age of 5 I've been a prosyletizer of how great snakes are!
Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?