Public perceptions of snakes and snakebite management

Implications for conservation and human health in southern Nepal

Deb Prasad Pandey, Gita Subedi Pandey, Kamal Devkota, Matthew J Goode

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Venomous snakebite and its effects are a source of fear for people living in southern Nepal. As a result, people have developed a negative attitude towards snakes, which can lead to human-snake conflicts that result in killing of snakes. Attempting to kill snakes increases the risk of snakebite, and actual killing of snakes contributes to loss of biodiversity. Currently, snake populations in southern Nepal are thought to be declining, but more research is needed to evaluate the conservation status of snakes. Therefore, we assessed attitudes, knowledge, and awareness of snakes and snakebite by Chitwan National Park's (CNP) buffer zone (BZ) inhabitants in an effort to better understand challenges to snake conservation and snakebite management. The results of this study have the potential to promote biodiversity conservation and increase human health in southern Nepal and beyond. Methods: We carried out face-to-face interviews of 150 randomly selected CNP BZ inhabitants, adopting a cross-sectional mixed research design and structured and semi-structured questionnaires from January-February 2013. Results: Results indicated that 43 % of respondents disliked snakes, 49 % would exterminate all venomous snakes, and 86 % feared snakes. Farmers were the most negative and teachers were the most ambivalent towards snakes. Respondents were generally unable to identify different snake species, and were almost completely unaware of the need of conserve snakes and how to prevent snakebites. Belief in a snake god, and the ability of snakes to absorb poisonous gases from the atmosphere were among many superstitions that appeared to predispose negativity towards snakes of BZ residents. Conclusion: People with predisposed negativity towards snakes were not proponents of snake conservation. Fear, negativity, ambivalence towards, and ignorance about, snakes and the need for snake conservation were strong indicators of the propensity to harm or kill snakes. It seems that if wanton killing of snakes continues, local snake populations will decline, and rare and endangered snake species may even become locally extirpated. Moreover, inappropriate perception and knowledge about snakes and snakebites may put BZ people at increased risk of venomous snakebite. Therefore, intensive, pragmatic educational efforts focused on natural history and ecology of snakes and prevention of snakebite should be undertaken in communities and at schools and universities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number22
JournalJournal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine
Volume12
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2 2016

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snake bites
Snake Bites
Nepal
Snakes
snakes
human health
conservation
Health
health
management
national park
biodiversity
inhabitant
anxiety
superstition
local population
ambivalence
research planning
god
ecology

Keywords

  • Conservation
  • Ecosystem health
  • Ethno-ophiology
  • Key stone species
  • Snake identification
  • Snake species diversity
  • Snake worship
  • Snakebite

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Cultural Studies
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Complementary and alternative medicine

Cite this

Public perceptions of snakes and snakebite management : Implications for conservation and human health in southern Nepal. / Pandey, Deb Prasad; Subedi Pandey, Gita; Devkota, Kamal; Goode, Matthew J.

In: Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine, Vol. 12, No. 1, 22, 02.06.2016.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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N2 - Background: Venomous snakebite and its effects are a source of fear for people living in southern Nepal. As a result, people have developed a negative attitude towards snakes, which can lead to human-snake conflicts that result in killing of snakes. Attempting to kill snakes increases the risk of snakebite, and actual killing of snakes contributes to loss of biodiversity. Currently, snake populations in southern Nepal are thought to be declining, but more research is needed to evaluate the conservation status of snakes. Therefore, we assessed attitudes, knowledge, and awareness of snakes and snakebite by Chitwan National Park's (CNP) buffer zone (BZ) inhabitants in an effort to better understand challenges to snake conservation and snakebite management. The results of this study have the potential to promote biodiversity conservation and increase human health in southern Nepal and beyond. Methods: We carried out face-to-face interviews of 150 randomly selected CNP BZ inhabitants, adopting a cross-sectional mixed research design and structured and semi-structured questionnaires from January-February 2013. Results: Results indicated that 43 % of respondents disliked snakes, 49 % would exterminate all venomous snakes, and 86 % feared snakes. Farmers were the most negative and teachers were the most ambivalent towards snakes. Respondents were generally unable to identify different snake species, and were almost completely unaware of the need of conserve snakes and how to prevent snakebites. Belief in a snake god, and the ability of snakes to absorb poisonous gases from the atmosphere were among many superstitions that appeared to predispose negativity towards snakes of BZ residents. Conclusion: People with predisposed negativity towards snakes were not proponents of snake conservation. Fear, negativity, ambivalence towards, and ignorance about, snakes and the need for snake conservation were strong indicators of the propensity to harm or kill snakes. It seems that if wanton killing of snakes continues, local snake populations will decline, and rare and endangered snake species may even become locally extirpated. Moreover, inappropriate perception and knowledge about snakes and snakebites may put BZ people at increased risk of venomous snakebite. Therefore, intensive, pragmatic educational efforts focused on natural history and ecology of snakes and prevention of snakebite should be undertaken in communities and at schools and universities.

AB - Background: Venomous snakebite and its effects are a source of fear for people living in southern Nepal. As a result, people have developed a negative attitude towards snakes, which can lead to human-snake conflicts that result in killing of snakes. Attempting to kill snakes increases the risk of snakebite, and actual killing of snakes contributes to loss of biodiversity. Currently, snake populations in southern Nepal are thought to be declining, but more research is needed to evaluate the conservation status of snakes. Therefore, we assessed attitudes, knowledge, and awareness of snakes and snakebite by Chitwan National Park's (CNP) buffer zone (BZ) inhabitants in an effort to better understand challenges to snake conservation and snakebite management. The results of this study have the potential to promote biodiversity conservation and increase human health in southern Nepal and beyond. Methods: We carried out face-to-face interviews of 150 randomly selected CNP BZ inhabitants, adopting a cross-sectional mixed research design and structured and semi-structured questionnaires from January-February 2013. Results: Results indicated that 43 % of respondents disliked snakes, 49 % would exterminate all venomous snakes, and 86 % feared snakes. Farmers were the most negative and teachers were the most ambivalent towards snakes. Respondents were generally unable to identify different snake species, and were almost completely unaware of the need of conserve snakes and how to prevent snakebites. Belief in a snake god, and the ability of snakes to absorb poisonous gases from the atmosphere were among many superstitions that appeared to predispose negativity towards snakes of BZ residents. Conclusion: People with predisposed negativity towards snakes were not proponents of snake conservation. Fear, negativity, ambivalence towards, and ignorance about, snakes and the need for snake conservation were strong indicators of the propensity to harm or kill snakes. It seems that if wanton killing of snakes continues, local snake populations will decline, and rare and endangered snake species may even become locally extirpated. Moreover, inappropriate perception and knowledge about snakes and snakebites may put BZ people at increased risk of venomous snakebite. Therefore, intensive, pragmatic educational efforts focused on natural history and ecology of snakes and prevention of snakebite should be undertaken in communities and at schools and universities.

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KW - Snake identification

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KW - Snake worship

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