Mapping the hiss story of Malabar Pit Vipers

Farmers, villagers, plantation workers and locals come in contact with MPV on a daily basis and are often bitten by them.
Mapping the hiss story of Malabar Pit Vipers

BENGALURU: While a lot is known about King Cobra, Common Crate and Russell’s Viper snakes, little is known about the venomous Malabar Pit Vipers (Craspedocephalus malaricus), which are endemic to the Western Ghats. To understand their habitat, activity pattern and find their antidote, researchers have taken up a detailed radio telemetry study of the species. 

The species is listed under Schedule-2 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed 15 snakes for which medical supplies should be available; the Malabar Pit Viper (MPV) is fifth on the list. Yet, there is no anti-venom to treat its bite despite the Karnataka government recently listing snake bite as a notifiable disease. A disproportionately large attention is given to the top four venomous snake species - King Cobra, Krait, Saw scaled vipers and Russell’s Viper.

Priyanka Swamy, Researcher and Programme Manager, Kalinga Centre for Rain-forest Ecology (KCRE) told The New Indian Express that while there are nine species of Pit vipers, the MPV is endemic to Western Ghats and has the largest spread. But little is known about it. Farmers, villagers, plantation workers and locals come in contact with MPV on a daily basis and are often bitten by them.

“Since so far not much has been known about them, we decided to study the MPVs in detail. In the last couple of years, 156 individuals have been documented. Since these are cold blooded species, their study will also help in knowing the impact of climate change in the rainforest regions of Agumbe. For instance, in 2022-23 many MPVs were sighted, but in 2023-24 their number was less,” she said.  

Noted snake expert and co-founder of KCRE, Gowri Shankar, said that whenever people are bitten by MPVs, they assume it is a King Cobra and panic. But MPV’s bite is not fatal. Those bitten experience issues like swelling, high fever, body pain and so on. They are at present being treated for the symptoms and not the venom.

Due to the MPV bite, labourers are unable to work until the venom neutralises in the person’s body naturally, due to which they lose out on wages. The study will help the government come out with an antidote. Agumbe is on the proposed list of territories that are to be declared as a King Cobra Sanctuary. The region is home to a large population of snakes and its prey base. But in the last few years, rainfall there has been patchy.

Related Stories

No stories found.

X
The New Indian Express
www.newindianexpress.com