Bhubaneswar, Aug 10: Cases of snake bites is up alarmingly up in Odisha. During the recent floods and the ongoing monsoon season, several cases of snake bites and deaths have been reported across the state. A few shocking reports of deaths of minor children in school hostels in remote districts, triggered shock waves recently.
As per statistics, in the last seven years more than 6,300 death cases due to snake bites have been reported in Odisha. The number shoots up during natural calamities in the state, which is regularly hit hard by natural disasters and have diverse geographic conditions. The number of snake bite cases and deaths due to the same is usually more in the monsoon and summer seasons, revealed reports.
As per reports, the state between 2018-19 and 2022-23 has recorded 4,870 deaths. Reports further stated that snake bites claimed at least 1,026 lives in 2018-19 which subsequently plunged to 929 in 2019-20. The figure, however, jumped again to a staggering 1,185 in 2020-21. The year 2021-22 and 2022-23, however, witnessed a marginal drop with 954 and 745 deaths respectively. In 2023-24, snakebite incidents have claimed at least 34 lives so far including those of three children in Keonjhar recently. Snake bite, in fact, was the second worse state-specific disaster after drowning in 2022, sources said
Earlier, on Wednesday the Odisha government had issued guidelines for the rescue and release of snakes from the human dominated localities by snake handlers.
As per the new guideline, only the certified snake handlers are permitted to carry out the entire snake rescue and release operations in the State, by following the guidelines, failing which will invite penal actions as per the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
The guideline clearly stated that rescue of snakes will be attempted only in such cases where there is presence a threat to life. Rescue of snakes must be limited to the snakes entering the human habitation irrespective of whether venomous or non-venomous.
It also stated that creating mob panic, showing off the rescued snakes publicly and any other public display with the snakes, even by the snake handler himself, will be liable to penal action.
It has been clearly mentioned in the new guideline that interested individuals, of not more than 65 years of age, will be called to apply for certification as snake handlers, through advertisements in local newspapers and through the official website of the Forest Department.
The state forest department has stated that details of the certified snake handlers shall be provided to various local self government institutions, all officers of forest department, fire & rescue services, and local police stations to ensure immediate contact and access to the nearest snake handler in response to an incident. The list will also be uploaded in the official website of the Forest Department and other related websites.
The Odisha government has also categorically stated that all rescued snakes shall be released as soon as possible and in the mandatory presence of officials of the Forest Department. If the rescued snake is injured, it will be released only after assessment of its health and fitness in consultation with the officials of the Forest Department.