In Kerala, many people come across various kinds of snakes every year but little do they know whether they are venomous or not.
Some may even kill non-venomous snakes confusing them with poisonous ones because they are unaware of the fact that only five common poisonous snakes - Cobra, Russell's Viper, Saw Scaled Viper, Krait and Hump-nosed Pit Viper (rarely reported) - cause the most fatalities in Kerala.
One might not be able to rattle off the differences between these snakes like an expert but a little effort to identify them will definitely help the doctors if a patient is being taken to him/ or help a poor snake itself from getting harmed. This is where Snakepedia comes in.
In order to help the public to identify the snakes, a new android mobile application named Snakepedia was launched on Wednesday. It is a comprehensive database on snakes. Snakepedia helps one identify snakes with the help of pictures, infographics and podcasts and analysing first aid, treatment, myths and superstitions prevalent in our state. All features, except podcast and online ID helpline, are offline.
Naveenlal Payyeri and Dr Jinesh PS, who are part of the team Snakepedia said that there is a habit of killing and bringing snakes to the hospital along with the patient. “Most of these snakes they kill are non-venomous. Also, there is only one anti-snake venom (polyvalent) that can be administered if someone is bitten by any of the four venomous snakes (Cobra, Krait, Russell's Viper and Saw-scaled Viper) in Kerala. The decision to administer the anti-venom is made after performing some basic lab tests. Therefore, we have made this app to help the common man identify these snakes,” they said.
Snakepedia evolved through the efforts of many doctors, snake researchers, naturalists, and designers across Kerala.
There are about 3,600 species of snakes known so far in the world. India accounts for more than 300 species. Among these, about 100 species belonging to 12 families are found in Kerala. “More than 700 pictures of these snakes are included in the app with up to 20 photographs of various colour morphs for some snakes. These photographs are taken by more than 130 people in and out of Kerala. This includes researchers, wildlife enthusiasts and photographers,” Sandeep Das, a member of Team Snakepedia and a researcher at Kerala Forest Research Institute said.
Many features of this app help it stay different from other apps like SARPA and Snake Lens. Users can search using keywords, differentiate between venomous snakes, harmless ones and look-alike snakes, tips to ID the snakes based on their characteristics, ask an expert, first aid tips, special podcasts, nearby hospitals from where one could get help if bitten by a snake, understand myth-busters, a list of rescuers and their contact in each district, a checklist of snakes and more. Here are the various features in the app:
The search option can be used using keywords or first alphabets of their common name in English or Malayalam and their scientific name. Comprehensive and simple information about each species of snake can be found on the description along with pictures and infographics.
This section contains only venomous snakes that may cause threats to our health. One will be surprised to find that the list is too short!
Snakes that are not dangerous to humans are featured in this section. This list ranges from non-venomous snakes to mildly venomous snakes.
It is quite understandable that one cannot afford to take chances when it comes to a person's life. Many venomous snakes have similar looking non-venomous mimics. Snakes that look similar to each other are grouped here.
5. ID Tips
The characteristic and distinguishable features of each snake is explained via infographics in this segment. It also has the feature to zoom and view.
6. Ask expert
A panel of experts will help users to identify the snake from images. All they have to do is click a picture of the snake from a safe distance and share it with them. Experts will reply to the user’s email.
(Expert advice: If you are bitten by a snake, you should seek immediate medical assistance at a hospital, without waiting for an answer.)
7. First aid
Any user can learn the basics of first aid here. Articles prepared by the doctors from the Info Clinic team are available here.
Once the first aid is given, the person bitten by the snake has to be rushed to the nearest hospital with facilities for treatment of snake bite as early as possible. A district-wise list of hospitals in Kerala with Anti-snake Venom (ASV) is available here. The list of 158 hospitals with modern medical facilities (including ASV) has also been categorized. Users can find their nearest hospitals and their Google Map route in this segment. It would be helpful to call the hospital phone number before starting. The list of hospitals has been prepared by doctors working in each district.
These articles prepared by doctors will explain the details of scientific treatment methods and their importance. Snakepedia team says ignorance feeds negligence.
This section includes short scientific descriptions of snakes. The team hopes this to be useful for students and also for understanding snakes as any other animal.
11. Myths and hoaxes
There are umpteen myths and hoaxes related to snakes in our society. Many of such hoaxes influence people to fall for unscientific treatment methods and endanger their lives. Snakepedia team has attempted to bust all those hoaxes with facts and thereby save lives.
Kerala has more than 800 government-certified snake rescuers. A user can find the list of trained and certified rescuers from each district along with their mobile numbers.
A detailed list of snakes found in Kerala, as of January 2021 is mentioned in the app. The list will be updated from time to time.
Snakes are grouped according to their habitats. Users can easily find out a snake by selecting a specified habitat.
Descriptions about the characteristics, identifying features and all other related articles are available as podcasts. Users can hear them on the go.
Snakepedia team is also planning to create an offline feature to identify snakes using Artificial Intelligence soon. One can download the app here.