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The Russell’s Viper: Unveiling the Reality Behind the Rumors in Bangladesh

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  • Abul Bashar Meraz

Bangladesh, a country with rich biodiversity, is home to a variety of snake species, including some of the world’s most venomous. Among these, the Russell’s Viper (Daboia russelii) has recently garnered attention due to numerous rumors about its presence and the threat it poses to the population. This article aims to separate fact from fiction, providing an in-depth look at the Russell’s Viper, its habitat, and its impact in Bangladesh.

The Russell’s Viper is a highly venomous snake found across the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and parts of China and Taiwan. Named after Patrick Russell, a Scottish herpetologist, this snake is known for its distinctive chain-like pattern of dark brown spots on a lighter background. It typically measures between 4 to 5.5 feet in length and is known for its aggressive behavior when threatened.

Russell’s Vipers prefer dry, open terrains such as grasslands, fields, and scrub forests. They are often found near human habitations due to the availability of their prey, primarily rodents. In Bangladesh, sightings have been reported in various regions, particularly in agricultural areas where farmers are at risk during plowing or harvesting seasons.

The venom of the Russell’s Viper is a complex mixture of enzymes and toxins that affect blood coagulation, leading to severe pain, swelling, and in extreme cases, organ failure and death. The mortality rate from untreated bites is high, emphasizing the need for immediate medical attention and access to antivenom.

Recent rumors in Bangladesh have exaggerated the threat posed by Russell’s Vipers, leading to widespread fear and sometimes panic. Social media platforms have played a significant role in spreading these rumors, often featuring exaggerated reports of snakebite incidents and fatalities.

However, experts argue that while the Russell’s Viper is indeed dangerous, the actual risk of encountering one is relatively low with proper precautions. Most snakebites occur due to accidental encounters, and following safety measures can significantly reduce the risk. To minimize the risk of snakebites, particularly in rural and agricultural areas, the following precautions are recommended. Wear protective clothing: Boots and long pants can help prevent snakebites when working in fields or walking through tall grass. Be cautious at night: Use a flashlight to check your path and surroundings. Keep your living area clean: Reducing rodent populations can help keep snakes away. Educate the community: Awareness programs about snake behavior and first aid can save lives. In case of a snakebite, it is crucial to Stay calm and immobilize the affected limb. This can slow the spread of venom. Do not attempt to suck out the venom or apply ice. Avoid traditional remedies, it can often do more harm than good.

While the Russell’s Viper remains a significant medical concern in Bangladesh, understanding the facts and dispelling myths is essential for managing the risk. Through education, proper safety measures, and improved access to medical care, the impact of snakebites can be mitigated. It is important for communities to stay informed and prepared, rather than succumbing to fear driven by rumors. By fostering a balanced perspective, we can coexist with the wildlife that shares our environment while minimizing the dangers they may pose.

Writer: Abul Bashar Meraz, Director, Mission Green Bangladesh.

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