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Russell vipers
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Russell vipers

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Is there really any reason for rural fear and anxiety about Russell’s Vipers?

image caption Snake bites become a fear in rural areas during monsoons

Russell  vipers
Daily Star News

Panic has spread over Russell’s viper snakes in several districts of Bangladesh. Many people are expressing concern about this matter on Facebook. Many are preaching that a snake bite is a quick death.

The situation has reached such a point that a campaign to kill Russell’s viper snake and return it is being run on Facebook. In such a situation, a politician in Faridpur has publicly announced that a reward of 50,000 rupees will be given for each one who can kill Russell’s viper snake.

Many say that Russell’s vipers breed very quickly. As a result, the abundance of these snakes in the rural areas of Bangladesh will pose a threat to people.

The question is, how justified is the level of concern expressed about Russell’s Viper?


Snake researchers and experts say that there is treatment for snake bites of this species and if timely treatment is taken, the risk of death is reduced.

Non-governmental organization Deep Ecology and Snake Conservation Foundation says Russell’s viper is not the most venomous or deadly snake in the country.

Rather, half of the people who die from snake bites in the country every year are killed by snake bites. However, Russel’s viper bite can also lead to death if not treated on time.

Health Minister Samant Lal Sen told Daily Star News that the country has enough anti-venom or antivenom (applied to the patient’s body after snake bite) and he has ordered that antivenom be kept in hospitals everywhere. Antivenom is the substance that is effective against the poison or can neutralize the poison.

If the antivenom is injected quickly, the antibodies to the antivenom neutralize the venom. As a result, the life or limb of the affected person is saved.

Incidentally, some people have died due to the bite of Russell’s viper in some districts in Bangladesh recently.

In some areas of Manikganj near Dhaka, at least five people have died after being bitten by poisonous Russell’s viper snakes in the last three months, government officials said. After that, there were reports of such snakes being caught and killed in several other districts including Bhola.

According to the Health Department of Bangladesh, four lakh snake bites occurred in 2023. Of these, 750,000 people died, most of whom were bitten by cobras and cobras.

However, the exact number of people killed by Russell’s viper bites is not available.

How justified is the panic?

This species of snake named Russell’s viper was thought to have disappeared from Bangladesh many years ago.

But since the last 10-12 years, they are seen again in these snake bite incidents. The snake has been spotted in several districts in the last few months.

The person who announced the reward in Faridpur for killing Russell’s Viper is Shah Md Ishtiaq Arif. He is the general secretary of Faridpur district of ruling Awami League.


“There has been a scary situation. So in our meeting we have asked the leaders and activists to be aware. We have asked them to drive away the snakes. We will discuss with the authorities what can be done,” he said.

Md. Abu Said, an Ashoka Fellow in the United States and a wildlife and environmental expert in Bangladesh, and Farid Ahsan, a professor in the Department of Zoology at the University of Chittagong, have long been well-known as researchers and experts on snakes. Both of them are the authors of the book on prevention and treatment of snake and snake bites in Bangladesh.

Both of them, however, say that the fear being expressed about Russell’s viper is purely fear-mongering and exaggerated.

“Many are spreading fear without knowing. It is ingrained in the mind that everyone is afraid of snakes and dies from its bites. There is panic because not everyone knows that treatment is good. If you go to the nearest health complex very quickly, the solution can be taken a long way,” said Professor Farid Ahsan to  Daily Star News.


Russell’s Viper’s Dashange dies quickly?

Researcher Md. Abu Saeed says that the patient dies after being bitten by Russell’s viper, this is also not true, rather the patient does not die easily.

“A patient does not die easily before at least 72 hours. In Bangladesh, there are also reports that people lived up to 15 days after being bitten by this snake.

Bangladesh Toxicology Society President Dr Md Abul Faiz has written a book on snake bite and its treatment.

There he also mentioned that the patient may die after an average of 8 hours after Gokhro snake bite, 18 hours after Keute snake bite and 72 hours or three days after Chandrabora snake bite. In most cases it is necessary to apply antivenom within this time frame.

This moon snake is Russell’s viper. Its presence is being observed in some areas of the North-Western part of Bangladesh, especially in some districts and grasslands along the banks of the Padma River.

Russell’s Viper’s

The Deep Ecology and Snake Conservation Foundation says it has the seventh highest known subcutaneous median lethal dose (venom level) of snakes in the country (including sea snakes). So Russell’s viper is not the most venomous or the deadliest snake in the country.

Md. Abu Saeed is one of the co-researchers of the study titled Russell’s Viper of Bangladesh, Its Grums and Threats on Human Being published in 2019.

He said that the presence of Russell’s viper was seen in some places in 22-24 districts of the country. However, according to Chittagong Medical College Venom Research Center, there are 27 such snakes in some places of the district.

According to him, it is less lethal than the cobra or the coyote, but the venom of this snake has more components. “As a result, delay in treatment creates multidimensional complications in the body.

That’s why antivenoms no longer work. Lungs and kidneys are gradually affected. At one point, there is a lot of blood loss, then if you give more blood, the body does not have it”.

According to Professor Farid Ahsan, the risk of being bitten by a Russell’s viper can be greatly reduced if you seek treatment within 100 minutes.

Mr. Sayeed says cobra or cobra bites are often not felt but a Russell viper bite causes immediate swelling and the snake does not go away immediately.

“That is why the patient or others can be sure that the snake is visible after the bite. A doctor can quickly administer antivenom. If so, the risk is also reduced. Because of this, it is less dangerous than other venomous snakes,” he said.

However, the Deep Ecology and Snake Conservation Foundation says that Russell’s viper venom is treated with poly antivenom used in Bangladesh.So saying that there is no antivenom is completely false. “But there is a shortage of trained doctors, antivenom supplies and ICUs”.

Regarding the campaign that is going on because this snake has spread in the land or fields, he said that in some places including Manikganj, farms have been cleared where there was pasture before.

“This has resulted in snake infestation and food shortage. And in some areas, there are no more foxes, khatash, beji, guisap because there are multiple crops on the land.

“The ecosystem has been destroyed and they are being driven out of their habitat and now they are floating in the river Padma Meghna Jamuna. But still there is no cause for panic,” he said.

He said that people can be saved from snake bites if they are a little careful. Professor Farid Ahsan said that the propaganda that is going on is also not correct.

More information about Russell’s Viper

Researchers say the Russell’s viper is a good swimmer and can give birth to 3-63 young at a time. These babies mature in two years. Their gestation period is six months.

These snakes are usually nocturnal or nocturnal and are not usually found in human habitations. They prefer bushes, crop circles or large holes in the ground to stay.

Professor Farid Ahsan says that if the amount of rats eaten by this snake was not there, the crop production would have been damaged.

“They live in the grass, in the bushes. So caution can be taken when visiting these places. If you shake it with a big stick, the snake moves away. They will only move if the farmers fall on gumboots and shake them with sticks before they land. So there is no reason for unnecessary panic. But one must be careful, he told Daily Star News.

How the Russell’s Viper is coming back

Professor Farid Ahsan of Chittagong University’s Department of Zoology has researched the re-emergence of Russell’s viper in Bangladesh and the risk to humans from this snake. The study analyzing 20 cases of Russell’s viper bites in different areas of Bangladesh from 2013 to 2016 was published in 2018 in the Journal of the Asiatic Society, Bangladesh.

At that time, the study revealed that Russell’s viper is present in 17 districts out of 64 districts of Bangladesh. According to the data found in the study, the presence of this snake was found in the north and north-western districts.

The study revealed that the highest presence of this species of snake was in Rajshahi and Chapainawabganj districts.

However, experts fear that this species of snake is present in more areas.

Mr. Ahsan opined that small numbers of Russell’s vipers have always existed in different areas of Bangladesh, but the presence of these snakes was not well understood due to lack of breeding environment and adequate food.



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