Srinagar: Salman Khan’s snakebite might be news for many. But have you ever wondered about the snake bites in Kashmir? Not heard much about it? Well, then it’s time to add to your knowledge about the snake species found in the region.
Are venomous snakes found in Kashmir?
Most snakes found in Kashmir are members of the non-venomous Colubridae family that includes well over half of all snake species on earth. However, the Levantine Viper and the rarer Himalayan Pit Viper are fatally venomous snakes found in Kashmir.
The Levantine Viper [Macrovipera lebetina] locally known as ‘Gunas’, is a venomous viper species found in Kashmir, the Middle East, and the Levant* as far North Africa. The populations found in southern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Kashmir are sometimes referred to as separate subspecies: Macrovipera lebetina peilei.
The Levantine Viper or Mountain Adder is fatally venomous. It is a large blunt-nosed grey-brown snake found in dry and rocky mountainous areas between 1,000 and 2,500 meters elevation. The scale pattern consists of rosettes with light centers.
Himalayan pit viper also known as Gloydius Himalayans, a venomous pitviper species has been recorded in Jammu and Kashmir. The highest living snake in the world has been found lurking in the high mountains of altitudes up to 16,072 ft (4898.7 m) above sea level and is also found in the Northeastern parts of Pakistan, Punjab, Nepal, and the Western Himalayas. This snake species hibernates during winter. It dines on mountain lizards, rodents, skinks, amphibians, and other small animals found around its habitat.
The nocturnal species is usually dark brown or grey in color with transverse patterns in its scales along with an elongated head with large symmetrical scales and white, red, or black specks. The snake has a heat-sensing loreal between its eyes and nostril making it one of its kind in the region. These reptiles can grow up to a length of 30 in (0.76 m) as full-grown adults but are well-known for their lazy nature.
How many snake bites have been reported over years?
Snake envenomation ( envenomation is a process by which venom is injected by the bite or sting of a venomous animal) is a neglected environmental and occupational hazard in India which is infested with snakes ranging from 12,000 feet altitude above sea level of the Himalayas down to Cape Comorin with an estimated total of 50,000 national snakebite deaths in the Million Death Study.
According to the latest study, “Trends in snakebite deaths in India from 2000 to 2019 in a nationally representative mortality study,” Jammu and Kashmir falls in the low burden category among Union territories and states in terms of snakebite cases and average standardized death rate ( recorded between 2001-2014).
However, wildlife experts believe that the incidences of human-snake conflict have increased in the valley post-2014 floods. They attributed the changing climate in the valley to the rise in the serpent population.
It’s pertinent to mention that there aren’t many trained people in the valley to tackle snake encounters.
In an interview with a local publication, noted Kashmiri historian, Mohammad Yusuf Taing, believes that Aryans had invaded Kashmir and slaughtered the Nagas. “The story of Hemal Nagrai depicts that Nagas were aboriginal inhabitants of Kashmir and were ethnically cleansed by Aryan invaders, who came to Kashmir from Central Asia and committed genocide of Nagas on a scale which can be matched by events like massacre of Red Indians of America by Spanish Europeans in 1492,” he said.
Taing added, he has a strong belief in the existence of Nagas in Kashmir and that his belief is reinforced by the topographical evidence of Hemal Nag and Nagrai Nag in Balpora and Safan Naman, two neighboring villages near Shopian town.