A Russell’s viper snake, that was caught from Baramati and held for its venom at a research institute, has given birth to 36 offspring.
The female Russell’s viper gave birth to baby snakes at the Haffkine Institute for Training, Research and Testing (HITRT) last week, a top official of the institute said.
The HITRT is among the two institutes permitted to keep snakes for extracting their venom.
The litter range of this species of snake is about 20- 30 at a time, said Nishigandha Naik, director of the institute.
“The snake was brought to our institute on July 1 and delivered 36 hatchlings on July 5. The snake giving birth to offspring in excess means the snake has been handled and fed well,” Naik said.
Besides the HITRT, the Irula Cooperative Society based in Chennai is the only institute in the country permitted to keep snakes for their venom.
Naik said the Haffkine institute currently has 65 snakes in holding – 33 cobras, 24 Russell’s vipers, 5 kraits and 3 Pit vipers.
“Snakes are kept (at the institute) for a maximum of 90 days, after which they are released from where they are caught.
“Once we catch them, their health is checked and they are quarantined. We start milking them after five days,” she said, adding the extracted venom is then supplied to institutions making anti-snake venoms.
Quoting data from the World Health Organisation (WHO), Naik said 3 lakh Indians suffer from snake bites every year, of which 50,000 people die.
“The WHO states that 1.5 per cent (of the victims) suffer from severe deformity. Most of the snake bite victims work in farms and forests, among other places,” Naik said.
The WHO has put snake bites on top in the category of neglected tropical diseases, she said.
“One person dies (due to snake bite) every 10.5 minutes in India, which is the highest in the world. In India, Maharashtra top the list of snake bite victims,” she said.
Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa account for 25 per cent of the total snake bite cases in the country, she said.
“Snake bites have become a grave (health) issue because the availability of anti-snake venoms is scarce,” Naik said.