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Austin Stevens - Snake deaths worldwide

Read another excerpt from 'The Last Snake Man'

The potential ability of some snakes to kill humans has contributed to the persecution of all the species. Following this, the demand for an antidote for snakebite has stimulated the collecting of countless thousands 01 specimens each year for the purpose of extracting their venom, which plays an essential role in the manufacture of the anti snakebite serum.
Austin Stevens stroking a King cobra. From 'The Last Snake Man'. © Noir Publishing.
Unfortunately, the composition make-up of venoms varies greatly amongst species and a wide range of anti-venoms are necessary to combat venoms around the world. The number of deaths by snakebite poisoning naturally varies greatly from region to region and depends largely on human population as well as snake population in any considered area. In India, for example, there are some ten thousand plus deaths per year, the main culprits being the common cobra (Naja naja) and the Russell's Viper (Vipera russell i). However, this represents only 0.005 per cent of the population (Editors note, you are 8 times more likely to be killed in a car crash in the UK than an Indian is to die from snakebite, and the UK is one of the safest countries for drivers). Though Australia has an abundance of venomous snake species, less than two deaths are reported yearly, the difference being that India is a largely rural community, heavily overpopulated and Australia is a vast land with less than twenty million population.

In Africa the Puff Adder (Bitis arietans) the Egyptian Cobra (Naja sp) and the Saw-scaled Viper (Echis carinatus) collectively are responsible for about one thousand deaths each year, while across the Atlantic in South America about two thousand deaths are recorded yearly, mainly blamed on the Pit viper (Bothrops atrox). In the United States the dozen or so annual deaths are blamed mainly on the common Western Diamond backed rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox) and the larger Eastern Diamondbacked rattlesnake (Crotalus admanteus), while the Nose-horn Viper (Vipera ammodytes) is said to be responsible for most of the few recorded deaths each year in the Europe.
 
Austin Stevens handling a rattlesnake. From 'The Last Snake Man'. © Noir Publishing.
North America still today, rattlesnake ‘round-ups’ take place
Having examined some of these figures and facts, it can be confidently stated that when comparing, for example, the annual road death figures, that mankind has by comparison, little to fear from the snake. In some way or another snakes have always been exploited. Some are eaten, some are killed for their skins. Others have body parts claimed be effective in curing or preventing disease. In parts of the world n the venom of certain species has been claimed to cure anything from dysentery to gangrene. In North Africa and India, cobras and other species have for generations been used to entertain crowds at the market ice. And in North America still today, rattlesnake ‘round-ups’ take place where thousands of the reptiles are destroyed for no good reason.

Big business in the form of reptile dealing is flourishing in South East Asia, especially Thailand, from where thousands of reptiles are shipped, smuggled and generally distributed to the far corners of the earth. Unfortunately, there is a complete lack of concern for the well being of the reptiles, thus resulting in a high mortality rate.

Though millions of well meaning people around thee world raise their voices in protest against thee killing of whales, the poaching of rhino and elephants, and the steady demise of the koala and the panda to name but a few, there is relatively little protest generated for the plight of scaly reptiles with forked tongues.

Reptiles are mysterious and secretive and no matter how beautifully coloured or interesting a species may be, the fact is easily overlooked in the face of the reptiles greatly exaggerated history as a bringer of evil, and even death.

Yet it is the very fact that we understand so little about them and their effect on the environment that makes their conservation as important as that of all other living species.
 
'The Last Snake Man'. © Noir Publishing.
The Last Snake Man is available from leading booksellers or can be bought bought direct from Noir Publishing, RRP £19.99.

Only available in hardback, the book contains many fantastic photos as well as telling the story of how Austin came to be the world's leading Snake Man, from his early days in the army, through his record breaking stint in a snake pit (107 days) to his recent TV appearances, and fully explians his love and empathy for the snakes.

Click here to buy the book from Noir Publishing.