Climate Change Drives Venomous Snakes into New Regions, Increasing Snakebite Deaths

A global study warns that climate change will lead to the migration of venomous snakes into new regions, increasing snake bites and deaths in low-income countries. By 2070, some species' habitats will increase by up to 250%, while others will lose over 70% of their range.

author-image
Quadri Adejumo
New Update
Climate Change Drives Venomous Snakes into New Regions, Increasing Snakebite Deaths

Climate Change Drives Venomous Snakes into New Regions, Increasing Snakebite Deaths

A recent global, heating, study published in the journal Lancet Planetary Health warns that climate change will lead to the migration of venomous snake species into new regions, particularly in Nepal, Niger, Namibia, China, and Myanmar. This influx of new species is expected to increase snake bites and deaths in low-income countries in south and south-east Asia and parts of Africa.

Why this matters: The migration of venomous snakes into new regions poses a significant threat to human health, particularly in low-income countries already struggling with high rates of snakebite incidents. This highlights the need for international cooperation and preparedness to mitigate the impact of climate change on public health.

The study modeled the geographical distribution of 209 venomous snake species that cause medical emergencies in humans and forecasted their distribution by 2070. While most venomous snake species will experience range contractions as a result of habitat loss, some species like the west African gaboon viper will see their habitats increase by up to 250%. The ranges of the European asp and the horned viper are expected to more than double by 2070.

However, not all snakes will benefit from the changing climate. The study found that some snakes, like the variable bush viper and the hognosed pit viper, will lose more than 70% of their range. This highlights the complex and varied impacts climate change will have on different species.

The increased presence of venomous snakes in new regions will lead to more snake bites and deaths, particularly in low-income countries. The World Health Organization estimates that 1.8 to 2.7 million people are bitten by venomous snakes each year, resulting in up to 138,000 deaths and at least 400,000 amputations and permanent disabilities.

Study authors Pablo Ariel Martinez and Talita F Amado stress the urgent need for action, stating,"Our research shows that when venomous snakes start showing up in new places, it's a wake-up call for us to start thinking about how we can keep ourselves and our environment safe. "They callfor increased awareness and preparedness in regions expected to see an influx of venomous snakes.

Anna Pintor, a WHO research scientist, highlights the importance of understanding the implications of these changes, saying,"We urgently need to understand better how exactly this will affect where people get bitten, and how many people get bitten, so that we can prepare. "This understanding will be essential in developing effective strategies to mitigate the impact of increased snakebite incidents."

The study highlights the need for countries with high snakebite burdens to collaborate with neighboring countries to prepare for the influx of venomous snakes. International cooperation is essential, as "international borders are not for snakes, they are for humans," according to Soumyadeep Bhaumik, a lecturer at the University of New South Wales. Bhaumik also cautions that the modeling does not account for how humans themselves will adapt to climate change, stating,"Snakebite is in essence a human-animal-environment conflict. The modelling does not take into account how humans themselves will adapt/change to climate change."

The migration of venomous snakes into new regions due to climate change poses a significant threat to human health, particularly in low-income countries already struggling with high rates of snakebite incidents. Governments, health organizations, and communities must work together to increase awareness, improve prevention measures, and ensure access to effective treatment for those affected by snakebites.

Key Takeaways

  • Climate change will lead to venomous snake migration into new regions, increasing snake bites and deaths.
  • Low-income countries in south and south-east Asia and parts of Africa will be most affected.
  • Some snake species will see habitat increases of up to 250%, while others will lose over 70% of their range.
  • 1.8-2.7 million people are bitten by venomous snakes each year, resulting in up to 138,000 deaths.
  • International cooperation and preparedness are essential to mitigate the impact of climate change on public health.