New Approaches to Venomous Snake Conservation in Ecuador
Paladines, Maria Elena Barragan
Vivarium de Quito
Av. Amazonas 2925
Quito 170135, Ecuador
Ecuador is home to 10% of the world’s snake species. Of these, 36 are a potential source for deadly bites (families Viperidae and Elapidae). These particular species occur in different ecosystems in Ecuador: coastal regions, Amazonia, and the mountains. Unfortunately, snake-bite accidents are a serious health issue in the population. Data in reports reveal around 10,000 cases annually with 0.01% resulting in fatalities. Therefore, our new approach to education includes the social impact of snakes, snakebites, and the implication to snake conservation. Venomous snakes are facing threats related to ecosystems destruction (e.g., high rates of deforestation). Snakes, in general, are not a high priority for conservation research in any region. Since 1993, the Gustavo Orces Herpetological Foundation has implemented hands-on education and involvement of isolated local communities. This effort consists of developing protocols that measure the extent to which fear of snakes determines and influences their conservation. One main goal is to identify problems that communities face about fears and beliefs which can be adjusted (re-valuation) through artistic, linguistic, and religious representations. As a result, small-scale economic activities linked to the production of souvenirs that represent and rescue the beauty of these animals were implemented, but a clear identification of the communities associated with these venomous animals was maintained. This empowerment of communities has resumed the possibility of developing positive learning through organized groups, mainly women. I view this work as a starting point for the development of a program for the conservation of venomous snakes through active participation of people of these rural and isolated communities.