Karnataka gets first-of-its-kind WhatsApp chatbot for snakebite awareness

The initiative, that’s first launched in Mysore, enables communities to learn about snakes around them and puts first aid for snakebites at their fingertips

Humane Society International / India

Shaili Shah/HSI HSI/India’s wildlife team member Anisha Iyer engages with the community members and snakebite survivors and educates them about a WhatsApp chatbot that enables them with information on snakebites, types of snakes, how to prevent a snakebite, do’s and don’ts after a snakebite etc.

Mysore, KARNATAKA—Karnataka’s first-of-its-kind WhatsApp chatbot has been launched in Mysore to educate citizens about snakes and snakebite prevention. The chatbot, launched by Humane Society International/India in collaboration with The Liana Trust, provides easily accessible information about snake species found in the local vicinity, as well as lifesaving snakebite first-aid, snakebite prevention tips, and myth-busting around misinformation about snakes that can lead to acts of cruelty. 

The automated chatbot, accessed via a QR code or messaging “Hi” to +91 9154190472, disseminates engaging, visual content in English or Kannada, making it easy to understand. Through the WhatsApp chatbot initiative, both organizations aim to reach at least a lakh users this year in Mysore to foster coexistence with snakes and prevent snakebites. 

India has an unfortunate reputation for having more snakebites than any other country in the world, contributing to nearly 50% of snakebite deaths across the globe. India witnesses ten lakh snakebites a year leading to nearly 58,000 human snakebite-related deaths annually and nearly 200,000 cases of morbidity, with Karnataka alone having 6,500 reported snakebites in 2023. It is also a neglected tropical disease, classified by the World Health Organization, taking a devastating toll on the socioeconomics of households and the mental health of those affected.  

Many people have an innate fear of snakes for various reasons including a lack of meaningful information about them. This often leads to snakes being killed or relocated to alien habitats where they have little chance of survival. The new app addresses this information vacuum to empower local communities to take swift and informed action when snakes are encountered.  

Vinod Krishnan, human-wildlife coexistence manager at Humane Society International/India, said: “Snakebite is a mass problem which requires a mass solution. As per our survey in the Mysore district, WhatsApp is one of the most used digital apps. Hence, this is an easy platform to reach many people with vital information that could save human lives and prevent snake persecution. While there is venom research and strengthening of healthcare infrastructure overall to ensure quality care for those affected, preventing a bite from occurring and knowing the right first aid once a bite occurs is crucial.”  

Gerry Martin, founder of The Liana Trust, said: “As we progress in avenues of public outreach, our methods need to evolve and keep with the times. The chatbot is a great way to have a continuous dialogue with the community, assess the information they are accessing the most, and add further layers to this such as information on the nearest hospital, ambulance services and so on in the future.”  

HSI/India and The Liana Trust have been working in Mysore district since 2018 through ecological studies, social surveys, community outreach, policy reform and institutional capacity building, all to aid in the development of a model district for snakebite prevention and management. In February 2024, Karnataka became the first state in India to declare snakebite as a notifiable disease. 

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Media Contact: Shaili Shah: 9930591005; sshah@hsi.org 

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