ENDANGERED: Indigenous snake-bite practioners

Story and pics by Amila Praboda

In an earlier era, when Sri Lankans were stung by a snake or reptiles eg centipedes, they sought treatment from a local weda mahattaya (indigenous medical practitioner).

Today however, patients more often than not get themselves admitted to state hospitals where they are treated with the anti-snake venom serum manufactured in India. This is leading to the demise of indigenous treatments for snake bites.

Sri Lanka has 96 species of land and sea snakes of which the sting of five varieties of land snakes and all varieties of sea snakes are deadly. Dr. Vipul Waidyasena, a second generation medical practitioner of indigenous medicine, accuses the Ministry of Indigenous Medicine of having failed to support local snake-bite specialists.

"In state hospitals only the Indian manufactured anti-venom serum is used" he said "whereas local indigenous medicine provides distinct anti-venom serum for the sting of particular kinds of serpents.

"We have the license to get the venom of these individual snakes," he added. "But today indigenous practioners have been reduced to displaying their collection of snakes to foreign enthusiasts and tourists

The tanks where snakes are kept to extract venom. Dr. Waidyasena Sr. and grandson who like his father and grandfather before him is a snake-bite doctor and specialist.
Dr. Vipul exhibits a magnificent specimen of a cobra
Dr. Vipul Waidyasena "…we have been reduced to exhibiting snakes to foreign tourists."
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