James Ashe (1925-2004) was one of Africa’s greatest field herpetologists, and established the Bio-Ken Snake Farm at Watamu on the Kenyan coast in order to supply snake venoms to researchers, and for use in manufacturing antivenoms. The James Ashe Antivenom Trust (JAAT) was established in October 2004 following James’ death, and it operates to make antivenoms available free-of-charge to victims of snakebite who would otherwise go untreated.
The main beneficiaries of the JAAT are residents of the residents of coastal Kenya, particularly in the Watamu and Malindi districts. Snakebites are common among the men, wormen and children who live in these largely agricultural communities, and bites by mambas, puff adders, stiletto snakes and cobras are an ever-present threat.
The work of the James Ashe Antivenom Trust is managed by James’ widow, Sanda Ashe, and herpetologist Royjan Taylor who runs the day-to-day operations of the Bio-Ken Snake Farm in Watamu. The Trust is registered with the Kenyan authorities and has a board of trustees who include Oxford University’s Professor David A. Warrell, as well as Sanda, Royjan, and two Watamu community members Melinda Rees and Shafiq Ebrahimjee.
The antivenoms supplied by the JAAT are purchased from South African Vaccine Producers in Johannesburg, South Africa. JAAT purchases two products for use in Kenya:
- SAVP Polyvalent Snake Antivenom for use against bites by Puff adders (Bitis arietans), Gaboon vipers (Bitis gabonica), Green mambas (Dendroaspis angusticeps), Jameson’s mambas (Dendroaspis jamesoni), Black mambas (Dendroaspis polylepis), Rinkhals spitting cobras (Haemachatus haemachatus), Cape cobras (Naja nivea), Forest cobras (Naja melanoleuca), Snouted Cobras (Naja annulifera) and Mozambique spitting cobras (Naja Mossambica)
- SAVP Boomslang Monovalent Antivenom which is the only antivenom available in the world to treat bites by Boomslangs (Dispholidus typus).
Purchasing these antivenoms costs approximately Ksh 13,500 (about US$160) per vial, and depending on the species of snake involved, a patient may need 5-10 vials of antivenom as an initial dose. With a single treatment costing as much as US$800-1600, it is easy to see how impossible it is for a Kenyan farmer, whose annual income may be as low as US$360, to be able to afford to buy antivenom if someone in his or her family is bitten by a venomous snake. JAAT aims to help take this financial burden away from the victims of snakebite and their families by delivering as many doses of these antivenoms to hospitals and health centres in their locals communities as possible, and the Global Snakebite Initiative has partnered with them to raise funds to make this possible.
GSI and JAAT hope to raise US$32,000 in 2012 to make it possible to purchase 200 vials of antivenom with the potential to treat up to 40 Kenyan snakebite victims.
We also hope to establish an African Snakebite Recovery Fund to help meet the medical costs of victims in Kenya and Swaziland who are bitten by snakes with venom that destroys tissue, and who would otherwise be left permanently disabled.
HOW YOUR DONATION WILL HELP
By supporting this Kenyan project, you will helping the GSI and the James Ashe Antivenom Trust to:
- Deliver life-saving antivenoms to Kenyan snakebite victims and will have a direct role in helping to save the lives of Kenyan men, women and children;
- Helping to fund community education and training programmes that teach snakebite prevention and first aid.
- Assist in training local doctors, nurses and healthworkers to treat snakebites more effectively, through events such as the 8th International Snakebite Seminar in Watamu this coming November.
100% of your donation will go directly to helping the work of the James Ashe Antivenom Trust if you select the JAAT as the designated recipient when you donate to the Global Snakebite Initiative. You can also elect to support our African Snakebite Recovery Fund. Donations of any amount are welcomed.