Fear of poisonous attacks leads to spider killing in AssamJune 6th, 2012 - 6:51 pm ICT by IANS
Guwahati, June 6 (IANS) A large and hairy, tarantula-like spider species has created panic in Assam after reports of fatal attack on humans. Though the authorities have ruled out existence of any venomous spiders in the state, panic-stricken people have resorted to killing spiders by the dozens, worried environmentalists said.
The authorities, while ruling out existence of venomous spiders in this part of the country, said cases of fatal spider attack on humans are rare all over the world.
The large hairy spiders were noticed about a month ago in Sadiya town in Assam’s Tinsukia district, located north of Brahmaputra river. The panic began in Sadiya and neighbouring areas after two people, including a minor, reportedly died after being bitten by these uncommon spiders.
The panic spread across the state after media reports highlighted the death of the two people, citing spider attack. This has led to unabated killing of spiders across the state due to fear psychosis.
“The reports of death of two persons due to spider attack are not authentic. No one has confirmed that they died of spider venom. Such venomous spiders do not exist in Assam. The widespread media reports have created panic among the people and they have resorted to killing spiders wherever they are found,” entomologist Ratul Rajkhowa, a professor at the Cotton College in Guwahati and also secretary of the Zoological Society of Assam, told IANS.
“Spiders are a very important component of our ecosystem and eradication of such a component by large scale killing will lead to multi-headed ecological problems,” warned Rajkhowa. He also called for a detailed study on why spiders are coming out from their forest habitats in such large numbers.
Rajkhowa’s views are supported by leading wildlife conservation NGO of Assam Natures’ Beckon, which also stressed on carrying out detailed studies to find out the facts.
“If the spider population is coming out in large numbers to human habitation, then it is a clear indication that there is a disturbance in spider habitats inside the jungles,” Soumyadeep Dutta, who heads Nature’s Beckon, told IANS.
“There could be various reasons for this. For example - the spider population in the forests are being controlled as various species eat them. For instance, Hoolock Gibbons eat spiders. There are some reptiles which also eat spiders. Now, if the spiders are coming out from the jungles it means this biological control mechanism has been affected or there are some disturbances in the natural habitat of the spiders,” Dutta explained.
Health department officials in Assam are also caught in a dilemma as they have not been able to carry out an autopsy on the two victims to ascertain the exact cause of the death.
“We are not sure if the victims died from spider poison or due to some other reason. The two victims were cremated before we got to carry out autopsies on them to find out the exact cause of death,” Atul Gogoi, sub-divisional medical officer (SDMO) of Sadiya told IANS.
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Tags: assam, brahmaputra river, conservation ngo, cotton college, ecological problems, environmentalists, eradication, forest habitats, guwahati, hairy spiders, hairy tarantula, neighbouring areas, spider population, spider species, spider venom, tarantula, tinsukia, venomous spiders, wildlife conservation, zoological society