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Snakebite Awareness Day 2023

Your donation to GSI today will be matched by Tito's Handmade Vodka (up to $1 million)!

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To my passionate herpetology friends and conservation champions,

Like all of you, I’ve been smitten and fascinated by these amazing creatures from a young age. This love affair began as a young boy who arrived in India from New York City and I’ve dedicated my life to fighting for their protection and well-being. Equally, I’ve fought for the well-being of those suffering the misfortune of being bitten. 

Rom Whitaker at age 4 holding a snake in a black and white photograph

I’ve seen firsthand the staggering toll snakebites have on rural families - from the breadwinner who harvests our food, to the mother tending to home chores, to the young happy children simply out being kids. Here in India, 58,000 souls lose their lives each year and well over 100,000 more lose limbs, are disfigured and suffer mental health trauma. The global toll of death and disability throughout sub-Saharan Africa, south and southeast Asia, Latin America and Oceania is around 550,000 people annually.

Friends, I just turned 80 and all I want is to finally see this tide turn! Will you do that for me?

After an eternity of being ignored, snakebite envenoming has finally gained attention on the global health stage, but funding is lacking for the very things that can save lives right now–strong and widespread community education and prevention for those at risk; the training of health workers; and improving antivenoms, the only current treatment for a snakebite.

I’ve been involved as the India program manager for the Global Snakebite Initiative for years and I’m proud of the role GSI played in getting snakebite envenoming recognized by the World Health Organization as a public health priority. But I’m coming to you to support GSI’s efforts to support experts–like me–on the ground in moving solutions forward! 

Together, GSI and the Centre for Herpetology at the Madras Crocodile Bank are setting out to conduct a massive education campaign in schools and villages across 12 STATES OF INDIA, the largest snakebite mitigation program to date in the world! 

We’ll deploy our amazing awareness films dubbed in multiple languages to some of the hardest-to-reach regions, we’ll build capacity and knowledge of first responders, disseminate our already-tested prevention kits to farmers and we’ll collect much needed incidence data from hospitals and communities. With your help, we can scale our already proven work with greater geographic reach!

September 19 is Snakebite Awareness Day worldwide, and on that day we will be kicking off a global fundraising campaign to fund this project and all of GSI’s critical work. 

My ask is this: would you (individually or as a herpetology club) sign up to fundraise for this campaign?
Click “Fundraise” to sign up at the top of this page. After you’ve signed up, check out our fundraising toolkit to find resources to support your participation in the campaign. 

The campaign will kick-off on September 19 and will run until October 30. Once you sign up to fundraise, you’ll get weekly emails to help you broadcast this campaign to the world so that we can save lives! (And if you need help getting started, you can reach out to Kelly, GSI’s campaign coordinator, for support.)

I’m delighted to share that Tito’s Handmade Vodka will be matching every donation made to this campaign, up to $1 million! So the more you raise, the more Tito’s will match.

I’m humbly asking you as individuals and along with your passionate herpetology clubs and herp communities to shout our work from the mountaintops! Help us fundraise for GSI’s work among your social networks, peers, colleagues and friends and family!

I want all of us who love, protect, care for, and promote the conservation of snakes to be the real champions for those who’ve suffered from the scourge of snakebite for all of time. 

All my best and with many thanks,


A young man laying in a hospital bed in India unconscious and hooked to tubes, surrounded by five crying family members (including a young child).

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Global Snakebite Initiative USA Foundation Inc

A 501(c)(3) Public Charity

EIN 87-1508852