Panic-stricken people in Assam have started killing spiders after reports of fatal attacks by tarantula-like species.
The state authorities have, however, ruled out existence of venomous spiders in this part of the country, saying that 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 spreading in the area after two people, including a minor, reportedly died after being bitten by these uncommon spiders.
The deaths have 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,” said entomologist Ratul Rajkhowa, a professor at the Cotton College in Guwahati and also secretary of the Zoological Society of Assam.
He said that the widespread media reports have created panic among the people and they have resorted to killing spiders wherever they are found, he added.
“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,” Rajkhowa said.
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,” said Soumyadeep Dutta, who heads Nature’s Beckon.
Dutta said that 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,” he added.
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 said.
Source: UCAN India