New attitudes to snakes in India

July 29th, 2009 | by lucy |

The sight of a snake charmer is part of picturesque India.  But behind the mysticism the reality is toothless snakes with sewn up mouths.  The saperas (the charmers) are especially active around the Hindu snake festival of Nagpanchami, when traditionally thousands of snakes have been trapped, mutilated and brought into the cities for veneration, the operation rounded off by the trading of snake skins.  But awareness campaigns mean that traditions are changing.

People in India (just like the well-meaning hedgehog feeders in Britain) are learning that the time-honoured offering of milk is in fact indigestible for snakes.  Every year on Nagpanchami patrols of volunteers roam the cities, rescuing snakes, which are protected by Indian law, and returning them to the wild if possible.  This year the Mumbai-based Indian Express was happy to report a significant drop in snake abuse: “Finally, a snake-friendly Nagpanchami”.  The charmers are giving up and taking to performing with metal or clay models.

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