Agra: More than 50 snakes were seized by Forest department officials in a day-long drive to prevent snake charmers from duping 'Shiv bhakts' outside temples across Agra.
The snakes are currently under the care and treatment of Wildlife SOS. In the past few days, pilgrims have been thronging Shiva temples during the auspicious Shravan month.
Sensing advantage, snake charmers took to the streets with their flutes and baskets full of snakes, hoping to exploit the belief of devotees to extract money from them.
This has turned into a lucrative business where every year thousands of snakes are poached from the wild, defanged brutally and then kept hungry for months before the festival. A four-member team from Wildlife SOS and two forest officers seized 53 snakes from the premises of Prithvinath temple, Rawli temple, Rajeshwari temple, Mankameshwar temple and Kailash temple.
A total of 43 cobras, 5 common sand boas, 3 red sand boas and 2 rat snakes have been rescued and transferred to the Wildlife SOS rescue facility. The veterinarians from the NGO are treating each reptile to determine whether releasing them back into their natural habitat will be feasible.
Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder and CEO of Wildlife SOS, said: "Snake charming is not enchanting or brave and there are no skills involved in this practice. This is extremely crude and painful for the snake as its venom glands and fangs are pulled out.
"Since the venom is actually a snake's digestive juice, the snake suffers a terrible plight and eventually succumbs to death due to indigestion.
"Non-venomous snakes like the sand boas and rat snakes are not spared either. Their mouths are stitched shut, making it impossible for them to eat."
Mukesh Kumar Sharma, Divisional Forest Officer, Agra, said: "Using snakes for public demonstration is a punishable offence and is banned according to the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and the Government of India's notification in 2014." Baiju Raj M.V, Director Conservation Projects, Wildlife SOS, said: "Earlier this month we rescued 21 snakes from the premises of a temple in Mathura. The act of charming a snake with a flute or pungi is based on incorrect facts.
"Snakes are able to sense vibration but they don't have the outer ear to hear music. The snake considers the snake charmer a threat and responds to the flute by becoming alert and sways with it so as to be able to strike it." The Wildlife SOS urged tourists and locals to never encourage the use of any animal for entertainment, display and performances for money.
Giving alms to snake charmers or paying to watch an animal perform only encourages the brutal treatment of the animal and promotes illegal possession of wildlife and the continuity of cruelty towards them, the officers said. --IANS