Stating that all types of snakes found in the country are protected under Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 and their capture, display and transport is a punishable offence leading to imprisonment of three to seven years and fine not less than Rs 10,000, Chief Wildlife Warden of Telangana Forest Department appealed to the people (Hindus) not to participate in live snake worship and worship stone/clay snake idols and celebrate a cruelty-free, snake-friendly Nagapanchami. He also asked the people to spread awareness about the importance of snakes and teach the truth about snakes and discourage any fear, misunderstanding and myths surrounding snakes.
Chief Wildlife Warden of Forest Department said the worship of snakes has led to increased demand for snake display during the festival. In order to make fast buck, greedy people were becoming snake charmers. They rent snakes from local snake catchers and make quick money by displaying these snakes during the festival, he said.
Chief Wildlife Warden explained that snakes are caught weeks before the festival and kept in dirty cramped baskets without access to light, fresh air, food, water or any opportunity for movement. In order to ensure personal safety, the snake charmers remove their fangs and stitch their mouths with blunt and unsterilized needles. As a result, the starved and dehydrated snakes become prone to severe infection and illness.
On the festival day, devotees sprinkle kumkum and haldi – both of which cause irritation to snakes. To make the matters worse, devotees offer milk to snakes and these dehydrated creepers have no option but to ‘drink’ it. But the snakes lack enzymes required to digest milk. Feeding them with milk results in dysentery, intestinal irritation and ultimately death, he added. He also appealed to the people to report any person found in possession of snakes. Contact the Telangana Forest Department – 18004255364 (toll-free number) or Friends of Snakes Society – 8374233366 (tip-line number), he added.