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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 August 2005, 09:38 GMT 10:38 UK
In pictures: India snake hunt
Irulas set out for a hunt
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For centuries, the Irula tribe in southern India have been snake catchers. They still catch snakes but only to extract venom which is used to make life-saving anti-venom serum. (Text and photos: Geeta Pandey)
Five-year-old Surya is a member of the group
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This team has an unlikely snake catcher. Surya, five, is learning the tricks of the trade from his parents.
Looking for snakes
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The team looks for snakes in bushes and shrubs, searching for signs such as markings, skin and droppings.
King Cobra
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The hunters get lucky - a five-foot-long cobra is pulled out of its resting place, hissing.
Bagging the catch
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It is quickly put inside a cloth bag, which is tightly knotted.
Posing with their trophy
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A pleased group poses with its trophy. The catch will fetch 1,000 rupees ($23), a considerable sum in these parts.
Venom extraction centre
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The catch is brought to the Irula Snake Catchers' Association's venom-extraction centre near Madras.
Pots with snakes
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More than 100 snakes are kept in earthen pots in a rectangular pit. Cups of drinking water are placed inside.
Extracting venom
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Snakes have their venom extracted three times at the centre before they are released back into the wild.
Anti-venom powder
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The venom is processed and the residue sold to pharmaceutical companies to make the anti-venom serum.


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