Page last updated at 23:06 GMT, Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Indian charmers want their snakes


Thousands of charmers still perform across India despite the law

Some 1,000 snake charmers have staged a rally in eastern India, protesting against a law that has made their profession illegal.

Playing their flutes, they marched in the city of Calcutta, demanding the right to perform with live snakes.

Shows featuring cobras and other snakes have been banned in India since 1991.

Snake charmers say the ban threatens the survival of their way of life. Animal rights groups say it should be kept to curb the abuse of snakes.

A man charms a black King Cobra. File photo
Many Indian snake charmers continue to perform despite the ban

Raktim Das, the head of India's snake charmers federation, said the government should make the traditional performance legal again.

He also said serum farms should be set up across India where snake charmers could sell venom for medical use.

"We are being consistently harassed by the police for keeping snakes, which are snatched away without paying us compensation," Mr Das said.

Despite the 1991 ban, hundreds of thousands of snake charmers continue to perform in India.

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