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Snake exploitation update and sea turtle press - December 5th, 2005

Liberation of Cobras 2005 

Deccan Chronicle photo

6 Nov. Deccan Chronicle press photo:  Dr.Dhanajaya visiting from The Tsunami Memorial Animal Welfare Trust (Sri Lanka) holding the mouth of the cobra while Swathi Buddhiraju of VSPCA  is cutting the line to free the snake's mouth which remained stitched for more than 10 long days.  Sherry Grant, visiting to help with the shelter reconstruction from Humane Society International-Asia, is watching the process.

Editor’s note and background:  The Hindu festival of  Nagala Chauvithi, follows after Deepavali each year.  It is particularly celebrated by women who pray to the snake for the well being of their men folk (and so that the cobras do not attack them with their fatal bite while working in the fields) and barren women for blessings of having children.  The rishis (sages) explain that women particularly observe this holy day because they knowingly or unknowingly violate the principals of ahimsa (nonharming) by killing animals, birds or insects in their cleaning or cooking all year long.  By worship of the snake they can make amends to nature by offering milk directly to the snakes.  But the cruel industry of actually catching and stitching the cobras’ mouth together began to make it easier to feed milk to the snakes.   And snakes suffer horribly through this practice.  Years ago during the festival time in Visakha it was so common the gutters would flow white with milk from the offering to the snakes.  The snakes would regurgitate and ultimately die from the practice.  

The VSPCA has been diligently working to get the Forest Department to enforce the Wildlife Act and ban these practices.  Each year these exploitations decrease through the VSPCA's tireless work.  See last year’s report here where a photo of the clay tablets is shown where snakes can be worshiped without any harm at all. 

Pradeep Nath’s report:

Captured cobras

On the 6th of November, the day of Nagalachauvithi festival we had in place a full investigating team to go to the villages of the three districts to see whether there were any violations of the snake ordinances.   Our team of 12 people was prepared to cover 70 kms. radius on all sides to make sure the law of no more cobra torture was being observed.  We have stopped these horrible practices for the last three years in the city.  Our plan this year was to expand to the rural areas and ascertain whether the awareness programs had reached them.  And it did.  It was indeed very heartening to learn that the devotees were now protecting the cobras and worshipping them in nonharmful ways. 

But the village of Kasimkota about 50 kms from is the place where the “snake people” (over 60 families) still deal in illegal wildlife activities including snake dealing.   

However, they have greatly reduced their activities on these lines and particularly now because their headman died few days before we arrived due to cobra bite while another person was on his death bed just an hour before we reached there!    It is known fact that the fangs can grow after they are removed and the ignorant headman simply caught hold of the tail of his pet cobra which bit his thigh and he died instantly because there is no medical help within 20 kms nor is there any vet hospital.  The other man put his hand one and a half foot in the pit to remove the eggs and money offered in the pit only to be terribly surprised that there was indeed a cobra inside which bit him.   Therefore we are trying to dissuade the devotees not to offer any milk to the actual snakes and to use the snake clay tablets or symbolic pits instead for worship.  Also the milk can cause suffocation to the cobras within the pits.   

Captured cobras

Snake confiscation by VSPCA volunteers: this photo and cobra photo courtesy of Sherry Grant, HSI Asia. 

Around 7 AM we confiscated four large cobras with stitched mouths in the main hub of this festival area.    When the stitches were opened immediately the snakes gave big yawn of freedom but very pathetic to see the fangs areas completely covered with maggots and smelling.  After removing the stitches we had them taken to our shelter where the antibiotics were given and left in the night in our nearby habitats for cobras and they sped away in darkness to a life and liberty of their own.

These snake charmers were new and from a different area of the state and did not know that these were illegal activities according to the laws protecting wildlife in India.   We left them with a dire warning that these activities would not be tolerated.


Plea for survey on nesting grounds of turtles
(The Hindu, November 21st, 2005)

VSPCA DEMANDS COMMITTEE TO SAVE SEA TURTLES: Visakha Society for Protection and Care of Animals (VSPCA) has urged the Visakhapatnam Urban Development Authority (VUDA)  to form a committee for protection of sea turtles on Vizag coast. According to VSPCA's founder-president Pradeep K Nath, the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of  India (WII) has identified  only five nesting grounds facing threat in Andhra Pradesh - three in Srikakulam district and one each in Ainada and Sriharikota, while Visakhapatnam, a good habitat for nesting by Olive Ridley turtles, was ignored.
(Vizag City Online, November 21st, 2005)

Report edited by Eileen Weintraub, VSPCA Representative, USA.