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All about: Charming the Indian cobra

India has 238 species of snakes, but the only one you're likely to see on any trip to the country is one of the most venomous ones - the Indian or spectacled cobra. This elaborately marked reptile is a favourite among snake charmers because of its large hood, fierce eyes and menacing posture. The article below details out all the useful facts that are associated with the Indian cobra.

Revered status
Owing to its important status in Hindu mythology - the Hindu god Shiva is often depicted with a cobra coiled around his neck - the Indian cobra is revered among Hindus. Indeed, far from being reviled for its venomous bite it is tolerated in many rural villages. However, this snake is responsible for a disproportionately large number of snakebites in India, some of which are fatal owing to the snake's powerful neurotoxins. Protected species
Although popular among tourists, snake charming is increasingly frowned upon in India because of the belief that it is a cruel practice. As a result, the Indian Wildlife Protection Act (1972) made it illegal to own snakes, effectively outlawing snake charming. However, charmers have angrily resisted this legal directive arguing that it threatens their livelihood. As a result, the authorities sometimes turn a blind eye to the practice. The art of charming a snake
Since the snake charmer plays on a flute or other woodwind instrument while 'charming' the snake, it appears as if the reptile is moving to the sound of the music. The truth is that it can't hear the music and is instead swaying to the movement made by the charmer and any vibrations caused by his movement. Animal cruelty
The controversy caused by snake charming in India has, in many respects, been more than justified. Snake charmers sometimes rip out the cobra's fangs to avoid being bitten. This inevitably leads to the snake's agonising demise as it cannot eat and thus slowly dies of starvation. However, while this practice continues, an earlier one of staging snake and mongoose fights (in which the snake is usually killed) has been outlawed.

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