April 14, 2011

Microchips To Help Track New Delhi Snakes

Officials in New Delhi have injected microchips into snakes in an attempt to regulate the snake charmers in India.

Delhi's forest department chief Deepak Shukla said Wednesday that the chips will allow officials to ascertain whether individual snakes have been registered by their owners.

India implemented laws in the late 1990s proscribing the commercial use of wild animals, including performances with lives snakes. 

The state government in Delhi offered an amnesty for charmers in 2003, but only 10 came forward to register their combined stock of over 40 snakes.

It was these animals that were tagged with microchips in Delhi on Monday and Tuesday.

"There are many charmers who did not accept the amnesty and they will be punished if they are caught now with snakes that do not have these electronic chips," Shukla said.
Goa-based snake expert Nitin Sawant carried out the tagging process.  He injected the chips into the tissue of 42 snakes, including king cobras, common cobras, rat snakes and one red sand boa.

"The idea behind this entire program was to stop the random collection of fresh snakes by these traditional charmers," Sawant told AFP, adding that many of the animals he tagged were in poor health.

"I told these charmers to give up their profession because they are not capable of looking after their snakes," he said.

The wildlife legislation has emptied most large cities of snake charmers, although a small number can still be seen around major tourist sites in New Delhi. 

Animal rights groups say snake charmers are cruel impostors who use physical abuse to train the reptiles to move to the sway of their flute-like instruments.

The entertainers generally rip out the snakes' fangs and feed them milk, leaving the animals are unable to catch prey if released into the wild.