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August 3, 2016

Citizens of Telangana urged to celebrate cruelty-free Nagapanchami

Discontinue cruel treatment of snakes during the festival, appeals Telangana State Forest Department and Humane Society International/India

Humane Society International/India

  • Pink Boa, Photo Credit: Mario Mejia/HSI

In a press conference held today, the Telangana State Forest Department urged the public not to encourage or participate in the use of live snakes for worship. The Forest Department’s announcement initiated a public awareness drive ahead of the forthcoming Nagapanchami festival, with support from Humane Society International/India and other local animal welfare NGOs. The Department also made it clear that strict action would be taken against anyone found in possession of live snakes.

The capture and display of snakes is an offence under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Snake charmers take advantage of the demand for live snake worship during Nagapanchami. Weeks ahead of the festival, snake charmers capture the snakes, pull their fangs out, stitch their mouths shut and keep them in dirty cramped baskets with no access to light, fresh air, food and water. On the day of Nagapanchami, snake charmers travel around the city and charge devotees to catch a glimpse of these snakes. Snakes suffer tremendously during this ordeal, and most die in captivity due to starvation, dehydration, infection or grievous injuries sustained during transportation.

C. Samyukta, wildlife campaign manager, HSI/India said, “In the name of worship, snakes are subjected to immense abuse right from the time of capture and all the way through the end of Nagapanchami. During the festival, devotees offer milk to snakes and these dehydrated animals have no option but to drink it. Devotees think that snakes drink milk but the truth is snakes can’t digest milk and develop dysentery, infections and often die an ultimately death. We urge the people of Telangana to understand the consequences of their actions and celebrate a cruelty-free Nagapanchami from this year onwards.”

Worshipers have many ways to celebrate Nagapanchami without using live snakes, including by worshiping snake idols made of mud or clay or metal.

HSI/India has been working with the Forest Department, Friends of Snakes Society and other local NGOs in planning outreach activities aimed at educating the public on the illegalities and cruelty involved in the capture, display and worship of live snakes. The Forest Department has made its tip line number, 1800-425-5364, available to the general public to report any snake charmers or incidences of live snake display during the festival.

Media Contact: Navamita Mukherjee, email: nmukherjee@hsi.org, mobile: 91-9985472760

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