Snake charming is an ancient art form that most of us will have seen (or want to see) when travelling to Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia… to mention but a few. Snake charming itself has been around for thousands of years, with one of the earliest records going as far back as the Bible.

Like I said earlier, we’re probably all aware of what snake charming is especially with it often being considered a major photo opportunity when visiting a new destination where its heritage prevails but before you take that selfie, it’s probably worth taking the time to think a little bit more about the practises that go into snake charming as it exists today.

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The history of snake charming.

The art of snake charming is considered to be an ancient technique that is now believed to have risen in India, particularly through healers that would showcase their ability to hypnotise a cobra. The act in itself would involve a healer housing a cobra within a basket and playing a pungi or bansuri with the snake almost transfixed upon the playing instrument. It was historically believed to be a magical or blessed act that many healers would display around their local communities.

How is the snake hypnotised?

The reality of a snake being hypnotised is a little different from what you’d think or expect. Snakes can’t actually hear the noise of the instrument and instead focus on the pungi (or bansuri) and the player, assuming the player to be a threat to the itself (i.e. the snake). The snake thus keeps full eye contact upon the instrument and the moving parts of the player – particularly the hands around the instrument.

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How a snake is starved to death through sewing and ripping.

Snake charmers are benefiting from a rise in tourism which in itself would not be bad if there was no cruelty, harm or even captivity involved. The truth is some (not all) snake charmers capture wild cobras, ripping out their fangs and sewing the mouths shut so they can never strike the charmer. These snakes then die a horrible death from starvation, taking many excruciating months. Once the snake dies, the charmer goes out to capture more snakes to use for ‘those photographs’ taken by many-a-tourist.

Understandably, many people (in fact, I’d argue that most people) who take these photos, have no idea what goes on in the back scenes – I certainly didn’t, although I have to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of snakes (I’m kinda terrified of them) so I was never going to be one to queue up for those photos in the first place.

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What you can do to help…

Now, while I can’t say that snakes are my favourite animal, I detest the thought of cruelty, in any way to any animal or person. The thing is, if we all knew about the awful cycle set in place by some (again, I repeat – not all) snake charmers, it may make us all think twice before rushing to snap that shot and contribute to an ever growing problem in many countries.

I’m not advocating that local people don’t benefit from tourism – that would be utterly ridiculous to even suggest! What I am saying however is that as tourists and travellers, try our best to travel armed with the facts and make sensible decisions that benefit, not just ourselves or the locals wherever you’re visiting in the short term but that ensures that we strive to leave a long-term positive impact wherever we visit.


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