Wildlife TV puts snake charmers on endangered list

Indian snake charmers hit by competition from TV wildlife programmes

source: Luke Harding
Guardian April 4 2002 p16

Indian snake charmers are finding it harder to earn a living, and see this as linked to competition from TV wildlife programmes. These programmes mean that spectators no longer fear wild animals, according to chief snake charmer, Babu Sri Ram Nath.

Most Indian snake charmers come from a hereditary caste, the sapera, based in Salenagar, a small village in the North of India, an hour from Lucknow in a car. The snake charmers’ ancestors came from Bengal, some 200 years ago.

Muscial tastes in India have also changed as a result of Bollywood’s influence, Nath argues, and this also means that young people are less attracted by the snake charmer’s act, with its traditional music.

The sapera are seeking recognition as a scheduled caste, in order to qualify for privileges such as government employment. Many snake charmers see their work as a way to earn a living, and are not fond of snakes.